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Home » Monthly Archive » September 2009

September 29, 2009


Game 155: September 27, 2009
Red Sox2
L: Paul Byrd (1-3)
91-64, 3 game losing streak
W: Andy Pettitte (14-7)
H: Brian Bruney (14)
H: Phil Coke (21)
S: Mariano Rivera (44)
100-56, 5 game winning streak
Highlights: Victor Martinez’s hitting streak was snapped when he pinch hit for Jason Varitek in the ninth with one on and one out. The Red Sox catcher reached first anyway because Robinson Cano tried to make a showy play on the one-hop grounder but failed to glove the ball before twirling toward second base for the put out.

How the Yankees Ruined My Vacation, Part Three: Melky Cabrera’s third inning home run to right that sounded like an F9 off the bat.

Nick Swisher leaving early on his tag up with Robinson Cano’s fly ball to center (this wasn’t as annoying as it resulted in an appeal to second for a double play, but the fact that Swisher was brazen enough to try hoodwink the officials was irritating).

The two-run single off Hideki Matsui’s bat in the sixth for the lead. Mark Teixeira’s leadoff homer in the eighth that would have been a can of corn in any other park.

John Sterling’s raucous call. The Yankees winning the AL East for the 16th time; their first in their ostentatious new stadium, which should lead to much bombast.

Inevitable champions this, Yankees that. Teixeira MVP here, Sabathia Cy Young there. Blah blah blah.

September 28, 2009

Ainote [合いの手]

Game 154: September 26, 2009
Red Sox0
L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-6)
91-63, 2 game losing streak
W: C.C. Sabathia (19-7)
H: Phil Hughes (18)
S: Mariano Rivera (43)
99-56, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: Ainote is a virtuoso musical interlude in kabuki dramas played on the shamisen. While this music is worthy of the audience’s attention, it is there as an embellishment and accompaniment to the actors’ movements. Although Matsuzaka held the Yankees to one run over seven innings, he was overshadowed by Sabathia’s consummate performance: 7 innings, 1 hit, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts.

How the Yankees Ruined My Vacation, Part Two: I did it again. Despite another flawless day in Laughlin I sequestered myself in my room to watch the middle game of the series.

C.C. Sabathia held the Red Sox hitless until the fifth inning. To lead off Mike Lowell grounded a single to center but was stranded at second base after he stole it (Jose Molina was doing his best Jason Varitek impersonation).

For the second game in a row Derek Jeter was cut off by diving plays by Boston infielders. In the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded and none out Alex Rodriguez clipped the ball and it trickled along the first base line. Victor Martinez chased after it, gloved it, changed course towards home, and lunged toward the plate just as Jeter arrived with spikes up. Daisuke Matsuzaka then induced two pop outs to the infield to get out of the jam.

Going into the ninth Martinez’s hitting streak was in jeopardy. In his career the catcher had only two hits in 13 at bats against Mariano Rivera. Rather than fall behind the formidable closer Martinez hacked at the first pitch he saw and lined it into right field.

For me, Martinez’s single was as good as a grand slam after the previous 8⅔ innings. At least his bat isn’t on vacation.


Game 153: September 25, 2009
Red Sox5
L: Jon Lester (14-8)
91-62, 1 game losing streak
W: Joba Chamberlain (9-6)
98-56, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Though both possess abundant talent there is a marked difference in temperament between Lester and Chamberlain. Lester is confident without the taint of conceit while Chamberlain is brash without a trace of modesty. A synonym for left is sinister, a relic from the days when left-handedness was considered inherently evil. We now know that being associated with the Yankees is far more malevolent.

How the Yankees Ruined My Vacation, Part One: Instead of enjoying a dazzlingly sunny day poolside or recklessly chasing money through every sort of gambling imaginable I holed myself up in a gloomy hotel room and logged onto MLB.tv for this game.

I had entertained thoughts of Boston avoiding another sweep at Nouveau Stade Fasciste or perhaps even making a late season run for the division. Instead I got to follow along with a choppy broadcast while Jon Lester writhed on the ground for several tense moments in the third inning. When Melky Cabrera’s grounder ricocheted off what I thought was Jon Lester’s knee my own knees nearly buckled. Losing Lester for the postseason would significantly diminish the Red Sox’s chance for another title. Although the southpaw was knocked out of the game, x-rays were negative.

Other negatives were Boston batters’ failure to take advantage of Joba Chanberlain’s 90-pitch limit, the Red Sox relief crew’s inability to keep the game in reach, and the Yankees record-setting thievery with seven swipes, the most ever by a team from the Bronx against the Red Sox.

Two deadline additions to the team made positive contributions. Victor Martinez broke up Chamberlain’s no-no 4⅔ innings into the game and extended his hitting streak to 24 games in the most dramatic way possible. His home run ball cleared the fences, caromed off the bullpen glass, and then rolled up to the practice mound near other balls like a world-class golf shot.

Alex Gonzalez reached Jeterian heights of shortstop greatness in the bottom of the second. The Red Sox shortstop rapidly changed course on Johnny Damon’s grounder up the middle. Gonzalez’s shift in momentum required him to spin back towards home in order to stay close enough to second base. After completing the gyration, Gonzalez dove headfirst to the keystone sack to not only beat Derek Jeter but avoid his spikes.

That play alone was worth missing a few rays of sunshine even if the entirety of the game was anticlimactic.

September 25, 2009


Game 152: September 24, 2009
WinRed Sox10
W: Clay Buchholz (7-3)
91-61, 2 game winning streak
L: Anthony Lerew (0-1)
63-90, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Zack Greinke heckled home plate umpire Greg Gibson’s strike zone in the third inning and was ejected by Gibson from the dugout. It’s good to see Greinke cured of his social anxiety disorder, but this probably isn’t what team psychologist Andrew Jacobs had in mind.

Trey Hillman was justifiably upset by Greg Gibson’s warnings to the dugouts after Anthony Lerew’s sliders inside to Mike Lowell in the fourth. While the balls did fly towards Lowell’s head, had they been purpose pitches they wouldn’t have been thrown in the mid to high 70s.

Gibson might point to the fact that David Ortiz had just homered to lead off the inning as Lerew’s motivation for revenge. But the game was 2-0 and there were no outs in the inning, far from the best situation to be meting out justice.

Hillman nipped at Gibson’s heels and would have kept on delaying the game had not Tim McClelland, who stands at a hulking 6'6", not intervened. George Brett had tangled with McClelland before and prevailed in the notorious Pine Tar Game, but this time the game carried on with no other incidents.

Here in the Pacific Time Zone I feel almost as out of touch with the Red Sox as Gibson was with yesterday’s game. But between streaming(ish) games on MLB.tv, SoSH, and ESPN I’m not entirely cut off (unfortunately, the hotel I’m in doesn’t carry MLB Network). On ESPN most of the hubbub was about Joba Chamberlain and his hothousing, as Jim Kaat calls it.

