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Home » Category Listing » 2009 Postseason

October 12, 2009


ALDS Game 3: October 11, 2009
WinAngels 7
W: Darren Oliver (1-0)
S: Brian Fuentes (2)
Red Sox 6
H: Daniel Bard (1)
H: Billy Wagner (1)
BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (1, 0-1)
Highlight: Despite cruising at an altitude of 39,000 feet I was able to experience most of this game thanks to Frontier Airlines and DIRECTV. The lower the plane got the less faith I had in the Red Sox winning the game.

Watching the final game of the series in an Airbus A319 was a 180-degree turn from my Game 2 experience. There was no smoke, no inebriation, just the plane’s pristine interior shining in the dazzling sun.

The sun was as almost as bright at Fenway as it was above the cloud deck. I boarded the plane just in time to see J.D. Drew’s fourth-inning, two-run shot bounce off the post of the camera hut in dead center.

Were it Jon Lester’s or Josh Beckett’s start, a 5-1 score would seem safer. But this was Clay Buchholz’s playoff debut, and his hiccup in the sixth inning revealed his anxiety. Torii Hunter led off the inning with a double to left. Perturbed by the center fielder’s presence, Buchholz balked with Vladimir Guerrero in the box.

Guerrero’s awkward lop made his infield single deflected by Mike Lowell to Alex Gonzalez a close play at first, but it also froze Hunter at third. Remembering Kendry Morales’s fourth-inning solo shot, Buchholz pitched tentatively to the Angels outfielder, walking him in four pitches.

With the bases loaded and none out Daniel Bard took the mound. Just a few months ago Bard made his major league debut accompanied by Terry Francona’s admonition that the rookie wouldn’t appear in high-leverage situations.

But by the time the leaves began to turn color, Bard was ready to pitch in a crucial situation in the pivotal point of a do-or-die game. The Red Sox reliever started off Juan Rivera with a 99 MPH fastball that painted the inside of the strike zone. Bard fell behind 3-1 but then got Rivera to foul off another 99 MPH heater to tick the count full. Rivera impatiently swung at the sixth pitch and grounded into an RBI 5-4-3 double play.

The local nine would gladly exchange the run for two outs to render the score 5-2, for they have one of the best bullpens in the game. But any player, even a former elite closer and the current preeminent closer, can have a shaky outing or two.

Billy Wagner notched two outs in the eighth but also allowed a leadoff double to Bobby Abreu and a walk to Guerrero. Jonathan Papelbon toed the rubber with runners at the corners, two outs, and Rivera ready to take his hacks.

What kind of pitch does Papelbon usually serve here? Oh, he has both kinds. The kind that get hit and the kind that are balls.

My plane powered down just as Hunter was intentionally walked. I may have turned on my phone a few seconds before the FAA allows to ask my friend for game updates. I knew that Papelbon had blown the save as I shuffled down the aisle, through the jetway, and into the terminal to track down a television showing the game. Everyone was watching football in Brew City’s airport, so I called my friend for what would be a somber play-by-play of the final pitches of October in Fenway.

As the Red Sox went down in order we talked about how Victor Martinez was a splendid player but just didn’t have that superstar production that could carry the team into the Fall Classic. Such a player would be Mark Teixeira, and he is getting paid Monopoly money so that Daddy Warbucks can see another championship team in the waning days of his lucidity.


ALDS Game 2: October 9, 2009
Red Sox 1
L: Josh Beckett (0-1)
WinAngels 4
W: Jared Weaver (1-0)
H: Darren Oliver (1)
H: Kevin Jepsen (1)
S: Brian Fuentes (1)
Highlights: In Japanese the word for “four” (shi) is a homonym of the word “death.” The Angels scored four runs; the Red Sox had four hits.

I watched the game through a haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol, persuaded by my friend to go to a bar to watch the game rather than remain ensconced and alone at home. I was in a bar nowhere near New England, but there was one guy with a Red Sox cap on and another that was openly rooting for them.

There wasn’t much cheering going on, however.

The Red Sox didn’t hit very well on the road this season. At home the team batted .284, had .365 OBP, and slugged .498; on the road they combined for .257 batting average, .340 OBP, and .414 slugging.

