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Home » Monthly Archive » August 2009

August 30, 2009


Game 130: August 30, 2009
Blue Jays
L: Roy Halladay (13-8)
58-70, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox7
W: Paul Byrd (1-0)
76-54, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: With each passing start Halladay reduces his trade value. Since August 19 the Blue Jays starter hasn’t won, hasn’t pitched beyond six innings, and hasn’t kept the opposition under three runs.

The local nine scored a run in each of the first four innings and each run was different, like a snowflake.

Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis had mirror-image doubles in the first. Martinez’s skipped down the right field line and Youkilis’s cavorted down the left.

For the second run Rocco Baldelli skipped the preliminaries and led off the inning with a towering home run off the Sports Authority sign.

The next two runs were of a National League flair. Dustin Pedroia doubled off the wall, advanced on Martinez’s ground out to first, and scored on Youkilis’s sacrifice fly to center.

J.D. Drew led off the fourth with a humpback single to right and advanced to second on Varitek’s ground out. Drew took a great secondary lead and Alex Gonzalez’s soft fly ball to shallow right hung up long enough for Drew to slide across home safely. Rod Barajas tried to block the plate as Varitek did in Friday’s game but was as porous as Fenway’s drainage system.

In the seventh the Red Sox mixed station-to-station and small ball and the Blue Jays added a misplay into the mix. Gonzalez knocked a double off the wall and Ellsbury bunted safely with english in front of the plate. Pedroia starched the ball back to Shawn Camp. Camp can throw over a 17-inch plate but missed John McDonald, considerably wider than 17 inches, in his attempt to throw out Gonzalez. Two runs scored on the error. Pedroia scored from second on Youkilis’s resounding double off the wall.

As the Yankees have a their own performance-enhancing drug abuser in androstenedione user Sergio Mitre, so the Red Sox have Paul Byrd, who was cited in the Mitchell Report for human growth hormone use. Byrd wasn’t anywhere in the Red Sox organization’s rotation plans in April.

At this point the season Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield were supposed to be locked in and the fifth spot would go to the most effective amongst Clay Buchholz, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz. As Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid scheme o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” So Byrd was brought to replenish the ever-eroding starting pitching staff.

Byrd’s return migration was a surprisingly spry six innings of shutout ball: 3 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout. What he lacked in strikeout power was supplied by Red Sox debutante Billy Wagner, who allowed Adam Lind to double but struck out the side.

Whether it be Boston’s superiority or Toronto’s lethargy, a win is a win. The series sweep stands the team in good stead with Tampa Bay next on the dance card, or should I say fight card?


Game 129: August 29, 2009
Blue Jays
L: Ricky Romero (11-6)
58-69, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox3
W: Clay Buchholz (3-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (32)
75-54, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Buchholz’s line shows three hits, but one of those should be erased. In the second, the anti-Julio Lugo ranged to his far right and threw from his knees. The ball reached Kevin Youkilis on a bounce but the throw was still in time to nail Kevin Millar. First base umpire Jim Wolf called Millar safe; a fan near home plate that had the benefit of a television and therefore video replay exclaimed loud enough for the NESN microphones to pick up, “Blew it!”

Alex Gonzalez has not only been impressive with the leather but also with the lumber. In the sixth he knocked in Jason Bay with a single up the middle off Casey Janssen. Janssen was brought in with the express purpose to get the nine-hole hitter out and failed.

Cito Gaston whipped out his September relief-swapping tactics early. Jesse Carlson was brought in to get Jacoby Ellsbury and the fleet center fielder struck out. Then Brandon League took the bump to get the final out but Dustin Pedroia had other ideas.

With slightly better than Millar-like speed Pedroia outran John McDonald’s throw for an infield single to load the bases. League walked Victor Martinez on five pitches, pushing across J.D. Drew for what would be the winning run of the game.

Pedroia also knocked in the first run of the contest with a single through the hole to plate Ellsbury. Ellsbury had led off the first with a double to left and advanced on Raul Chavez’s ill-aimed pickoff.

Ricky Romero was lucky that only three runs were scored off of him; seven hits and four walks should have yielded many more Red Sox runs.

Not that Clay Buchholz needed the run support. The ace presumptive turned ace apparent with a dazzling 8⅓ innings: 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts. Hopefully the line is indicative of Buchholz’s rediscovery and not of Toronto’s late season apathy.

The earned run came at the hand of an atypically unsteady Hideki Okajima. The southpaw failed to get an out and saw Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay send ropes to the outfield to bring their team within a run.

Since Billy Wagner has donned a Red Sox uniform Jonathan Papelbon has been nails. Nothing like bringing in a potential threat to one’s position to buck one out of complacency. The closer was summoned to shut down the Blue Jays rally and he did so with just five pitches.

August 29, 2009


Game 128: August 28, 2009
Blue Jays
L: Brian Tallet (5-8)
58-68, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox6
W: Hideki Okajima (5-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)
74-54, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Barbara Walters should ask Jason Varitek what kind of tree he would be since he stumped Travis Snider at home plate in the eighth.

Jason Bay fished John McDonald’s liner out of the left field corner and relayed it to Alex Gonzalez. The shortstop pirouetted faster than Nureyev, completing the circuit to Jason Varitek. Travis Snider bounced off Varitek’s shin like a rag doll thrown against the wall. The Blue Jays right fielder lay supine and stunned as Varitek tagged him for last out before a 49-minute rain delay. The remarkable play kept the score knotted at five runs apiece.

Bay was pivotal in tying the game in the fifth. His two-run longball was a welcome distraction from Ben Affleck shilling his upcoming movie. He was there ostensibly to urge donations for the Jimmy Fund but for some reason his commercial endeavor became a topic of conversation.

Jacoby Ellsbury tied the game 3-3 in the fourth with a ground-rule double to the triangle. Every time one of his flyballs soar into the triangle an inside-the-park home run is not outside the realm of possibility. But once again the ball jumped out of the park after hitting the warning track.

Had the offense failed to flourish Josh Beckett would have been hung with his sixth loss of the season. The troubling trend of Beckett’s home run rate against continued. He was touched up by Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas; both times runners were on base and there were two outs. Harold Reynolds claims that Beckett is tipping his pitches. In an interview on NESN John Farrell said he helped Clay Buchholz with just such an issue; hopefully whatever ails Beckett has been addressed as well.

Fair was foul and foul was fair for Junichi Tazawa, who was optioned to rookie league in favor of Marcus McBeth. Rumors swirl that the Yankees are suitors of the recently-released Brad Penny, for whom I think nothing in his life became him like the leaving of Boston. But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, Joey Gathright will jump for the run to come.

August 28, 2009


Game 127: August 27, 2009
WinWhite Sox
W: John Danks (12-8)
64-64, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox5
L: Junichi Tazawa (2-3)
73-54, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Tazawa showed the absent-minded side of the tanuki by forgetting how to pitch effectively. It was a typical greenhorn sequence of pitching starts, on one week and off the next. In between innings Tazawa was shown in the dugout with a rather elaborate shoulder gadget; if anything it just concentrated suckage around his arm.

The infield didn’t do Junichi Tazawa any favors. In the third, Jayson Nix, who has replaced Frank Catalanotto as the Inconsequential Player Who Does Inexplicably Well Against the Red Sox, sprayed a line drive to left. Mike Lowell cut off the ball to initiate the rundown of Nix between first and second. Kevin Youkilis threw a smidgen high to Dustin Pedroia (insert short joke here). Pedroia dropped the ball, chased it down, but had no play at first because neither Tazawa nor Victor Martinez covered the sack. Alexei Ramirez crossed the plate unhindered for the eighth run of the game.

With the Red Sox starter unable to go more than four innings and many bullpen arms unavailable, Nick Green was called on to pitch. For a shortstop with game-losing throwing errors under his belt, Green performed on the mound surprisingly well: 2 innings pitched, no hits, no runs, 3 walks, and no strikeouts.

Green’s outing was second only to Lenny Clarke and Denis Leary’s criss-crossing trajectories of their ceremonial tosses.

J.D. Drew and Alex Gonzalez went back-to-back with four-baggers in the fifth. That is not a typo.

With two out (a familiar refrain for the Red Sox these days) in the eighth, David Ortiz doubled off the wall to drive in Youkilis. Ortiz was in turn driven in by Jason Bay. With Bay at the keystone sack Terry Francona started warming Hideki Okajima. But when Casey Kotchman grounded out weakly to Nix, Green was called upon to close out the top of the ninth.