Not that most people where I am are obsessing over Chamberlain’s cheese or calculating magic numbers with the completion of each game. Laughlin is part of the southern Nevada patchwork of MLB territories. The Angels, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Giants all vie for fans in the dessert, and sadly in this area the love of baseball seems as sparse as the vegetation.


Game 151: September 23, 2009
WinRed Sox9
W: Josh Beckett (16-6)
90-61, 1 game winning streak
L: Luke Hochevar (7-11)
63-89, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Beckett has all but recovered from his August abatement. He twirled six innings of two-run ball despite allowing 12 hits. Yuniesky Betancourt drove in the first run of the game in the fourth with a gapper to the wall in left-center in the fourth. David DeJesus followed with a bloop single to center to plate Betancourt.

David DeJesus ran into the second out of the fourth trying to swipe second, so the next two singles by Mitch Maier and Billy Butler were harmless. Designated hitter Brayan Pena tapped out to second, staunching a big inning by the home team.

My computer was plugged into a Cox Communications internet connection in a Laughlin, Nevada hotel room. It could barely keep up with all the Red Sox runs in the fifth inning. All I saw of Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-run triple was his figure frozen between second and third.

MLB.tv Premium video will seize up but the audio continues apace, so I didn’t see Victor Martinez extend his hitting streak to 23 games but did hear Don Orsillo and Sean Casey talk about it.

For some reason the entirety of Jason Bay’s two-run single streamed clearly. The Baseball Gods, Internet Synod, conferred upon me the opportunity to watch the left fielder, perhaps in anticipation of impending departure.

Images would freeze at the oddest times: David Ortiz’s line drive single to right chased in Kevin Youkilis and NESN followed the corner infielder into the dugout. For a few seconds my browser lingered on Youkilis’s sweaty visage with his eyes half-closed. Apparently the Internet Synod has the sense of timing of a photographer assigned to snap school portraits.

Trey Hillman’s on-field management is a refreshing departure from the Joe Maddons and Dave Trembleys of the league. Hillman allowed two rookies, Victor Marte and Carlos Rosa, two innings apiece to experience pitching in the majors. Rosa allowed a two-out, three-run shot to Ortiz in the ninth but he also had a hitless eighth. He experienced the ups and downs of life on a major league mound over six outs rather than getting whiplashed on and off the rubber at his skipper’s whim.

September 24, 2009


Game 150: September 22, 2009
Red Sox1
L: Paul Byrd (1-2)
89-61, 2 game losing streak
W: Zack Greinke (15-8)
S: Joakim Soria (28)
63-88, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: The Red Sox batters mustered only two hits against Greinke. One of them was Victor Martinez sixth inning single with one out, extending the catcher’s hitting streak to 21 games. He also drove in the visiting team’s only run of game with an RBI ground out to first, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury.
Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is now up to 64 steals. Not to be outdone, Dustin Pedroia swiped his 19th bag, bringing him within one of his career high total of 20. The second baseman also walked twice and got the only other Red Sox hit of the game, a one-out double in first. Victor Martinez’s RBI was his 101st, second only to Jason Bay’s mark of 113.

Manny Delcarmen had his first scoreless inning since September 16. He took the mound with ducks on the pond and two out and induced a fly ball out to center off the bat of Mark Teahen.

In this game only individual accomplishments can be highlighted for Boston, which dropped its second game to the woebegone Royals. But it’s better to have a couple of consecutive clunkers than season-long ineffectiveness. The Red Sox will eventually make the playoffs, but Kansas City only has individual accolades to look forward to.

Zack Greinke tallied his 15th win of the season against a formidable lineup, yet another achievement listed on his extensive application for the American League Cy Young award. His numbers are ridiculous for an American League hurler: 2.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 228 strikeouts, and 47 walks over 216⅓ innings. He’d have 5 no-hitters and maybe a perfect game if he played in the Senior Circuit.

Speaking of senior, Paul Byrd made his fifth start for the Red Sox this season and basically lost in the first three outs of the game. A five-run deficit typically isn’t difficult for Boston to overcome, but Greinke isn’t a typical pitcher.

September 23, 2009


Game 149: September 21, 2009
Red Sox9
BS, L: Daniel Bard (3, 2-2)
89-60, 1 game losing streak
W: Yasuhiko Yabuta (2-1)
H: Jamey Wright (12)
S: Joakim Soria (27)
62-88, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: I’m on vacation in Nevada and the Red Sox relievers decided to take leave of their duties as well. From the Royals’ bullpen only Yasuhiko Yabuta allowed the Red Sox to score, and it was because of a wild pitch, not a hit. Yabuta’s family name is made up of two characters: 薮田. The first means thicket, brush, underbush, or grove and the second is the ubiquitous rice paddy ideogram. Yasuhiko [安彦] means peaceful boy or lad. Yasui, the adjective from which Yabuta’s given name is derived, is a difficult word for English speakers to learn because it has three different meanings depending on symbol and context: cheap, peaceful, or easy.

Tim Wakefield must shoulder his share of the blame for this loss as well. With a 8-2 lead the knuckleballer let the Royals back into the game with a three-run homer authored by Mike Jacobs.

Although the Royals have a similar win-loss record to the Orioles, the former played with ardor while the latter with apathy. Undaunted by the six runs the Red Sox put up in the third, the home team rallied with six runs of their own in the sixth. The players’ competitive fire was not extinguished by the constant rain; instead each drop fueled offensive outbursts and dampened pitchers’ fingers, witnessed by Jamey Wright’s wild pitch to Dustin Pedroia in the seventh.

Manny Delcarmen’s earned run average is expanding more rapidly than Elvis’s waistline circa 1974:

  • March/April: 0.00
  • May: 3.00
  • June: 4.00
  • July: 4.66
  • August: 5.25
  • September: 19.64

While on the mound in the sixth Delcarmen surrendered three doubles and a walk for three runs. The Royals were within one run when Terry Francona summoned Daniel Bard. Bard had all but supplanted Delcarmen’s seventh inning slot and was expected to hold the line.

Love isn’t always on time, but Alex Gordon’s double was. It dropped into left field to advance Miguel Olivo, who Bard had walked, and plate Alberto Callaspo, Bard’s inherited runner. Yuniesky Betancourt was caught between first and second trying to be too greedy on his line drive single to right, but the base hit scored the go-ahead and insurance runs.

The loss wasn’t cheap, peaceful, or easy, but the Yankees lost as well.