Boston pitchers didn’t fare very well hurling in the bottom halves of innings, either. Opposing batters had .272 batting average, .346 OBP, and .433 slugging against visiting Red Sox pitchers; when at Fenway they only attained .362 batting average, .324 OBP, and .411 slugging. While the ERA was highly discrepant (4.07 at home versus 4.64 away) and WHIP slightly different (1.351 home compared to 1.467 away), Red Sox arms had slightly better strikeout per nine innings on the road (8.0) than in Boston (7.4).

The combination of poor batting and less effective pitching outside of Fenway made the possibility of victory in Anaheim unlikely. My friend and I sang karaoke while our team’s championship chances faded away. He was on stage singing Cheap Trick’s Surrender when nine-hole hitter Erik Aybar tripled to center field to plate two runs.

Whatever happened to all this season’s
Losers of the year
Every time I got to thinking
Where’d they disappear

October 9, 2009


ALDS Game 1: October 8, 2009
Red Sox 0
L: Jon Lester (0-1)
WinAngels 5
W: John Lackey (1-0)
Highlights: Having Don Orsillo as play-by-play man is almost like having a postseason game on NESN. Buck Martinez spoiled the effect by sprinkling in imperceptive comments here and there. Too bad Dennis Eckersley is chained to the studio desk by TBS, it could have been a complete takeover by a regional sports network.

C.B. Bucknor is an umpire I have singled out in the past for his poor performance:

  • On my birthday (May 23) two years ago Bucknor presided over a Red Sox/Yankees game with Curt Schilling and Andy Pettitte starting. Bucknor’s strike zone judgment was notably inconsistent in the 8-3 Yankees victory.
  • He was home plate umpire in another Red Sox defeat, this one a 6-5 loss to the Orioles on August 11, 2007. Erik Bedard was openly scornful of Bucknor’s strike zone.
  • In the course of a 9-8 loss to the Orioles on August 31, 2007, Bucknor was hit in a sensitive part of the male anatomy. He seemed to have done a competent job in umpiring this game; it was just amusing for me to reminisce about his pain.

Curt Schilling posted about Bucknor and Greg Gibson in his blog, opining that you can tell the bad umpires from two characteristics: 1) they are consistently in conflict with coaches and players and 2) both hitters and pitchers complain about the strike zone.

Not that we need Schilling to tell us that Bucknor is visually impaired; just look at this picture by the Boston Globe's Jim Davis of Howie Kendrick clearly out at first to lead off the sixth inning. Had Jacoby Ellsbury not made a spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’s fly ball to the right-center the missed call would have cost the Red Sox a run.

Kendrick reached first on another blown call at first with two out in the fourth. Alex Gonzalez’s throw sliced away from Kevin Youkilis, forcing the first baseman to swipe tag Kendrick in the torso instead of toeing the sack. Replays showed that Youkilis tagged Kendrick before the runner reached the bag. Jon Lester had to get an extra out that inning, throwing six pitches to strike out Jeff Mathis.

If Lester didn’t have to throw those half-dozen pitches, perhaps he would have had more velocity or better location on the fastball he threw to Torii Hunter in the fifth that ended up in the faux naturescape (naturefake?) past the center field fences.

John Lackey dominated Boston batters, limiting them to a mere four singles (Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, J.D. Drew, and Alex Gonzalez) and a walk (Victor Martinez) while striking out four. Former Ranger, Cardinal, Red Sox, Rockie, Marlin, Astro, and Met lefty Darren Oliver pitched a flawless 1⅔ innings to shutout the visiting team.

Oliver’s line stands in stark contract to Ramon Ramirez, who made his postseason debut and didn’t tally an out. He loaded the bases by walking Bobby Abreu (his fourth of the evening, tying the division series record), hitting Hunter with a pitch, and allowing Vladimir Guerrero to single with a comebacker to the mound.

Takashi Saito nearly salvaged the inning by inducing a 5-2-5 double play off the bat of Juan Rivera; the second leg of the twin killing was aided by third base umpire Gibson erroneously ruling that Mike Lowell tagged Hunter at third. But breakout first baseman Kendry Morales dropped a two-RBI single to left that should have have only plated one run but for Bay’s errant throw and Saito’s failure to cover third.

“I’m going to Disneyland!” is reserved for winners. Time for the Red Sox batters to return from vacation and get some runs (and hopefully wins).

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