Drew led off the bottom of the ninth with another homer, but the next three batters couldn’t convert any of Bobby Jenks’s pitches into runs. I’m not convinced it was the White Sox closer’s stuff so much as it was his highly distracting and distasteful facial hair.

August 27, 2009


Game 126: August 26, 2009
White Sox
L: Tony Pena (6-5)
63-64, 4 game losing streak
WinRed Sox3
BS: Ramon Ramirez (3)
W: Daniel Bard (1-1)
73-53, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Why do I prefer manual transmission to automatic? So I can be clutch like David Ortiz.

Tag Team back again
Check it, wreck it, let’s begin
Party on party people let me hear some noise
DC’s in the house jump jump and rejoice
There’s a party over here, a party over there
Wave your hands in the air
Shake your derriere
These three words mean you’re gettin’ busy
Whoomp, there it is
Hit me!

David Ortiz scored the first and last runs of the game. His first home run boomeranged off the second row Monster seats’ table to the feet of fans in the first row. In the dugout he exchanged an elaborate handshake with Victor Martinez. So reminiscent of 2004, with Ortiz playing himself and Martinez assuming the role of Orlando Cabrera.

Although not as showy as Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez has been a revelation at short. He mans shortstop near flawlessly; he vacuums up ground balls, turns twin killings, and tosses to first with immaculate aim. Any contribution he brings to the other side of the ball is a custom topper on the wedding cake. In the sixth Gonzalez broke the 1-1 tie with a leadoff homer into the Monster seats.

I’m taking it back to the old school
’Cause I’m an old fool who’s so cool
If you wanna get down
I’m gonna show you the way
Whoomp, there it is

Tim Wakefield didn’t factor into the decision because of Scott Podsednik’s game-tying pinch hit home run in the eighth off Ramon Ramirez. The knuckleballer kept the White Sox off the scoreboard for six innings. The only run blemishing his outing came with Paul Konerko’s triple to the triangle in the first inning. The blast plated Gordon Beckham, who started off the game with a bunt towards third for a base hit.

With Beckham’s success one would think that Ozzie Guillen would exploit Wakefield’s lack of mobility all night. Some managers just don’t know how to strategically deploy the bunt. In the sixth with two on, two out, the left side of the field completely free of defenders, and a one-run lead Ortiz attempted a bunt. Terry Francona probably didn’t approve.

What he does approve of: games that end in the required number of innings punctuated by a Papi walk-off dinger. “I hate extra innings,” said Ortiz, slightly out of breath from running the circuit and getting clobbered by his teammates.

Bring it back ya’ll bring it back ya’ll bring it back
Here we go
Whoomp, there it is

August 26, 2009


Game 125: August 25, 2009
White Sox
BS: Matt Thornton (5)
L: Scott Linebrink (3-6)
63-63, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox6
W: Manny Delcarmen (5-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
72-53, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury broke the single-season franchise record for steals in the bottom of the first. He had just shot a ground-rule double into the Red Sox bullpen and was chomping at the bit to swipe third. A.J. Pierzynski bobbled Freddy Garcia’s first pitch to Dustin Pedroia and didn’t even try to catch the speedy center fielder. Ellsbury can drive 55, and more.

Dustin Pedroia poked the ball to Paul Konerko in his first at bat, plating Jacoby Ellsbury for a quick score.

Nine-hole hitter Jayson Nix improbably tied the game in the third with a longball into the Monster seats. Boston countered with J.D. Drew’s two-out double to the left-center gap, demonstrating that he doesn’t have to bat from the eighth spot to make an impact. From the three-hole Drew went 1-for-3 and walked twice. Kevin Youkilis roped a single to left to drive in Drew for the lead.

Youkilis’s comments about playing in Boston sparked some controversy, but keep in mind that Dan Shaugnessy penned this piece. How it must gall the Curly-Haired Boyfriend that there is a player so popular that he is serenaded by howls of his nickname, so much so that he had to portray that player as an ungrateful, whinging louse. Shaugnessy, when you prowl the field what you’re hearing from the stands aren’t “Youks.”

The Red Sox looked more like Monday night’s White Sox with their on-field blunders in the seventh and eighth innings. With runners on second and third with one out Jon Lester struck out Alexei Ramirez with a biting curveball. The yakker ricocheted off home plate and bounded high and far enough away in the sparse foul territory behind the dish for Konerko to lumber in for the tying run.

Next the pesky Nix flashed a laser to left off Mike Lowell’s glove for the go-ahead run. Hideki Okajima relieved Lester and allowed Scott Podsednik to load the bases. Gordon Beckham might be a candidate for American League Rookie of the Year honors, but he showed his greenhorn ways by whiffing on Okajima’s high fastball.

After the game Terry Francona said that Victor Martinez texted him in the wee hours of the morning begging to be put into the lineup. Francona wrote back that he’ll pinch hit him so that he can get the game-winning hit.

Jason Varitek arced a one-out double to the base of the bullpen wall. Francona placed Nick Green at second as pinch runner and pinch hit Martinez for Alex Gonzalez. The tactic played out perfectly in the form of an RBI single skipped up the middle to tie the game. Francona’s gamble paid off despite the move weakening the defense up the middle.

Okajima, graduate of the Jose Contreras School of Fielding, failed to catch Carlos Quentin’s pop-up behind the mound to lead off the eighth. The southpaw reliever missed Martinez’s return throw and Quentin advanced to second. Konerko dropped a single into shallow right and the Pale Hose were poised for a late-inning comeback.

After a lengthy at bat Jermaine Dye finally skyed Okajima’s sixth pitch to Green. It took another six pitches to put away Pierzynski on a swinging strikeout. Francona called on Manny Delcarmen to get the final out of the eighth and the homegrown hurler delivered.

Jason Bay broke the 3-3 tie with one out in the eighth, sending Scott Linebrink’s 0-2 hanging yakker to the same area as Nix’s homer. Francona’s substitutions paid off again with Green singling and Martinez doubling him in for an insurance run. Not to rest on his record-setting laurels, Jacoby Ellsbury lined a double to center for another run.

Sharp managing, rebounding from mistakes, and a late-inning rally: all signs of a team gearing up for a playoff run.

August 25, 2009


Game 124: August 24, 2009
White Sox
L: Jose Contreras (5-12)
63-62, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox12
W: Ramon Ramirez (7-3)
H: Hideki Okajima (22)
H: Daniel Bard (7)
71-53, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Contreras made an error in the bottom of the third, an error bigger than “Sox Appeal,” “Pocket Money,” and the dance sequence opening the NESN pregame show for Friday’s match-up against the Yankees.

Paul Konerko stooped to field David Ortiz’s grounder but for some reason Jose Contreras thought he should chase down the ball. Perhaps he wanted to make amends for hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch to jam the bases. The pitcher ended up straddling the first base line without the ball in his glove. Ortiz scampered across the bag safe, Alex Gonzalez scored, and the bases reloaded. Konerko’s exasperation matched that of Jose Oquendo, the third base coach of the Cardinals who attempted to direct Jeff Suppan’s baserunning.

Jason Bay walked on five pitches, pushing across another run and bringing his team within a run. Instead of pitching to Mike Lowell, Contreras might have been better off throwing the ball into the crowd. Lowell wouldn’t get past second base even if the starter hurled the sphere into the netting and then climbed up himself to retrieve it. Contreras half-heartedly attempted that strategy; the wild pitch skipped away from A.J. Pierzynski and allowed Youkilis to tie the game. But Pierzynski insisted on pitching to Lowell.

Lowell’s home run cleared the wall and crashed onto Lansdowne Street. I wonder if Ozzie Guillen’s Venezuelan curses are intelligible to Spanish speakers from Cuba?

Paul “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick visited the booth in the fourth. Between the Yankees rout and the incessant NESN promos it’s a wonder Jerry Remy still wants to be an analyst for these broadcasts. For a few seasons Remy was the king of self-promotion but has since toned it down. Probably because there’s less time for NESN plugs when Remy is hawking his scorecards and t-shirts.

J.D. Drew, like Lowell, hit his 16th home run of 2009. His seventh-inning bomb sailed into the visitors’ bullpen and increased Boston’s lead to three runs.