September 22, 2009

Bōgyoritsu [防御率]

Game 148: September 20, 2009
WinRed Sox9
W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-5)
89-59, 3 game winning streak
L: Jason Berken (5-12)
60-89, 4 game losing streak
Highlights: The Japanese word for earned run average, bōgyoritsu [防御率], much better defines what this metric measures than its English equivalent. The first character means to defend, protect, or resist; the second symbolizes manipulate or govern, and the final glyph stands for ratio. Much like in America this statistic is posted when summarizing a pitcher’s effectiveness, but I can’t help but think that the group-oriented Japanese realize that ERA also recognize the contribution of defense to so-called pitching staff.

Thanks to his 5⅓ inning outing with three earned runs Daisuke Matsuzaka’s ERA decreased from 7.02 to 6.80. To highlight the defensive contribution to the starter’s improvement, five of Matsuzaka’s outs were fielded by Alex Gonzalez, including a third-inning double play that erased the Orioles infield duo of Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts. Matsuzaka tallied his second quality start in as many games as he had started since his return.

The burning question of whether or not Matsuzaka can regain his former success seems to be answered, yet new concerns arise in its place.

How remarkable has Victor Martinez been since donning a Red Sox uniform? In Cleveland he accrued a .284 batting average, a .368 on-base percentage, and a .464 slugging percentage; with Boston he has a line of .335 BA, .406 OBP, and .506 slugging (Baseball Reference handily splits players’ statistics between the teams if they are traded).

Will Jason Varitek exercise the player option on his contract? He would earn $3M plus $2M in performance bonuses: $0.4M each for 80, 90, 100, 110, and 120 games started. Each day Martinez extends his hitting streak seems to be one less game that Varitek would start for the Red Sox in 2010.

Where will Jason Bay end up next year? Bay and Matt Holliday are the premier free agents of the class of 2010 and both should fetch top dollar. Will Boston be the team that makes the winning offer to one of these left fielders or will it be a reprise of l’affaire de Teixeira? Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the seventh, and has had what for him is a power surge with two homers in the span of four days. But Ellsbury nor any other homegrown outfield talent are the answer to replacing Bay.

Only a Red Sox adherent would worry about 2010 before 2009 is on the books, but a glimpse into the far future is the tonic to the day-to-day anxiety of counting magic numbers.

September 21, 2009


Game 147: September 19, 2009
WinRed Sox11
W: Jon Lester (14-8)
H: Billy Wagner (4)
88-59, 2 game winning streak
L: Matt Albers (2-6)
60-88, 3 game losing streak
Highlights: Victor Martinez took all the tension out of extending his hitting streak by launching a line drive to the right field wall with two out in the first. He was stranded and didn’t get another hit the rest of the game, but the rest of the lineup stepped up.

Jon Lester had a middling outing by his standards: 6 inning pitched, 10 hits, 3 earned runs, no walks, and 4 strikeouts with two home runs surrendered. The two circuit clouts came at key points in the game, another unusual occurrence in a start by Lester. But a mediocre Lester is better than the best of the David Hernandezes of the world.

Ty Wigginton’s blast tied the game in the bottom of the second. The Orioles utility man is one of those rare hitters who can hit consistently well again Lester. The ball rocketed over the left field fences above Josh Reddick’s glove. The Red Sox rookie Reddick had homered to right with J.D. Drew on base to take a short-lived lead.

There was something truly amiss with Lester when Melvin Mora touched up Lester for a homer in the fourth to give the home team a lead. But the southpaw remained on the mound long enough to be the pitcher of record.

David Ortiz led off the sixth by legging out a double to the right field wall. The hit was similar to Victor Martinez’s first inning single, but Ortiz tempted Nick Markakis to fire his cannon arm for an assist at the keystone sack. Martinez was just trying to get on base given the two-out situation early in the game, while Ortiz risked more since Boston was trailing by one, had none out in the inning, and the game was at the end of the middle third.

The Red Sox tied the game simply but not spectacularly: Drew’s ground out to Wigginton advanced Ortiz to third and Mike Lowell’s line drive single to left plated the designated hitter.

Dennis Eckersley talked about how much he liked Dave Trembley because he speaks his mind. This is the first I have heard of anything about Trembley’s personality so I was a little surprised that he had one. The problem is that the Orioles are irrelevant so no one listens, unlike in say, Chicago, where Ozzie Guillen’s every utterance causes an avalanche of coverage.

After he stuck with starter Hernandez long enough to sustain a 3-3 tie, Trembley tried to extract some sort of advantage from his fully-stocked bullpen. Matt Albers proved unfit to the task.

Dustin Pedroia led off the seventh by starching a single to left and then swiped second unnoticed. He’s diminutive, but he’s not so small that Albers should overlook him, especially since he represented the go-ahead run.

Martinez poked a productive ground out to another pint-sized second baseman, advancing Pedroia to third. Kevin Youkilis, Drew, and Mike Lowell provided singles while Ortiz doubled; the quartet of hits not only secured the lead but doubled the Red Sox run total.

The eighth was another gaudy offensive inning; the visitors notched five runs thanks to Bob McCrory. The inning showcased Drew’s three-run longball and Brian Anderson’s follow-up homer. Even Trembley knows that when Anderson takes your pitcher deep it’s time for a pitching change.

Terry Francona showed remarkable restraint with Manny Delcarmen as he allowed back-to-back home runs to Wigginton and Felix Pie in the ninth. The Red Sox skipper didn’t flinch when Delcarmen then allowed backup catcher a base on balls. But when Jeff Fiorentino, who had but 13 walks in 116 at bats, got a free pass, Francona called on Ramon Ramirez.

Ramirez induced a quick pop out to short off the bat of Michael Aubrey but then walked Cesar Izturis to load the bases. The tying run was in the hole with Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Wieters in the box. While Wieters is good, potentially great, on Saturday Ramirez was just better. Six, four, three, float like a butterfly sting like a bee.

September 19, 2009


Game 146: September 18, 2009
WinRed Sox3
W: Clay Buchholz (6-3)
H: Daniel Bard (12)
H: Hideki Okajima (23)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (37)
87-59, 1 game winning streak
L: Jeremy Guthrie (10-15)
60-87, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Pay no attention to those rookies behind the curtain. They cut Dusty Brown a break and didn’t squeeze him into a skimpy costume designed for the female form. That’s the least they could do for the eight-year member of the Red Sox organization. What a missed opportunity that the Wizard of Oz came two years too late for Dustin Pedroia.

How appropriate that the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes” is set in Baltimore as the baseball club from that city is a piece of cake to beat. Just as C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira went to play for the team that would give them the most iron, Food Network stars Chef Duff and Geof had no qualms about making a cake for the Yankees. You can bet if a Red Sox fan were on staff at Charm City Cakes there would be a David Ortiz jersey baked into it.