Clay Buchholz didn’t go the required innings for the decision. He surrendered a three-run four-bagger to Konerko, making the game an uncomfortably close 9-7. But Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon bailed out their young starter with 4⅓ innings pitched with just a single run allowed.

Papelbon changed his tune about Billy Wagner faster than a Girl Talk remix. On August 22 in a WEEI interview he said, “What has he done? Has he pitched this year? Is he ready to pitch or is he not? I think our bullpen is good where we’re at right now. Don’t get me wrong. But I guess you could always make it better. It’s kind of like the [Eric] Gagne thing, I guess.” But today he clarified his position: “Were excited to have him, and hopefully he’ll help us win a championship.”

The Red Sox needed another southpaw option out of the bullpen and are fortunate to acquire someone with Wagner’s track record. If he abides by the Red Sox plan (unlike Gagne), Wagner will shore up the inconsistent relief corps and will net Type A compensation when his contract expires.

August 24, 2009


Game 123: August 23, 2009
W: C.C. Sabathia (15-7)
H: Phil Hughes (14)
78-46, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox4
L: Josh Beckett (14-5)
70-53, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Joe Morgan’s microphone malfunctioned for a blissful half inning.

There was little else joyful about the closing game of this series. From Josh Beckett’s first pitch (which Derek Jeter deposited in the Red Sox bullpen for his 2,700th hit) to Mariano Rivera’s final cutter (that Jacoby Ellsbury whiffed on), every play demonstrated that the Yankees have the best team money can buy.

Who needs to go all out on a short fly to shallow left when your bats will bail you out? That seemed to be Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Melky Cabrera’s collective attitude when they let Mike Lowell’s blooper bounce for a single in the sixth. That carelessness led to Kevin Youkilis advancing to third and then scoring on Rocco Baldelli’s sacrifice fly to right.

ESPN producers have two annoying camera techniques: the follow shot, in which the camera man attempts to jog alongside his subject, and the extreme close-up, where the audience can observe every pore and follicle of the player. Since Beckett relinquished five home runs, including two to Hideki Matsui, ESPN cameramen had a field day chronicling each Yankee’s circuit along the third base line to home and then down the dugout steps. Matsui’s face was not made for high definition.

ESPN tried to imbue this game with the same significance that match-ups between Juan Marichal of the Giants and Sandy Koufax from the Dodgers had.

On August 22, 1965, Marichal hit Johnny Roseboro in the head with his bat because he thought the Dodgers catcher was throwing to close to his head on his return throws to Koufax. The resulting brawl lasted 14 minutes and Roseboro required 14 stitches. Marichal was suspended for 9 games and fined $1,750. The suspension may have knocked the Giants out of the pennant race that year, and of course there was no wild card. The Dodgers went on to win the Fall Classic, Sandy Koufax’s last championship.

As tempting as it might have been for Beckett, no Yankees players were blemished by a ball or bruised by a bat. The Red Sox seems to be biding their time, conserving their energy by maintaining its lead in the wild card chase and foregoing an all-out assault for the division lead. While losing the battle to win the war is the rational strategy, it would have been satisfying to win the last home series against the Yankees.

August 23, 2009


Game 122: August 22, 2009
L: A.J. Burnett (10-7)
77-46, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox14
W: Junichi Tazawa (2-2)
70-52, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Happy 70th birthday, Carl Yastrzemski; yesterday’s rout was quite the way to celebrate. I can’t help but wonder, though: if Terry Francona had not surrendered Friday’s game in the sixth inning could they have made a comeback?

Yesterday the Red Sox stormed back from the shellacking they took in the series opener. Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-5 with two homers. David Ortiz lofted his 20th quadrangular in the fifth, prompting A.J. Burnett to launch into a Hamlet-like soliloquy: “Why, why, why, why would you do that, why?” Allowing Ortiz to smash an opposite-field four-bagger must have been discouraging, but Burnett should have known he was in for a rough outing when Alex Gonzalez went deep in second.

Brad Penny has had exactly two outings in which he pitched as well as Junichi Tazawa did yesterday, which are two more than I thought he would have. The Yankees were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, including four fruitless at bats with runners at third base. In the sixth he had runners on the corners with one out. Both Robinson Cano and Eric Hinske had reached on consecutive singles, and Hinske’s was well-struck off the wall.

The lead was 9-0 and accordingly Tazawa didn’t give Melky Cabrera anything near the middle of the plate. The overly anxious outfielder rolled over on a curveball, tapping out into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

Tazawa is somewhat reminiscent of Bronson Arroyo; both are right-handed pitchers that do not overwhelm with power but rather rely on location. Curt Schilling once said Arroyo had “balls the size of Saturn.” In Japanese folklore there is a creature known as the tanuki depicted with pendulous anatomy. If Tazawa continues to showcase his dauntless spirit in future outings, there is a potential nickname for him.

For a Fox broadcast it wasn’t anywhere as annoying as it could have been. The massive numbers Boston put up early closed most of the available avenues the Fox crew had to transform the afternoon contest into a Yankeeography. Tim McCarver called the Red Sox the White Sox once and Kenny Albert mistook Nick Green for Rocco Baldelli, but those peccadilloes will likely pale in comparison to the full-scale assault on logic that Joe Morgan will unleash for tonight’s game, the rubber match of the series.

August 22, 2009


Game 121: August 21, 2009
W: Andy Pettitte (10-6)
77-45, 3 game winning streak
Red Sox11
L: Brad Penny (7-8)
69-52, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: I thought seeing the Fenway hawk in the pregame show was a good omen. It wasn’t, and Penny wasn’t lucky. I joined Citizens for Retiring the Penny; I hope Terry Francona and Theo Epstein follow.

Everything that you need to know about this game:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury tied Tommy Harper’s record of 54 steals in a season in a Red Sox uniform in the first inning. Notably it was against Andy Pettitte, who is known for having the best pickoff move in the game today.
  2. Jerry Remy returned to the booth.
  3. Getting married in Fenway during a game is a great idea in theory. In practice, you may end up having this momentous occasion at the same time as an atrocious game such as this.

For some reason none of the Yankee batters are wearing imprints of baseball stitches on their torsos. The visiting hitters were allowed to abuse the Boston pitching staff with no repercussions. Even with his diminished velocity a pitcher like Pedro Martinez would have knocked back any Bronx Bomber that hung over his part of the plate.

Two former MVPs had baserunning blunders. Alex Rodriguez roped the ball to the left field corner that Jason Bay deftly captured barehanded after it ricocheted hither and tither. Bay fired to Dustin Pedroia’s waiting glove and the second baseman swiped Rodriguez’s right forearm for the second out. A run scored on the play, but with Brad Penny on the mound outs were scarce. Any defensive play that erased a baserunner was manna from heaven.

In the third Pedroia knocked a ball to left field, where outfielders unfamiliar with the territory often make mistakes. Eric Hinske bumbled about attempting to catch it and then failed to chase it down after it caromed off the wall. Who else but Derek Jeter chased the ball down in shallow left and nailed Pedroia at third for the final out of the inning. Add another chapter to Jeter’s hagiography.

August 21, 2009


Game 120: August 20, 2009
WinRed Sox8
W: Jon Lester (10-7)
69-51, 3 game winning streak
Blue Jays
L: Brett Cecil (5-2)
55-64, 5 game losing streak
Highlights: There was a tornado warning in the area and the sign behind home plate read, “Nothing beats a Blizzard.” The roof opened at at the top of the fifth and it started raining by the bottom of the inning. A few fans had the foresight to bring umbrellas, so the lack of foresight on the Rogers Centre crew must be known in some quarters.

Thunder echoed in the distance but the only thunder came from the Red Sox bats. The Blue Jays shot out to an early lead: Marco Scutaro leadoff single to short, Aaron Hill double to left, Vernon Wells base on balls, and then the lumbering Rod Barajas grounded into a double play for a run.

Jon Lester didn’t accumulate his usual punchout totals (he had just 5), but his strikeouts equaled the number of baserunners allowed (3 hits and 2 walks). He gave everyone in the bullpen a day off but Fernando Cabrera, who was sent back to Pawtucket along with Brian Anderson after the game. Rocco Baldelli and Michael Bowden were summoned to Boston to fill the vacancies in the 25-man roster.

J.D. Drew homered in the third and fourth, another sign that the Boston batters have awakened from their collective coma but also indicative of Toronto’s pitching woes. Victor Martinez led off the seventh with his 20th four-bagger of the season.

When the Red Sox weren’t getting timely hits they were assisted by Toronto’ miscues. Jason Bay led off the fourth with a walk and advanced to third base on Brett Cecil’s throwing error. He got a new ball from home plate umpire Greg Gibson but didn’t call time out before throwing the old ball to the dugout. Look on the bright side, Brett: at least two of the runs that inning were unearned.

While the Blue Jays were lifeless the Red Sox played exceptionally in all facets of the game. Even with the game well in hand in the seventh, Mike Lowell chased down Kevin Millar’s ground ball out. Lowell tipped the ball to Alex Gonzalez who then fired to first to put out the former Red Sox idiot. To clarify, he used to be with Boston but is still an idiot.

August 20, 2009


Game 119: August 19, 2009
WinRed Sox6
W: Clay Buchholz (2-3)
68-51, 2 game winning streak
Blue Jays
L: Roy Halladay (13-6)
55-63, 4 game losing streak
Highlights: Each Buchholz start makes me want to go back in time and unsign John Smoltz. It’s easy to mock Terry Francona and his love affair with veterans well beyond their expiration date (I’m looking your way, Kevin Millar and Mike Timlin), but someone in the Red Sox organization was overly enamored with Smoltz this season.

Clay Buchholz was nearly beheaded by Aaron Hill’s comebacker. Unlike Hiroki Kuroda, who was knocked in the noggin by Rusty Ryal’s liner, Buchholz was able to avoid the tower-buzzing shot. The near miss seemed to energize the Red Sox starter, as if opposing Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay wasn’t invigorating enough. For six innings Buchholz kept the damage to one run, which was tallied by Vernon Wells in the fourth with his RBI single to plate Hill.

Buchholz didn’t have the no-hit stuff that Frank Viola brought to the bump on September 30, 1992 in the SkyDome. Viola was on the Red Sox and faced off against David Cone, carrying his no-hitter into the ninth. One-hole hitter Devon White knocked the ball off the Astroturf for a leadoff single, ending Sweet Music’s virtuoso performance. Catcher Tony Pena punched Viola in the chest after the game, upset that he lost his chance to catch a no-no.

Viola was in Ford C. Frick form in the bottom of the sixth; he opined on baseball controversies past and present. He is anti-World Baseball Classic, against the All-Star Game determining home field advantage for the World Series, doesn’t oppose the DH but thinks it should be done the same way in both leagues, and dislikes interleague.

“Major League Baseball is on line one,” jested Don Orsillo.

He didn’t divulge his stance on the wild card but since this is the most likely way the Red Sox will make the playoffs he’s probably in favor of it.

David Ortiz was taunted in the second inning. He responded with his 19th homer of the season. Jason Bay and Victor Martinez chipped in with circuit clouts of their own.

How dull these home run trots were when compared to Kevin Youkilis’s basepath adventures. The goateed one reached first when Lyle Overbay failed to tag him, out of position because of Hill’s throw awry. Youkilis swiped second but overshot the bag. Edwin Encarnacion should have had his quarry dead to rights but Youkilis scrambled back to the sack while Encarnacion bobbled the ball.

Youkilis got hit by a pitch in the ninth, as usual. He enjoyed a small measure of revenge by beating out a rundown between second and third.

Most of the Blue Jays were checked out, probably thinking about their next round of golf rather than the game. With Alex Rios’s departure, J.P. Ricciardi’s failure to sign first round supplemental pick James Paxton, and Halladay’s expiring contract, good baseball may soon become extinct north of the border.

August 19, 2009


Game 118: August 18, 2009
WinRed Sox10
W: Hideki Okajima (4-0)
H: Daniel Bard (6)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (29)
67-51, 1 game winning streak
Blue Jays
L: Casey Janssen (2-4)
55-62, 3 game losing streak
Highlights: It was a win as unbecoming as Frank Viola’s brown herringbone jacket. Like that piece of clothing, it merely served its purpose. A lucky win, the required business casual outfit, both essential items in the toolkit of success.

During the game last night I went to the kitchen to grab a Skinny Cow frozen treat in a vain attempt to stave off the heat. From the other room a heard a muted, “Ack ack ack.” I thought it might be kids outside playing soldier but it was Frank Viola’s gleeful cackle.

Viola enjoys games that the Red Sox score a lot of runs in, and in this contest Boston needed every last run. The visitors jumped out to an early lead in the second with four runs. Kevin Youkilis almost homered but settled for a double, Jason Bay walked, and Mike Lowell loaded the bases with a looping single to right.

David Ortiz poked the ball to the opposite field to plate two runs. Alex Gonzalez chipped in with an RBI ground out and Ortiz artfully slid his hand across home plate to score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground ball single. Clay Buchholz, take notes from Ortiz, should you ever be pushed into pinch-running service again.

Randy Ruiz’s body reminds me of the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval, who goes by the moniker Kung Fu Panda. The 31-year old rookie homered in the bottom of the second, the first of many runs for the Blue Jays, a surprising outcome with ace Josh Beckett on the mound.

Was it because of Jason Varitek’s late scratch from the lineup? Victor Martinez’s unfamiliarity with Beckett’s repertoire and preferences? Perhaps he was distracted by a Dustin Pedroia Man Baby picture depicting his newborn son Dylan?

Rod Barajas tied the game with a two-run longball in the sixth off Beckett’s 100th pitch. Boston batters bailed Beckett out of his 5⅓ inning clunker in which he surrendered 9 hits, 7 earned runs, and 3 dingers. On the bright side, he only gave up one free pass.

Jonathan Papelbon looked out of sorts as well. He had no location, muddling through 1⅓ innings while allowing 2 hits and 3 walks. The closer allowed both the runners he inherited to score in the eighth so that the comfortable three-run lead turned into a single run in the ninth.

With Roy Halladay on the bump in the middle game of the series, an opening win, no matter how ugly, was crucial. This was the sort of game the Red Sox were finding ways to lose of late, but now the team seems to have returned to equilibrium, the offense shoring up the pitching staff when it fell into a funk.

August 17, 2009


Game 117: August 16, 2009
Red Sox3
L: Junichi Tazawa (1-2)
66-51, 2 game losing streak
W: Dustin Nippert (4-1)
H: Doug Mathis (1)
H: C.J. Wilson (10)
S: Frank Francisco (17)
66-50, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: A kid in the stands snared two Josh Hamilton foul balls in the fifth. The young fan was particularly thrilled with his catches because there was some whipped cream on the baseballs for some reason.

Frank Viola’s style is like a pitching version of Sean Casey. When Alex Gonzalez sharply lined the ball foul down third base line in the eighth, Don Orsillo exclaimed, “Diving attempt by ball attendant!”

“Gotta love the hustle,” deadpanned Viola.

Like Jason Bay the game before, David Ortiz lofted a leadoff homer. Ortiz’s came in the second inning to give his team the lead. Exquisite to behold, but Ortiz had no one but the next batter to high five at home plate.

Inspired by the baserunning spectacular on Saturday, Ortiz tagged up on Casey Kotchman’s fly ball out to center and scored on Brian Anderson’s sacrifice fly to right in the fourth.

In the seventh, Dustin Pedroia smacked his 10th longball of the season. Another solo shot, another game that the Red Sox fell just short. Their playoff aspirations are receding like their second baseman’s hairline.


Game 116: August 15, 2009
Red Sox2
L: Brad Penny (7-7)
66-50, 1 game losing streak
W: Derek Holland (6-7)
H: Darren O’Day (16)
S: Neftali Feliz (1)
65-50, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Reports of the Red Sox’s revival were greatly exaggerated. Alex Gonzalez brought back the spirit of 2006. In some circles there are whispers of the Curse of Mark Kotsay.

Alex Gonzalez re-debuted with the Red Sox Saturday night. His equipment hadn’t arrived yet so he used Jed Lowrie’s glove. Can he use Hanley Ramirez’s bat? There’s a lot of power to spare in that and it would be nice to have some at short. Or any hitting ability: Gonzalez went 0-for-4 with one strikeout.

Can infield defensive abilities be transplanted to outfielders? Brian Anderson stopped mid-route on Elvis Andrus’s fly ball to right in the second inning, looking as uncaring as J.D. Drew is said to be. The two-out triple led to Julio Borbon driving in Andrus.