It being Baltimore, I wasn’t sure if the sirens that sounded in the bottom of the second were sounded due to a crime in progress or they were meant to accompany Luke Scott’s game-tying home run.

Jason Bay hammered the go-ahead four-bagger to lead off the fourth. In his at bat Bay had fouled the ball off his leg with tremendous force and appeared to grimace as he ran the bases. Josh Reddick replaced Bay in left in the bottom of the fifth, but the audience was assured that Bay left because of flu-like symptoms, not because of any injury.

Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 17 games in the third with a double off the center field wall. The switch-hitter would have had his 68th RBI had Dustin Pedroia not paused at second in his attempt to score from first.

Not that Clay Buchholz and the relief crew needed more run support. Last night Buchholz notched his fifth quality start in a row despite the skimpy strikeout total of one. The firm of Bard, Okajima, and Papelbon made a compelling argument that they are part of the best bullpen in baseball with three no-hit innings of relief.

September 18, 2009


Game 145: September 17, 2009
W: Kevin Jepsen (6-3)
S: Brian Fuentes (42)
87-59, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox3
L: Billy Wagner (1-1)
86-59, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: One would think that in a series that featured Daisuke Matsuzaka, Paul Byrd, and Josh Beckett that the last game was a lock for a win. Beckett lasted eight innings, striking out as many batters as hits he surrendered (seven) but also allowing three runs to score.

The run in the seventh shouldn’t have counted against Josh Beckett. With two out and men on second and third Jason Varitek allowed the ball representing strike three to pass between his haunches. It was ruled a wild pitch but it was a block that any backstop worth his salt should have made.

The second such incident in as many games inspired my friend and I to write a little ditty. The melody of the verse sort of meanders but the chorus is a ripoff of, or shall we say, homage to, Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

I’m so very sick and tired of Jason Varitek
He’s getting quite old and his swing is just a wreck

Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!

His wife divorced him because he dated a bottle blond bimbo
Now his long, slow swing has got him hitting in limbo

Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!

I’m truly so sick and tired of Jason Varitek
He simply can’t hit and his defense is suspect

Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!

He lets the ball go through him and the runner makes first base
The last good thing he did was shove his glove in A-Rod’s face

Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!
Jason! Jason Varitek!

September 17, 2009


Game 144: September 16, 2009
H: Kevin Jepsen (15)
BS: Darren Oliver (1)
BS, L: Brian Fuentes (7, 1-5)
86-59, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox9
BS: Ramon Ramirez (4)
W: Daniel Bard (2-1)
86-58, 7 game winning streak
Highlights: Rick Reed may shoulder some of the blame for the Angels’ loss, but Fuentes carries the dubious distinction, along with Mike Gonzalez and Mark Lowe, of being third in the majors for blown saves. Only Brad Lidge (10) and J.P. Howell (8) have failed to close out more games.

Fortunately for Paul Byrd this see-saw of a game started with a stiff wind blowing in. The gales kept Bobby Abreu and Vladimir from going deep in the first inning. The Angels scored the first run of the game in the third using their signature smallball way. Juan Rivera led off with a single and advanced to the keystone bag on Mike Napoli’s ground out to third.

Casey Kotchman displayed his mad ups, elevating to nearly 18 inches in his attempt to field Erick Aybar’s liner. While Kotchman’s Brian Scalabrine-like vertical leap knocked the ball from its intended trajectory to right field, Rivera trotted home for the first run of the game. Perhaps this sprint home tuckered him out and compromised is defense in the late innings.

The wind dwindled as the evening wore on. In the fifth Abreu arced a hit similar to his first-inning flyball but this one sailed into the triangle and plated the incendiary Aybar, who singled to right with two out. Torii Hunter homered in the sixth with a towering shot that ricocheted off a sign above the Monster.

Mike Scioscia inexplicably stuck with Joe Saunders for most of the bottom of the sixth. Surely he must have considered going to the pen when Jacoby Ellsbury singled, Dustin Pedroia doubled, and Jason Bay plated them both with a curved over Saunders’s head, dropped near second, and scurried into center.

Mike Lowell nubbed what should have been a tailor-made double ball to Aybar, who juggled the ball before relaying to Howie Kendrick. Lowell safely lumbered into first. David Ortiz knocked a ground ball to Kendrick for another potential twin killing but the Angels second baseman couldn’t fish the ball out of his glove.

Surely with the bottom of the lineup at the dish Saunders would prevail over his infielders’ follies. But then Rocco Baldelli sneaked a single between Chone Figgins and Aybar to tie the game. Saunders walked Jason Varitek to load the bases, which should have been a clear signal to Scioscia to bring in reinforcements.

Alex Gonzalez, whose bat of late has been as impressive as his glove, looped the ball to shallow opposite field. By the time Abreu gathered the ball the Red Sox took the lead by two runs. Scioscia at last succumbed and called on Jason Bulger, who notched the final out with a punchout of Ellsbury.

In the seventh the Angels took advantage of a monumental gaffe by Varitek. The captain allowed the final out of the inning to reach first by missing with his glove the same ball that Kendry Morales missed with his bat. This is why Varitek doesn’t catch Tim Wakefield, as tempting as it would be to unite for the most geriatric battery in the bigs.

Ramon Ramirez was flustered by the flub. The next four batters sprayed hits all about the field and combined for four runs. Terry Francona, like Scioscia, belatedly swapped out pitchers and Hideki Okajima, like Bulger, provided instant dividends with a rally-killing strikeout.

No September comeback is complete with a contribution from Ortiz. The designated hitter led off the eighth by muscling a single into center field. A pair of pinch hitters kept the line moving: J.D. Drew followed up with a base on balls and Josh Reddick’s fielder’s choice pushed Ortiz to third. Kotchman grounded out to short and his team pulled within a run.

The crowd, which had been deflated with the ill-starred seventh, grew louder as runners progressed along the basepaths. While Ellsbury’s seeing-eye single wasn’t a humdinger of a hit, it got Reddick across the dish for the tying run. Not only did Gonzalez walk to get on base to continue the inning for Ellsbury but he also nimbly leapt over the ball so that he wouldn’t be final out of the inning.

Daniel Bard took the bump in the ninth because of Jonathan Papelbon’s bumps of bruises and took a few lumps of his own. The fireballer wasn’t quite able to blow pitches past batters and a trio of two-out singles gave the visitors a one-run lead.

Step by step the audience’s enthusiasm ebbed: the tie broken in the top of the ninth, Bay’s pop out to lead off the bottom of the final inning, and Lowell’s fly out out to center that was tantalizingly high but far from deep enough. Only until Ortiz worked a walk did the gathered fans come back to life.

Drew got jammed but got enough wood on the ball to knock a single over Aybar. Jed Lowrie pinch hit for Dusty Brown and could have won the game on his sharp grounder down the third base line were it not for Figgins’s flash of leather.

Perhaps it wasn’t so much Nick Green’s patience but Rick Reed’s incompetence that allowed another tying run to score. But it was fully within Brian Fuentes’s and Juan Rivera’s power to stop Gonzalez from looping the game winning single to left.

That is the difference between contenders and pretenders, champs and chumps, winners and whiners.

The only thing more adorable than Baldelli missing Gonzalez’s face with a shaving cream pie is three-year old Phillies fan Emily Monforto.

September 16, 2009

Shimeidasha [指名打者]

Game 143: September 15, 2009
L: John Lackey (10-8)
86-58, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox4
W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-5)
H: Ramon Ramirez (11)
H: Billy Wagner (3)
H: Daniel Bard (11)
85-58, 6 game winning streak
Highlights: The Japanese word for designated hitter [指名打者] is simple enough: the first two characters are pronounced shimei and mean designated and the last two symbols are dasha and stand for batter. David Ortiz demolished Jose Arredondo’s eight inning offering, sending it over the center field wall and into the clutches of a lucky fan in the bleachers. The monumental shot was his 270th home run as a designated hitter, surpassing Frank Thomas as the all-time home run leader for DHs. It was a tempestuous season for Ortiz with his first-half stagnation and the leak of his name as a player on the 2003 survey test. This achievement is dubious in the eyes of some, but to me it is still an exceptional accomplishment.

Who could have predicted that Daisuke Matsuzaka would return with a quality start: 6 innings pitched, 3 hits, no runs, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The SoSH game thread didn’t. I prepared myself for a game similar to Paul Byrd’s start against the White Sox back on September 4 but, surprisingly, Matsuzaka with a sharpness unseen since last season.

Perhaps like David Ortiz, the Red Sox starter had to work himself out of a prolonged slump. Unlike hitters, however, pitchers can’t work out their quirks on the mound every fifth day. Matsuzaka was effectively banished from the majors since June. He had a very Japanese approach to the situation, saying, “On the road back I’ve been a burden on my teammates more than anything and I feel that I owe them.”

The Japanese concept of giri laced Matsuzaka’s words. The word is usually translated as duty or obligation, but is stronger than these notions compared to American culture. Matsuzaka’s recovery of his former glory would be the ideal parable for young Japanese ball players: when he was disobeying his superiors he did poorly and now that he is abiding by their instructions he is doing well.

Had Matsuzaka and the Red Sox gotten pummeled by the Angels (our likely opponents in the ALDS), I was prepared to write about how different the postseason is from the regular season. But since Boston won, obviously the series opener is an augury of another successful ALDS against the Angels.

September 14, 2009


Game 142: September 13, 2009
L: James Shields (9-11)
72-71, 11 game losing streak
WinRed Sox4
W: Jon Lester (13-7)
84-58, 5 game winning streak
Highlights: Not to be outdone by Clay Buchholz, Lester twirled eight shutout innings to sweep the Rays out of Fenway and, most likely, out of the Wild Card chase.

J.D. Drew led off the second with a six-pitch walk. David Ortiz nearly tripled to right to plate Drew but his fly ball to right somehow sprung out of the park for a ground-rule double. Mike Lowell’s RBI ground out drove in the local nine’s first run.

Jon Lester only needed that single run. The southpaw allowed two singles and three walks while striking out seven. Since he pitches in the shadow of Josh Beckett and doesn’t have the sexy win total of C.C. Sabathia or the gaudy strikeout numbers of Justin Verlander or Zach Greinke, Lester gets lost in the Cy Young conversation. Lester leads Red Sox pitchers in VORP with 53.3; he is sixth in the American League after Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, Sabathia, and Verlander. Not only does he pitch behind Beckett, at the moment Lester is also eclipsed by the AL East’s other southpaw star Sabathia.

In the coming seasons I predict that Sabathia’s lack of conditioning will catch up with him and Lester will continue to hone his craft. If Lester doesn’t become the Red Sox’s first left-handed Cy Young award winner by 2012, I’ll wear a pink Joba Chamberlain t-shirt.

As satisfying as the win and series sweep was, there were moments of frustration. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the fourth but Jason Varitek ended the threat with a weak tap out to the pitcher. In contrast, Victor Martinez led off the inning with a single over Ben Zobrist to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.

Varitek was credited with two RBIs in the sixth but that’s because Willy Aybar allowed the ball to bound past him into right field. It’s likely that Varitek will exercise his $3M player option for 2010, so I’m steeling myself for another season of his decaying play.

Just as I am preparing myself for Jason Bay’s almost inevitable departure. Bay wrapped a home run around Pesky’s Pole in the eighth. I’m sure Dustin Pedroia smack talked about how his opposite field longball in the day game was so much more impressive.


Game 141: September 13, 2009
L: Matt Garza (7-10)
72-70, 10 game losing streak
WinRed Sox3
W: Hideki Okajima (6-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (36)
83-58, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: Joe Maddon’s relief pitching strategy radically shifted from when these two teams last met. Instead of switching out arms faster than partners swapping in a square dance Maddon stuck with Garza in the eighth even as pinch hitter David Ortiz doubled to the base of the bullpen wall.

With Joey Gathright, the pinch runner for Papi, cavorting in the corner of his eye, Matt Garza couldn’t quite collect himself to execute the perfect pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder bunted the ball towards third, forcing Evan Longoria to come off the bag and allowing fellow speedster Gathright to come within 90 feet of breaking the 1-1 tie.

Dustin Pedroia hit a Papi-style homer to the visitors’ bullpen. The infielder seemed particularly pleased with his opposite-field shot that had no business clearing the fences. Rays right fielder Gabe Gross trotted to the wall and peered into the bullpen to confirm the startling feat.

Garza backed off the hill to cover third so he could watch the ball’s trajectory. He blew a bubble as he made his nonchalant way but abruptly spit it out when he saw where the ball landed.

Just a few weeks ago Joe Maddon would have retrieved Garza if his pitcher at the slightest evidence of unease. After falling victim to Pedroia, Garza had to face off against Victor Martinez, the only other Red Sox player that scored against him. Martinez clanked a double off the wall and the Rays’ manager finally went to his pen.

Clay Buchholz went toe-to-toe with the emerging Rays ace, carrying a no-hitter into the fourth. With two down Ben Zobrist starched a single to right, thus ending Buchholz’s bid. While Garza beat Buchholz in strikeouts, 8-5, the latter surrendered a mere five singles.