Jason Bay led off the fourth with his 25th homer of the season. Just as Bay’s bat returns most of the rest of his teammmates’ production has tapered off.

Victor Martinez is an exception; the backstop homered in the fourth. It was a two-out circuit clout, but Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia both tapped out to short so Martinez was the sole run of that inning.

Brad Penny was outdueled by rookie hurler Derek Holland, 5⅔ innings to 6⅔. Holland had half as many strikeouts as Penny with 3 but also half the bases on balls with 2.

Ellsbury’s ability to create havoc on the basepaths was outdone by the duo of Andrus and Borbon. Their seven stolen bases led to three runs. Ian Kinsler added to the total with a theft of the keystone sack in the third inning.

The threat of Rangers runners affected Ramon Ramirez, who balked in a run in the seventh with Kinsler on first. As annoying as the blunder and Kinsler’s leadoff homer in the second were, there was no intent in Fernando Cabrera’s eighth inning pitch that connected with Kinsler’s helmet.

Right now the Red Sox can’t hit anything on purpose.

August 15, 2009


Game 115: August 14, 2009
WinRed Sox8
W: Takashi Saito (3-3)
66-49, 1 game winning streak
BS: Eddie Guardado (2)
H: Darren O’Day (15)
H: C.J. Wilson (9)
BS, L: Frank Francisco (3, 2-2)
64-50, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: In 2004 there was July 24, the Rodriguez/Varitek face-off and Bill Mueller walk-off. In 2007 there was September 28, the Red Sox win against the Twins and the Yankees extra-innings loss for the American League East Championship.

Jon Lester wasn’t his best, which for him means he was still exceptional. He surrendered two early runs: Michael Young homered with Omar Vizquel on base with a leadoff walk in the first. Lester battled back to strike out the side. The lefty allowed two bases on balls in the fourth and against punched out the rest of the batters he faced in the inning.

While Lester held the Ranger bats at bay David Ortiz menaced Kevin Millwood from the seven-hole, walking twice against the starter. Even though the visitors didn’t notch a run against Millwood, Ron Washington pulled him in the sixth with two out, Mike Lowell on first, and 110 pitches on his arm.

Like Mike Myers, Eddie Guardado is a southpaw that doesn’t intimidate Ortiz. Guardado threw three straight balls to Ortiz, clearly wanting no part of the designated hitter. Two strikes, one called and one foul, followed. With the count full Ortiz honed his sight to that slice of plate that Guardado had to serve the ball and teed off, sending a blast to right that tied the game.

But Lester wasn’t his best and Terry Francona didn’t have his best center fielder in the game. Marlon Byrd led off the bottom of the sixth with a double over Josh Reddick’s glove, a fly ball that Jacoby Ellsbury likely would have snared. Andruw Jones blooped a single to no-man’s land, too deep for Dustin Pedroia, too shallow for Reddick, and just long enough in the air to plate Byrd.

A leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh by Taylor Teagarden turned into an insurance run for the Rangers with Young’s alchemic bat. It was the kind of magic that seemed to evade the Boston baseball club. At least until last night.

Ortiz doubled off Frank Francisco to begin the magic show. Angel Hernandez transmogrified Jason Varitek’s 6-3 ground out into an infield single. Frank Viola was more of a homer than Ken Harrelson, sheepisly saying “I think it he was safe” on a replay that clearly showed Varitek was out. Ellsbury, who pinch hit for Nick Green in the seventh, singled up the middle to edge the score to 4-3.

The Red Sox magic show even had a comedic interlude. The corollary to removing Green was having to watch Chris Woodward’s piteous sacrifice bunt attempt that resulted in a three-pitch strikeout. Then Clay Buchholz pinch ran for Varitek with Pedroia in the box.

The second baseman starched a double off the luminescent scoreboard in left. Pedroia’s laser show dazzled Buchholz to the point of distraction. The pitcher was as natural on the basepath’s as Cher’s face; he delayed his dash home because of the misread, stumbling after clearing third, and adjusted his awkwardly-fitting helmet for the final stretch.

The ball caromed off the radiant board right into David Murphy’s throwing hand. Murphy missed the cutoff man but Young was there to relay the ball to home in time to hose Buchholz. One more bobble on the Rangers’ part or a half a second quicker reaction by the pitcher was the difference between Jeff Suppan and Luis Tiant.

Down to their last out, to their last strike, Victor Martinez, Houdini-like, released his team from the bonds of defeat. He placidly took Francisco’s pitches to observe the hurler’s inventory and then protected the plate once the strike count ticked two.

If you truly wish to demoralize an opponent, in some ways a line drive double to clear the bases and secure the lead like Martinez’s is even better than a home run. The pitcher might entertain the brief hope that his fielder can get to the ball, only to have that optimism crushed when the ball ricochets off the fences. The manager might decide to leave you in, as Washington did to Francisco, so you’d have to pitch from the stretch with a tangible reminder of your failure dancing behind you. The outfielder still has to run hard after the ball, corralling it despite the inevitability of runners crossing the plate. Finally, the infielders can only watch their scurrying outfielder, attempting to compute the trajectory of panicked toss and position themselves accordingly.

Victor Martinez had his moment in the Yankee series but it didn’t lead to the win. This moment did. Never had those chintzy blue uniforms looked so good.

August 14, 2009


Game 114: August 13, 2009
W: Justin Verlander (13-6)
S: Fernando Rodney (24)
60-54, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox0
L: Clay Buchholz (1-3)
65-49, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: “Verlander” supposedly means “dweller by or on the pasture land” but after yesterday I suspect it might mean “showoff.” He flashed triple-digit stuff in the eighth inning against Jason Bay. Only seven men reached base: 4 hits, 1 walk, and 2 hit by pitches. Chris Woodward was twice Verlander’s victim, but his plunkings caused no strife. The Red Sox were just happy someone got on base somehow.

Clay Buchholz pitched better than John Smoltz ever did this season, going 7 innings with 5 hits, 1 earned (homer by Ryan Raburn), 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Why did they wait so long to end the Smoltz Experiment? His five losses could have been wins for Buchholz, a huge swing given the 6½ game gap between the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The getaway game time gave Theo Epstein time to work the phones to shore up the shortstop spot. While Alex Gonzalez’s bat won’t help bridge that half-dozen game chasm, he will fill the defensive hole at short. Nick Green’s cannon can make the bang-bang play at first but just as easily he can blow the game with his inconsistency. The Red Sox traded Kris Negron to the Reds for Gonzalez, who had better not bring back the spirit of 2006 with him. What a terrible year that was.

They are at the fulcrum of the season, where they will either go full tilt towards contention or fade into oblivion. Buchholz’s consecutive quality starts gives me hope for the former.

August 13, 2009


Game 113: August 12, 2009
L: Zach Miner (5-3)
59-54, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox8
W: Josh Beckett (14-4)
65-48, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Jerry Remy continued the trope of celebrity sufferers of depression visiting the broadcast booth that Joe Pantoliano started a few weeks ago. Who can blame him? He had an arduous recovery from lung cancer surgery and news that his son Jared was fired from his Fenway security post because of steroids recently surfaced. The elder Remy hadn’t been watching NESN games because his doctor recommended that he stay away from things that might further depress him, like Don Orsillo. Despite the ribbing, Remy, Orsillo, and Dennis Eckersley were clearly delighted to be together in the booth as evidenced by their giddy giggling. The fans at Fenway applauded the analyst in the middle of the second. Second inning visit, second baseman — nice touch.

If you ever miss Hanley Ramirez, just watch a Josh Beckett start. Like the one he had Wednesday evening, a seven-inning jewel in which he carried a perfect game 3⅔ innings and a no-hitter until the fifth inning. Carlos Guillen abruptly shattered the no-no and the shutout with a thunderous swing on the first pitch he saw. The only other run by the visitors was also a homer; Marcus Thames got a hold of a fastball up and outside in the seventh.

In the second Mike Lowell revealed that he is an adherent of the Kirk Gibson School of Baserunning; if you can’t walk, jack it out of the park. Jason Bay, who just came back from a hamstring pull, tried out the philosophy himself in the third.