The Red Sox starter was also helped by his infield, in a fashion. With runners on second and third with two out Jason Bartlett scorched the ball of the middle. Pedroia fielded it but in his haste pulled Casey Kotchman off the bag. Kotchman dropped the ball anyway, but didn’t dwaddle or dwell on his mistake. Right after gathering the ball he fired to Martinez, who was blocking the plate. Gross claimed he got his leg in before the tag but the replay showed Martinez’s tag on Gross’s knee.

The late inning twosome of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon are back in sync. Pat Burrell was Papelbon’s first out, a called strike that painted the inside of the plate. Burrell was a mite peeved at the call; how vexing such things are when one’s team is in free fall.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are rocketing in the other direction.

Do you remember?
Dancing in September
Never was a cloudy day

September 13, 2009


Game 140: September 12, 2009 ∙ 6 innings
L: Wade Davis (0-1)
72-69, 9 game losing streak
WinRed Sox9
W: Josh Beckett (15-6)
82-58, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: It doesn’t quite make sense to me that Evan Longoria got credit for a hit and the game is officially six innings while Beckett only gets credit for five innings pitched, that is one of the quirks of baseball.

According to official baseball statistics the pitches Jon Lester threw on September 11 never happened. That’s just as well since he started off the game in a forgettable fashion; the tarp protected the field and Lester’s statistics from a bases-loaded jam. Something I won’t forget is the shot of the enormous American flag on the Monster. Droplets of water on the camera lens looked like stars against the indigo sky behind the wall.

The Rays’ stater’s given name, Wade, was appropriate for the game conditions last night. There was standing water on the warning track and a few members of the grounds crew appeared to be acquiring gills. Davis showed remarkable resiliency in the second by striking out the side after allowing Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz to reach on bases on balls.

Whatever composure Davis showed evaporated in the third. Alex Gonzalez sparked an eight-run barrage with his leadoff line drive single to center. Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Youkilis, and Ortiz all followed Gonzalez’s lead and singled, granting the home team a 3-0 advantage.

Another run scored on Davis’s wild pitch to J.D. Drew. Already behind in the count 2-1 Joe Maddon called for the four-finger salute. With Jason Varitek on deck it was the shrewd tactic, but Maddon forgot he had Gonzalez laying in wait.

The Red Sox shortstop took the box again and lofted a bases-clearing double to the deepest part of the left field wall. He was the only Boston player to have an extra base hit in the inning. When Gonzalez gets two hits off you in an inning, it’s time for you to ride some pine.

Jacoby Ellsbury squared off against reliever Dale Thayer and singled to first baseman Willy Aybar. Aybar listlessly jogged after the ball, allowing Gonzalez to score from second.

In the fifth Josh Beckett’s adversary wasn’t just the Rays batters but the ever-increasing rain. With water cascading off the brim of his helmet Jason Bartlett wall-balled a two-out single to plate a run. Beckett induced a fly ball out off the bat of Carl Crawford. In the bottom of the fifth the Red Sox cannily hacked through their at bats for three quick outs, placing the fate of the game beyond the whims of Mother Nature.

September 11, 2009


Game 139: September 9, 2009
H: Alberto Castillo (2)
BS, L: Matt Albers (3, 2-5)
56-83, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox7
BS: Manny Delcarmen (3)
W: Billy Wagner (1-0)
H: Daniel Bard (10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon
81-58, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: With the evolution of Bard from a wet behind the ears reliever deployed in low-leverage situations to a bona fide fireballer tapped to notch crucial outs, Delcarmen has been supplanted. The sixth inning is Exhibit A in the case that something is amiss with the Pride of Hyde Park. Matt Wieters led off and smacked the hardest hit ball of the inning.

Manny Delcarmen rebounded with a strikeout of Luke Scott but seemed to be thrown off his game when he misplayed Ty Wigginton’s wonky nubber. Cesar Izturis’s squibber found his counterpart’s glove but Alex Gonzalez lost the footrace to third to Matt Wieters. With the bases loaded Delcarmen threw four pitches to walk Brian Roberts and push over the tying run.

While it was Ramon Ramirez who surrendered a hit to Felix Pie for the go-ahead run, the quartet of non-strikes orchestrated by Delcarmen was unforgivable given the game situation.

While the acquisition of Joey Gathright seemed a footnote in the tome retelling the trades of 2009, the bottom of the sixth highlighted why you should pay attention to the fine print. Terry Francona Sciosciaed Gathright around the bases to tie the game. Perhaps Gathright will play the role of Dave Roberts in the upcoming postseason.

Dustin Pedroia not only knocked in the run but gave Matt Albers a knock; the pitcher’s shin must surely sport a shiner thanks to the second baseman’s rocket.

Did Victor Martinez text Francona again to cajole his way into the starting lineup? The last time the backstop did so Francona told him he wasn’t going to start but promised to pinch hit him so he could tally the winning run. With the bases loaded, one out, and the score knotted 4-4, Martinez’s first swing off the bench carried the ball to the left-center gap to clear the bases.

In the pregame show Tom Caron narrated a short clip of Martinez with his wee son wearing Red Sox home whites. Jim Rice replied, “That’s not Dustin?”

September 9, 2009


Game 138: September 8, 2009
L: David Hernandez (4-7)
56-82, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox10
W: Clay Buchholz (5-3)
80-58, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Not only was the game full of offense authored by the Red Sox batters but was equally offensive with an onslaught of revenue-generating synergisms orchestrated by Red Sox, Inc. Bermuda Night was replete with Bermudian dandy in a blue and red tricorn, breeches, waistcoat, and coat throwing out the first pitch and a Heidi Watney-Bot adver-view with the Premier of Bermuda that NESN producers forced its audience to listen to during Jason Bay’s at bat in the third.

If I am going to have to sit through these adver-views the least Red Sox, Inc. could do in return is have Mark Teixeira batting fourth for the team.

The Watney-Bot has even rubbed off on Don Orsillo (and I won’t go into what other kinds of rubbing she has inspired). In the introduction Orsillo called Fenway the Friendly Confines. There is only one place that should be called that; don’t disrespect Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.

The Orioles had as many relief pitchers as the Red Sox had home runs. Baltimore had one fewer hit than Boston had long balls. The only Oriole to muster an extra base hit was Matt Wieters, but his leadoff double in the fifth was for naught.

How remarkable it would have been if Alex Gonzalez didn’t just miss a circuit clout in the sixth. Had he cleared the wall both he and Dustin Pedroia would have two roundtrippers, something that usually doesn’t happen unless you’re talking about the double play tandem in Philadelphia.

Dave Trembley has either watched too many Rays games or is in cahoots with Red Sox, Inc. to interminably stretch out a lost-cause game with superfluous pitching changes. At the beginning of the game the Orioles relievers were strung along the bullpen bench like birds perched on a telephone wire. By the end of the game they were scattered and disheveled as if harassed by a kid trying out her new pellet gun.