The left fielder just missed a home run in the fifth, arcing a two-out double against the the W.B. Mason sign. David Ortiz roped a single into center and Zach Miner was relieved by Freddy Dolsi.

The home run trot limbered Lowell up; he legged out an infield single in the fifth. He lobbed the ball to no-man’s land behind the mound to plate Bay. The Red Sox proceeded to bat around for the 25th time this season; it had more to do with Dolsi’s wildness and the Tigers’ sloppiness than the batters’ prowess. When the dust settled the local nine scored five runs in the fifth, a lead that Beckett, Hideki Okajima, and Ramon Ramirez held easily.

Dennis Eckersley tried to give Okajima the sobriquet the Count of Full, but no nickname other than the tried and true Oki has stuck. You can ask for Eck’s expert advice on a range of topics from baseball jargon to hair care, but lipreading and nicknaming are not amongst his fortes.

While Detroit is the class of the AL Central that division isn’t particularly strong. With bouts against the Rangers and Yankees on the horizon this could have well been a trap series that lengthened Boston’s lassitude. Instead, the Red Sox secured a series win with this victory and kept pace with the Bronx Bromides.

August 12, 2009


Game 112: August 11, 2009
L: Chris Lambert (0-1)
59-53, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox7
W: Junichi Tazawa (1-1)
H: Fernando Cabrera (1)
H: Takashi Saito (2)
64-48, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Tazawa made his Fenway debut and after a rough first inning settled into a solid five-inning outing with 1 earned run, 2 base on balls, and 6 strike outs. Despite his skillful start Tazawa wasn’t the headlining act of last night’s show.

When Miguel Cabrera got hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out I thought the damage would have been worse if the Tigers first baseman got the chance to swing the bat.

Then Nick Green failed to turn the double play on Carlos Guillen’s grounder with the ducks on the pond. A high throw pulled Dustin Pedroia off the second base bag and allowed Placido Polanco to cross the plate. The inning continued with Magglio Ordonez driving in a run on a fielder’s choice, a walk by Alex Avila, and Cabrera scoring on Brandon Inge’s liner to left.

Hit by pitch or three-run home run, by the middle of the inning the results were the same.

After Pedroia grounded into a double play in the bottom of the second Rick Porcello went after Victor Martinez. Martinez stared out at the mound bewildered.

The second inning transpired uneventfully until Cabrera stepped in the box. Junichi Tazawa’s pitch hit Cabrera in the hand but it was ruled a strike. With the count 1-2 Ryan Raburn replaced Cabrera and proceeded to swing at the third strike. Since Cabrera left with two strikes he is charged with the strikeout.

Don Quixote himself would have scratched his head to see Porcello aim his first pitch between Kevin Youkilis’s numbers. The rookie pitcher took it upon himself to avenge what he saw as a wrong against his team’s superstar by hitting the oft-plunked Youkilis, who is tied for fourth in the American League with 10 HBPs.

Without shield or lance Porcello faced the onslaught of Youkilis, who added a new variation on the well-worn trope of mound charges by throwing his helmet at his quarry. When the dust settled, only Porcello and Youkilis were ejected. “They don’t have to worry about his hundred pitch count tonight,” quipped Dennis Eckersley.

Today we learned that both players were handed five-game suspensions, but of course the impact on Youkilis and the Red Sox is greater because he is an everyday player. A strange way to fairly dole out the the blame given that the league cited both the Martinez and Youkilis incidents as intentional, but there is nothing fair the way Yankee Bob Watson runs his office.

Unlike scrums against the Rays and the Yankees, there weren’t multiple foci of hostilities (despite Edwin Jackson’s attempts to ratchet up the conflict). The benches cleared mainly to stop Youkilis from murdering Porcello on field.

Ginned up from the skirmish Terry Francona had Mike Lowell pinch run for Youkilis and his batters rallied. David Ortiz pulled a single between first and second and Jason Bay tied the game with a home run into the Monster seats.

(I giggled as much as you did when Lowell was tapped as a pinch runner. He demonstrated that the easiest way to navigate the bases is via the longball. Twice.)

Francona was ejected for arguing with second base umpire Brian O’Nora. They tangled over a call on J.D. Drew’s attempted theft of second. Inspired by his corner infielder’s helmet-hurling the skipper spit his gum into his hand and tossed it on the field.

Red Sox debutantes Tazawa and Fernando Cabrera must have been thankful for all the action. Their Fenway Park debuts may have gone unnoticed by most, but their successes will hopefully fuel them for the stretch run.

August 11, 2009


Game 111: August 10, 2009
L: Zach Miner (5-2)
59-52, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox6
BS: Manny Delcarmen (2)
W: Ramon Ramirez (6-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (28)
63-48, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: The Bad Fan award goes the folks near home plate who got in Victor Martinez’s way on Marcus Thames’s pop up in foul territory. Although Martinez held on to get the second out of the first inning, he should not have had to reach through a thicket of outstretched arms to do so.

So this is what a win feels like. What working the count looks like. What scoring runs in multiple innings looks like. What recovering from a bad relief outing looks like. What a clean save looks like. The local nine got reacquainted with Fenway and with their former selves, snapping their six-game losing streak.

Brad Penny pitched he usually does: competent but not spectacular. He’ll give up 4 to 6 runs a game; it’s up to the batters to get 5 to 7 runs with Penny on the bump.

Dustin Pedroia ignited his team with a two-run homer in the first. So inspiring was Pedroia’s circuit clout it even helped Nick Green clear the left field wall to kick off the second inning with a four-bagger of his own. David Ortiz lined a shot to right but was caught off first base by his unmindful baserunning. Despite the 9-6-3 put out, Jacoby Ellsbury trotted across home plate for the fourth Red Sox run of the game.

A volley of beanballs between the teams transpired in the fourth. Brad Penny hit Miguel Cabrera with the first pitch of the inning, something he would come to regret as the Tigers got within two runs by the middle of the inning. Edwin Jackson retaliated by plunking Kevin “Craig Biggio” Youkilis in the bottom of the inning. As Dennis Eckersley said, “You hit my first baseman, I’ll hit yours.”

Manny Delcarmen has been unsound on the mound and his struggles resulted in a two-run game-tying rally by the visitors in the seventh. Was that the collective groan of Red Sox fans across six states or a Doran Cunningham 6-B fog horn in a ship horn symphony?

One of the main reasons for the Red Sox’s decline is Jason Bay’s second-half downturn. Bay walked to load the bases in the first and homered in the fifth. Without him reestablishing himself as the offensive force he was before the All-Star break there won’t be much chance of Boston making the postseason let alone being successful in the playoffs.

August 10, 2009


Game 110: August 9, 2009
Red Sox2
BS, L: Daniel Bard (2, 0-1)
62-48, 6 game losing streak
BS, W: Phil Coke (5, 4-3)
S: Mariano Rivera (35)
69-42, 7 game winning streak
Highlights: My friend cleverly said, “Victor Martinez had a Coke and a smile” when the catcher belted a two-run homer to right in the eighth inning. I thought it was so witty I twittered it. Nine pitches later Johnny Damon tied the game.

Two pitches after that Mark Teixeira broke the tie.

Terry Francona tapping Daniel Bard in the eighth instead of Hideki Okajima was one of his too clever by half moves, like playing Kevin Youkilis in left. Not only didn’t he bring in Okajima to start the eighth he waited until Bard walked Alex Rodriguez to call on the lefty.

Okajima’s opponents’ stats without runners on: .200 batting average, .273 on-base, .430 slugging. With runners on: .267, .333, .293. Although the slugging percentage drops, you don’t necessarily need power to drive in the runners already on the basepaths.

Aside from Victor Martinez’s homer, the only other bright spot was Luis Tiant’s visit to the booth. We got to see replays of Luis Tiant striking out Joe Morgan in the 1975 World Series and hear some stories about Tiant’s defection to the United States. The Lost Son of Havana recounts El Tiante’s life and return to Cuba; be sure to tune in after Monday night’s game on ESPN.

Morgan proved himself as unwelcome as Cynthia Rodriguez at a Kate Hudson feature film premiere. The color analyst sulkily mentioned that everyone thought that “Fisk won the series with that famous home run.”

Of course every true baseball and Red Sox fan knows otherwise, what with 1918 and all. We just wish the Red Sox had won rather than someone who seems to derive so little pleasure from being a member of the the Big Red Machine.

August 9, 2009


Game 109: August 8, 2009
Red Sox0
L: Clay Buchholz (1-2)
62-47, 5 game losing streak
W: C.C. Sabathia (12-7)
H: Phil Hughes (12)
68-42, 6 game winning streak
Highlights: I thought Tim McCarver was lying when he said that Red Sox players were congratulating the Yankees after Game 3, but this article supports that assertion. Then again, the source is Jon Lieber and as reported by the Daily News. Four things I never want to see or hear after this game, ever: the broadcasting duo of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, the initiation of C.C. Sabathia as a True Yankee, Jim Joyce’s moronic umpiring, and Kevin Youkilis in the outfield.

David Ortiz sat in front of a white wall. Empty, like how my mind was when I first heard the news that he was on the 2003 list.

Of all the players whose names were leaked, only Ortiz was accompanied by a union representative, incoming Major League Baseball Players Association president Michael Weiner. Perhaps it was Weiner’s attempt to demonstrate how he will run the union differently. Perhaps the union decided to ratchet up their response to the constant dribble of names from the list. Or maybe it’s because Ortiz shouldn’t be painted with the same brush as the previously leaked names.

That is what Ortiz asserted. He used vitamins and supplements that he thought were fine because they were bought over the counter or sent to him by companies. He claimed that he never did steroids.

I can only hope that unlike Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Miguel Tejada before him that he was not lying. Those who have admitted their wrongs, like Andy Pettitte, are spared the worst of the tongue lashings and finger wagglings. Instead they are generally lauded for being honest.

The blank wall behind Ortiz could symbolize one of two things, either the emptiness of false words or the purity of Ortiz’s intent and conduct. The optimist hopes that it is the latter but the realist knows it may well be the former.

August 8, 2009


Game 108: August 7, 2009 ∙ 15 innings
Red Sox0
L: Junichi Tazawa (0-1)
62-46, 4 game losing streak
W: Phil Coke (3-3)
67-42, 5 game winning streak
Highlights: The first character of the name Junichi [純一] means pure, innocent, and simple and the second symbolizes one. His family name is Tazawa [田澤], the first kanji means rice paddy and the second ideogram denotes swamp, which demonstrates that the grain is central to Japanese cuisine and culture and that rice needs swampy conditions to grow. Tazawa made his major league debut on Friday night after having made the jump from Portland to Pawtucket at the end of July. He was going to pitch at Saturday’s Futures at Fenway doubleheader, but the major league club was in dire circumstances with the trade of Justin Masterson.

Four words, four hits.

That’s all I wanted to write about this game, but as Josh Beckett deserved more (any) offensive run support, this game merits better treatment.

A pure baseball fan would marvel at this 15-inning classic.

A.J. Burnett rebounded from his Chicago shellacking with 7⅔ innings of shutout ball. The Yankees hurler walked six batters, struck out six (although Jacoby Ellsbury reached on catcher’s interference), and allowed one hit. Josh Beckett countered with 7 innings and allowed two less baserunners; his came in the form of four hits and two bases on balls.

Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Ramon Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Takashi Saito, and Junichi Tazawa took the mound at the bottom of each frame and stared down defeat. The Red Sox bullpen proved itself by keeping the lethal Yankees lineup at bay for 23 outs, a feat that was unthinkable because of its recent extra-innings tangle with the Rays. On that 24th out freshly promoted Tazawa surrendered a two-run home run to Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was only trying to impress his new girlfriend Kate Hudson. Does she even realize that her main squeeze benefited from Chad Fairchild’s Incredible Shrinking Strike Zone? Or that Tazawa to that point had been a major leaguer for roughly five hours?

J.D. Drew executed the clutch catch of the evening in the fourteenth. Two runners reached on singles with one out and Eric Hinske starched a liner to right field that would have drove in the winning run were it not for Drew’s perfect route and full extension snare.

The story of this game, of the past half dozen games, in fact, is the dissipation of the Red Sox offense. Boston’s bats were befuddled by Mariano Rivera and crew, with Alfredo Aceves turning in a particularly gutty three-inning performance of three strikeouts, one walk, and one hit.

Call me an impure baseball fan, but this is one game I’d rather forget.

August 7, 2009


Game 107: August 6, 2009
Red Sox6
L: John Smoltz (2-5)
62-45, 3 game losing streak
W: Joba Chamberlain (8-2)
66-42, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: The Red Sox designated two players players for assignment today: Smoltz and Billy Traber. That was the first and last time you will ever see those two players together in the same sentence as DFA. Smoltz was the scapegoat, Traber the sacrificial lamb, and Mark Melancon the jackass in the Bronx Zoo last night.

As bad as Boston’s pitching was, their offense was equally lax in failing to score more than six runs after having 12 walks handed to them. That’s one dozen extra outs, four extra innings of opportunities squandered.

Dustin Pedroia knocked in his eighth homer of the season in the third inning. His opposite field poke just barely cleared the right field fence. Casey Kotchman arced the ball into the same area in the fourth with Mike Lowell on base. Lowell had reached on an infield single to Derek Jeter, who got to the ball in about the same area as Jed Lowrie did in his incredibly play against the Rays.

Besides home runs, Pedroia and Kotchman also share another commonality: premature male pattern balding.

Pedroia was plunked by Mark Melancon in the top of the eighth. Terry Francona immediately came to Pedroia’s defense, barking at Derryl Cousins to yank Melancon. Instead, both dugouts were warned.

Takashi Saito didn’t settle things in the bottom of the eighth, so the task is left up to Josh Beckett. I can think of no better man to carry out the job.

Another memorable Yankee milquetoast moment: Jorge Posada running into an out at home in the second inning. He showed all the commitment of middle school boy asking his first crush to dance.

In contrast, Jacoby Ellsbury went hard into the center field wall after snaring Jeter’s fly ball for the first out of the third inning.

August 6, 2009


Game 106: August 5, 2009
Red Sox4
L: Brad Penny (7-6)
62-44, 2 game losing streak
W: David Price (5-4)
H: Lance Cormier (2)
H: Dan Wheeler (12)
S: J.P. Howell (12)
60-48, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Jason Bay homered for the first time since July 7. For the first time as a member of the Red Sox Victor Martinez went bridge. Nick Green had a first of his own: in the eighth he played left field for the first time in his career. Perhaps Terry Francona’s logic was that if Evan Longoria hit to that region it would fly over the fences anyway.

The Rays quadrupled their quadrangulars. Carlos Peña lost one deep to right with Ben Zobrist on second. In the next inning Carl Crawford’s circuit clout soared to the seats near his defensive territory, plating Michel Hernandez.

When the otherwise comatose Pat Burrell can launch a ball into Souvenir City, as he did in the sixth, things aren’t going well for your pitching staff. Jason Bartlett added to the humiliation in the seventh with a solo shot to the sinister side.

Bartlett’s homer was payback for Jed Lowrie’s defensive gem in the first. The Red Sox shortstop snared his counterpart’s batted ball in shallow left and hurled to first baseman Victor Martinez. It was as if all the verbiage that goes along with a routine Derek Jeter out was played out in real life.

The Rays temporarily reverted to their Bad News Bears former selves in the seventh. Rocco Baldelli popped up on what should have been a routine play but ended up on second base because of Zobrist’s catching error. The former Ray came around to score, but there weren’t enough flubs by the Rays nor hits by the Red Sox to make up the deficit.

If Boston falls short of making the playoffs, look back at this two-game series sweep and imagine what might have been

August 5, 2009


Game 105: August 4, 2009 ∙ 13 innings
Red Sox2
H: Hideki Okajima (21)
BS: Daniel Bard (1)
L: Takashi Saito (2-3)
62-43, 1 game losing streak
W: Lance Cormier (2-1)
59-48, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Paul McCartney is still touring; in fact the Yankee fan is going to perform at Fenway while the Red Sox visit their AL East rivals. Terry Francona sported John Lennonesque circular glasses. The Beatles released 13 albums (if you count Magical Mystery Tour). Spooky!

It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log, but instead I watched 13 innings of futility.

All day long I looked forward to this game. Please please me and get this win; with a sweep of a two-game series the Red Sox would create a little more space between Boston and Tampa Bay for the wild card. Come on! (Come on!)

But they said stop and I said go go go. Oh no.