According to Wikipedia, there is no collective noun for orioles. I propose “a futility of orioles.”

September 8, 2009


Game 137: September 7, 2009
Red Sox1
L: Josh Beckett (14-6)
79-58, 1 game losing streak
WinWhite Sox
W: Mark Buehrle (12-7)
H: Tony Pena (10)
69-70, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: One inning proved to be Beckett’s undoing. It started in the third with Jayson Nix standing stock-still when a dodgeable curveball hit him squarely. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson didn’t bother to call Nix on it and the third baseman took his base.

With Jayson Nix on first Scott Podsednik continued to rake against Red Sox hurlers; his single up the middle was his seventh hit of the series. The pair of baserunners advanced on Alexei Ramirez’s sacrifice bunt. Dustin Pedroia, who was covering first, might have preferred that Kevin Youkilis fielded it rather than Josh Beckett, who fired a seed to beat the speedy shortstop.

A.J. Pierzynski, he of the frosted coiffure, grounded out to short to plate Nix and tie the game. Beckett’s frustration seemed to get the better of him at this point: he walked Jermaine Dye on four pitches and broke off a curve that bounded past Jason Varitek far enough so that even Dye could advance a base.

Mark Kotsay exacted revenged against his former team in the form of a humpback single to center. Later in the third the sluggish official at home, Mark Carlson, called Kotsay out at home on Carlos Quentin’s double to left. The replay showed that Kotsay got his hand on home and Varitek didn’t tag the utilityman’s forearm as indicated.

Kotsay looked relieved to be playing first. He barely had enough energy to argue Carlson’s call let alone have to trot that extra 300 feet or so to take a spot in the outfield.

Not that the White Sox needed that additional run. They tacked on another two with Quentin’s line drive home run in the eighth off Hideki Okajima. But at least Beckett avoided the scourge of the longball in this outing.

Mark Buehrle bewildered not only Dennis Eckersley but the entire Red Sox lineup with how he avoided damage. Jacoby Ellsbury scored in the first after singling over Chris Getz’s glove, swiping second, and dashing all the way to the dish on Youkilis’s single.

I don’t think it was all the day games that got to the Boston ballplayers but rather the albedo of Pierzynski’s tresses, which must fall somewhere between old snow and cumulus stratus clouds.

September 7, 2009


Game 136: September 6, 2009
WinRed Sox6
W: Jon Lester (12-7)
H: Billy Wagner (2)
H: Daniel Bard (9)
79-57, 1 game winning streak
White Sox
L: John Danks (12-9)
68-70, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Lester notched his 200th strikeout against Alex Ramirez. The southpaw’s season thus far ranks 16th in ERA+ amongst left-handed Red Sox starters.

Where would this team be without Victor Martinez? While his three-run roundtripper in the ninth would prove superfluous, his presence in the lineup is anything but. Acquiring a switch-hitting middle-of-the-order bat who can play both catcher and first has given Terry Francona tremendous flexibility.

Francona made an odd lineup decision, however. With tough southpaw John Danks on the mound he opted to keep David Ortiz as designated hitter rather than swap in Mike Lowell. The White Sox rotation features back-to-back premier lefties and carbon-copying the lineup card is anathema to Francona since he makes it a point to give his players days off, particularly near the end the season. So we had yet another strange September batting order.

It clicked in the the fourth. Mike Lowell homered with Jason Bay on base. Bay singled in the next inning to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury.

On the other side of the ball Dustin Pedroia made a crucial, game-changing play in the first. He chased down Paul Konerko’s flare all the way to right field. He then turned and arced the ball straight into Alex Gonzalez’s awaiting glove to catch Scott Podsednik off the sack. With that play what could have been two men on, no out, and a run scored turned into one man at first with two out.

Pedroia didn’t show the best baserunning instincts in the fifth, however. He bunted towards first, forcing Paul Konerko to come off the bag to field. Konerko flipped to Danks and the race to first was on. Pedroia slid head first, perhaps to avoid a potential tag. The maneuver reduced his speed (for want of a better word) and his short stature didn’t help him to reach the bag any sooner. Like a father defending his kid in Little League Francona came out to defend Pedroia.

The coach must have felt a little bad for drafting Matt Forte away from his second baseman.


Game 135: September 5, 2009
Red Sox1
L: Tim Wakefield (11-4)
78-57, 2 game losing streak
WinWhite Sox
W: Gavin Floyd (11-9)
68-69, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: Apparently in the White Sox clubhouse if you pitch eight or more innings you get shaving cream pie shoved in your face. If the same happened on the Red Sox Josh Beckett would have five, Jon Lester and Wakefield three a piece, and Brad Penny and Clay Buchholz one each. Oh wait, Penny’s came when he got demoted to the National League. Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Smoltz have been lucky to reach eight innings over two starts.

The given name Gavin is derived from Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew and one of the knights of the Round Table. One aspect of Gawain’s character is that he is strongest during the day but as night approaches his power wanes. Floyd’s day-night splits show that the same is true for him, but in general pitchers have better statistics in the day (National League and American League data here; on the older side but still interesting).

Tim Wakefield made his first start since August 26. His first inning was Paul Byrd-like but he finished with five solid innings of shutout baseball.

To catch Wakefield Victor Martinez uses his first baseman’s glove instead of a catcher’s mitt. When the Red Sox backstop drifted to the opposition’s dugout in pursuit of a foul ball off Jayson Nix’s bat in the second inning, Joey Cora wrested the glove off of Martinez’s hand. Cora then spit polished it and handed it back.

While it is an issue of being able to platoon J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, if only there were some way to have kept Mark Kotsay instead of Rocco Baldelli. Kotsay hit home runs the series opener and this game, probably rejoicing in taking it to his former team.

Tim McCarver continued his rapid descent into senility. He has an odd speech characteristics of elision and consonant mutation, calling Amalie Benjamin “Molly” and Terry Francona “Krankona.” McCarver thought it a shame that Nick Green, who broke up Gavin Floyd’s perfect game in the sixth, was pinch hit for with Casey Kotchman in the eighth. Obviously, pulling a career .240/.307/.353 hitter in favor of a .270/.338/.409 is the height of idiocy.

Too bad no one called Krankona on their iPod to alert him of his atrocious in-game management.

September 5, 2009


Game 134: September 4, 2009
Red Sox2
L: Paul Byrd (1-1)
78-56, 1 game losing streak
WinWhite Sox
W: Freddy Garcia (1-2)
67-69, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Paul Byrd would have gone eight shutout innings in the National League.

I once had a pitch
Or should I say, it once had me
It hasn’t much zoom
But isn’t it good, missing the wood?