Jon Lester tried to make amends to home plate umpire Jerry Layne for showing the official up on a pitch to Willy Aybar. We can work it out. Lester struck out 10 but lasted only six innings.

Help! He needs somebody. Not just anybody. How about a kid that throws 100 miles an hour?

Daniel Bard took the mound with two runners on and two out. He allowed a run to score on Jason Bartlett’s single to short, but Lester was still in line for the win. And we do appreciate him being round.

Evan Longoria changed that with a wave of his bat in the eighth. Losing the lead discomfited Bard greatly. He walked Ben Zobrist and then threw 100 MPH... all the way down the right field line when attempting to throw out Aybar at first. The fool on the hill.

J.D. Drew quickly indicated that the ball was lodged, which means the ball was dead and it was up the the officials to place the runners. Amazingly the Rays didn’t take the lead in the eighth.

Yesterday (which is when the game seemed to start after getting to the 13th frame) all their troubles seemed so far away. But Longoria is here to stay.

Get back to where you once belonged.

August 3, 2009


Game 104: August 2, 2009
WinRed Sox18
W: Manny Delcarmen (4-2)
62-42, 4 game winning streak
L: Jason Berken (1-9)
44-60, 3 game losing streak
Highlights: The Red Sox were to runs what Augustus Gloop was to food, what Keith Richards was to illicit substances, what Yankees are to entitlement. Enough was never enough. Victor Martinez led the team in hits, going 5-for-6 with 4 RBIs and a run scored.

How arbitrary is it that a starting pitcher has to stay in the game for 15 outs to be in line for the win? Not that Clay Buchholz (4 innings pitched, 9 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 2 home runs allowed) deserved the win, but the conventions of scoring require that someone get assigned a W. Despite the fact that Takashi Saito pitched for more outs (two scoreless innings compared to Manny Delcarmen’s 1⅔ and Ramon Ramirez’s 1⅓ innings), allowed less hits than Ramirez, and didn’t permit a run as Delcarmen did, Delcarmen was adjudged to be to be the winner.

But players need statistics to shoot for so they can argue their case before an arbitration panel. When Don Orsillo complimented Dave Roberts on how he stole runs from the opposing team with his outstanding defense, Roberts joked that he would have liked a metric for that to take to arbitration. It’s too late for Roberts, but he could have used ultimate zone ratings (UZR) or probabilistic model of range (PMR, explained here by David Pinto of Baseball Musings).

Tom Caron’s two sons and their Framingham Orioles Little League team invaded the NESN studios but down in Charm City Terry Francona was dealing kids’ stuff himself.

Two days removed from his major league debut Josh Reddick caused a delay of game in the bottom of the second inning with a nosebleed. Like a dad making sure his son got his turn at the dish, Francona slowed down the game to ensure Reddick got his swings in.

The skipper’s care paid off: Reddick launched Brian Bass’s pitch into the first row of the left field seats. Butterfingered fans in that section bumbled the ball and Reddick was assured that he would have a tangible reminder of his first major league home run.

John Smoltz relieved the tedium of the day by pranking George Kottaras. Josh Beckett distracted the young catcher while Smoltz perfectly placed the bubble on Kottaras’s crown. Neither Nick Green nor Reddick tipped the catcher off when he sat between them on the bench. They shouldn’t be hassling him, he’s got “a nagging lower back injury.”


Game 103: August 1, 2009
WinRed Sox4
W: Josh Beckett (13-4)
61-42, 3 game winning streak
L: David Hernandez (3-3)
44-59, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Two weeks into my first office job after college I wrote a resignation letter, put it into my boss’s in-box and slunk out, stressed out and overwhelmed. Victor Martinez is made of sterner stuff. He struck out in his first at bat, chasing a high pitch reminiscent of our other Red Sox catcher. The next two at bats he made contact: he led off the third by grounding out to the Brian Roberts and popped out to short to start the fifth. If I were Martinez I would be googling “resignation letter template.”

Victor Martinez, an eight-year veteran, has never received a standing ovation from his fans in the opposition’s stadium. After a anxious at bats in front of 49,384 people, Martinez’s nerves seemed to settle. He reached down with his bat to drop a single into left, notching his first hit and RBI as a Red Sox player.

Don Orsillo took advantage of the situation to antagonize the newish guy, Dave Roberts. “I now know why you downplayed your first appearance in a Red Sox uniform,” said Orsillo with a smirk. “You were 0-for-5.”

Roberts flashed some personality at last and good-naturedly shot back, “I’m learning more and more about you everyday, and I don’t like it.” The former outfielder hasn’t taken to broadcasting as quickly as Martinez has taken to the Boston uniform, but he has made some progress. In this series Orsillo has made it a point to draw his colleague out.

You can never go wrong with mispronouncing an unusual name for comedic effect. “Mick-oh-low-ly,” intoned Roberts in the eighth in his attempt to talk about the Orioles’ fourth pitcher of the game.

“Close,” encouraged Orsillo. Rookie Kam Mickolio has yet to surrender a run in his 4⅔ innings of major league ball.

I had the impression that Josh Beckett pitched to the level of the Orioles. He didn’t have to pitch his hardest because he didn’t need to. If he did get into jams, he’d toy with the batters a bit and then induce a ground ball for a double play.

Hideki Okajima’s double play to close the eighth was flashier. With runners on first and second, Aubrey Huff’s at ’em ball was snared by Dustin Pedroia. Boston’s second baseman fell down catching the ball and he fell down again throwing it to Martinez to double Adam Jones off first.

As for that job I quit, my boss called me at home and talked me into coming back. I worked there for another two years. Perhaps Martinez will like Boston enough to do the same.

August 1, 2009


Game 102: July 31, 2009
WinRed Sox6
W: John Smoltz (2-4)
H: Ramon Ramirez (10)
H: Hideki Okajima (20)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (27)
60-42, 2 game winning streak
L: Jeremy Guthrie (7-10)
44-58, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Smoltz muddled through six innings on the mound with a line of 8 hits, 5 earned runs, no walks, 2 strikeouts, and 2 homers. The grizzled pitcher carried that look that lingers on the visages of aging athletes, a look of befuddlement when the mind is willing but the body is no longer able.

David Ortiz made his first road appearance since the allegations of the positive test from 2003 were revealed. Despite being 404 miles away from Fenway, for the most part cheers for him drowned out the jeers, which I don’t think happens to Alex Rodriguez in his travels. Ortiz’s two-run home run in the third sailed over the right field fences into a sea of Red Sox shirts.

The Orioles quickly replied in the bottom of the same canto. Nick Green aided the opposition with an errant throw of Brian Roberts’s batted ball that allowed Matt Wieters to put his team on the board; the Red Sox middle infielder has a gun but needs some work at the firing range. Nolan Reimold tied the game on a home run that Terry Francona disputed but was overruled by video replay.

When outfielders Reimold and Jacoby Ellsbury weren’t jacking balls over the wall they were robbing their quarry of four-baggers. Mike Lowell’s fly ball to left was intercepted by Reimold just before it slipped into the stands, ending the third inning. Ellsbury’s snare to snuff out the sixth was more impressive: the center fielder had to cover more ground and jumped as high as the right field wall to seize Luke Scott’s clout.

Not to be outdone by outfielders, Hideki Okajima adroitly snatched Wieters’s comebacker to kill the Orioles’ fledgling rally in the eighth. To be sure, many pitchers field their position well, but consider Okajima’s no-look delivery.

As rousing as Friday night’s game was, much of the action came off the field. In the waning hours of the trade deadline, Theo Epstein traded for the blue-chip backstop from Cleveland, Victor Martinez, and did so without having to sacrifice Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz. Justin Masterson was sent to the Indians, along with minor leaguers Nick Hagadone (a first round talent from the 2007 draft) and Bryan Price (first round pick in 2008).

Just after the Martinez trade was announced another deal came to light. Adam LaRoche was traded to the Braves for Casey Kotchman, a transaction that is analogous to trading in your 2006 Toyota Camry for a 2008 Honda Accord.

The Red Sox’s trading deadline objective was to do business with the two MLB teams with insulting mascots.

Masterson was a peach of a guy, but in the end he’ll be missed about as much as Freddy Sanchez was. The lanky right-hander was versatile but not stellar, and there are more talented arms waiting in the wings. Don Orsillo will certainly miss Meryl Masterson’s cookies, although his waistline won’t.

Merchandising the Trade Deadline

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