They asked me to play
And they asked if the pitch had some hair
So I pitched off the mound
And they hit a few flares

I sat on a bench, biding my time
Earning a dime
I pitched for just two
And then they said
It’s time for bed

They told me to work
In the video room to get past these gaffes
I told them I would
And crawled off to avoid the media’s wrath

And when I awoke I was alone
This Byrd had flown
Can I put out the fire?
It would be good, if I just could

September 4, 2009


Game 133: September 3, 2009
WinRed Sox6
W: Clay Buchholz (4-3)
H: Billy Wagner (1)
H: Daniel Bard (8)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
78-55, 1 game winning streak
L: David Price (7-3)
72-61, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: What’s with Heidi Watney’s in-game “interview” with a certain furniture chain’s owner in the fourth inning? Are Mike Lowell’s at bats really that boring? I hope that whatever fee he paid (it better not have been free advertising) goes to hire NESN employees that don’t think pre- or post-game segments should have dance sequences or rapping.

The funny thing about Tropicana Field is that it used to be more lively when Red Sox fans ruled the roost. But with the Rays’ playoff debut came the cowbell crew, which chased off all the true fans of baseball. The Johnny-come-latelys have gotten up and left of late, leaving behind that husk of a stadium almost bereft of bona fide baseball.

You can still hear scattered cheers of “Youk,” particularly when the third baseman has a 3-for-5 night. Kevin Youkilis scored the first second of the game, crossing home right after Victor Martinez on Jason Bay’s double.

Even the official scorer in St. Petersburg might be a fan of Youk. Instead of hanging Gabe Gross with the error he deserved in the third he gave Youkilis a double. Gross charged the fliner and not only failed to get leather on it but didn’t even touch it. B.J. Upton had to chase it down from center.

Upton preferred that chore over what happened in the fifth. He and Carl Crawford collided when both pursued Dustin Pedroia’s fly ball; Upton left the game with an ankle strain. At the Trop they have real dirt along the basepaths but they skimp on the warning track, which is just dirt-colored FieldTurf.

In the eighth Daniel Bard gave up one of his deep, Trupey fly balls off Ben Zobrist’s bat. Jacoby Ellsbury called for it and Bay stopped his pursuit. Take notes, Carl.

Joe Maddon showed remarkable restraint and used a mere four pitchers in his losing cause. Chad Bradford is to Maddon as Joe Torre was to Scott Proctor: the side-arm hurler pitched in every game of the series.

With the way Maddon burns through his bullpen I wonder if they will ever make it back to the postseason. Terry Francona is not perfect but he knows enough not to wear out his players in the waning months of the season.

September 3, 2009


Game 132: September 2, 2009
Red Sox5
L: Ramon Ramirez (7-4)
77-55, 1 game losing streak
H: Chad Bradford (2)
H: Russ Springer (11)
BS, W: J.P. Howell (8, 7-4)
S: Dan Wheeler (2)
72-60, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: The gig is up, Howell. I know that you blow saves in order to try and get wins. Typical Rays player.

In the fifth inning Jacoby Ellsbury pulled ahead of Carl Crawford for the most steals in the bigs. Despite the Red Sox’s purported ace toeing the rubber and a valiant game-tying rally in the eighth Boston lost.

For the first three innings Josh Beckett was serving meatballs; Crawford and the reanimated corpse of Pat Burrell homered. But then Beckett showed a glimpse of his former self with three goose egg innings. He didn’t hand out any free passes and struck out nine batters, but judging by the character of the Rays team it may have been due to their complacence rather than Beckett’s dominance.

The starter wasn’t helped by his defense. In the second Jason Varitek seemed to be playing for the force at home when he fielded Victor Martinez’s relay. The Red Sox captain seemed to forget that there were runners on first and third. Kevin Youkilis lost Gregg Zaun’s pop fly in foul territory and the Rays catcher ended up doubling in the fifth run for his team.

The score should have been 9-5 but for a missed call at home by umpire Joe West. Zaun slid into George Kottaras, who unflinchingly fielded the relay from his shortstop and seemingly blocked his counterpart from reaching the dish. The replay showed that Zaun’ leg touched home just before Kottaras’s tag. Jason Bay and Alex Gonzalez got credited with assists, Kottaras with a put-out, and the Red Sox with an out because West’s double chins got in the way.

Joe Maddon continued to fight each battle and lessen his chances to win the war. He used six relievers, four of which he used in the first game of the series as well. Hanging on Maddon’s wall is a certification from the Joe Torre School of Bullpen Management.

September 2, 2009


Game 131: September 1, 2009
WinRed Sox8
W: Jon Lester (11-7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
77-54, 4 game winning streak
L: Andy Sonnanstine (6-8)
71-60, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Hideki Okajima got into a spot of trouble in the eighth. The sequence of single, walk, RBI single, single, RBI single looks worse in writing than what the hitters actually accomplished. The first single was a bunt, the walk was only relinquished after nine pitches, and while the first RBI single was laced soundly by Pat Burrell the next two hits were soft bloopers that batters got under but somehow the balls dropped just beyond the reach of Dustin Pedroia and out of range of J.D. Drew.

Jonathan Papelbon took the mound with the bases loaded and six outs away from arrant disappointment or utter contentment. Twenty-eight pitches later the Red Sox opened the series with a resounding victory. It was a statement louder than a thousand cowbells.

Joe Maddon let out all the stops in trying to eke out a win, subbing a runner here, a hitter there, and summoning eight pitchers to the mound. His team looked quite a bit less determined to get the win.

In the second Mike Lowell got a free pass with one out. With his greatly reduced speed he was surely the perfect mark to be the first kill of a ground ball double play. Akinori Iwamura flubbed the play and the inning continued with two runners. Next Alex Gonzalez popped out to third. Jacoby Ellsbury took note of Evan Longoria’s position and range and lifted a single just over the third baseman’s glove and Lowell scored.

Four innings later Carl Crawford couldn’t catch up to David Ortiz’s fly ball to the opposite field. To be charitable one could attribute the missed catch to Crawford playing the designated hitter to pull, but to be frank he simply didn’t go all out for his team.

Where Crawford failed Ellsbury excelled. The Red Sox center fielder snared two key outs, sacrificing his body on the unforgiving FieldTurf.

J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, and Kevin Youkilis all tried to knock the cowbells out of fans’ hands with home runs to the stands. Even Carlos Pena doesn’t like them; he tried to do the same with his fourth-inning longball.

Off the field there’s been a couple of things piquing my ire: Curt Schilling’s bid for Ted Kennedy’s vacant position and Heidi Watney’s Olympia Sports commercial. Curt Schilling assuming a Senate seat is analogous to Watney as a spokesperson for feminism. Both have their surface appeal but in the end pander to our basest instincts. “Vote for me, I’m a sports hero! (pounding of chest)” “Oh, is this cab taken? (batting of eyelashes)”

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