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Home » Monthly Archive » June 2010

June 30, 2010

David is Goliath

For four innings James Shields limited the home hitters to four baserunners but in the fifth inning the Rays starter failed to show proof that his team’s pitching staff has the best earned run average in the American League.

Mike Cameron’s gutshot single to his counterpart set the stage, Marco Scutaro’s wall-ball warmed up the crowd, and David Ortiz’s three-run shot over the visitors’ bullpen set the audience into a frenzy. Ortiz nonchalantly tossed his bat after the blast, like he had just swatted a fly and flung away rolled-up newspaper.

Shields hunched over, hands on knees as if someone had just thumped him in the diaphragm. He swiped angrily at the dirt as fans battled over the ball and Ortiz rounded third.

Evan Longoria refrained from criticizing his teammate’s pitch selection but instead manned his base and pondered why he let a four-year old cut his hair.

Pinch hitters infused the shell-shocked Tampa Bay squad with new life in the late innings. Responding to Bill Hall’s two-run homer was Willy Aybar’s two-RBI effort over the left field wall in the eighth. Joe Maddon summoned B.J. Upton to pinch hit with two out and the center fielder showed hustle on the basepaths that he didn’t on the field in a recent game against the Diamondbacks.

Despite a lead of seven runs Terry Francona had to call on both Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon to finish off the irksome Rays. John Lackey and Jon Lester now share the same win-loss record, 9-3, although their peripherals are highly divergent: 119 to 78 hits, 50 earned runs to 34, 111 strikeouts to 59. But it’s the wins that count, and the Red Sox have three more of those than the Rays.

Game 78: June 29, 2010
5L: James Shields (6-8)
2B: Carl Crawford (17)
3B: B.J. Upton (3)
HR: Willy Aybar (5)
WinRed Sox
8W: John Lackey (9-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (18)
2B: Adrian Beltre – 2 (23), Marco Scutaro (20)
HR: David Ortiz (17), Bill Hall (6)

June 27, 2010

Aced Out

Tim Lincecum looked like his usual self against the first two batters he faced, inducing a fly ball out off the bat of Marco Scutaro and striking out Daniel Nava. Even the Nava family, proud and supportive as they are of their son, probably didn’t expect much when he faced the two-time Cy Young award winner. Not many batters do.

David Ortiz is not just any batter. While he is past his career apex, flashes of the elite slugger he once was have reemerged, glimmering like his vibrant smile. The Red Sox designated hitter arced Lincecum’s hanging change-up over the brick edifice in right and into McCovey Cove. It was the 20th home run hit into the drink by a visiting player and the 72nd overall. Since Ortiz doesn’t play for the Giants, it doesn’t get added to the Splash Hits counter in the park but it should get added to the Giants’ website.

J.D. Drew returned in fine fettle, hawking fly balls and legging out a triple off the right field bricks. But even as one player returns healthy another goes down with an injury. Victor Martinez seemed to re-injure his toe in the bottom of the second during Pablo Sandoval’s at bat when a foul ball smashed into his toe but it was later revealed that he broke his left thumb.

With Dustin Pedroia out with a dislocated foot the Red Sox acquired left-handed hitter Eric Patterson, possibly to platoon with righty Bill Hall at second. Patterson was traded from the Athletics for left-handed reliever Fabian Williamson. Laverne and Shirley are now die-hard Athletics fanatics.

Jon Lester pitched in a manner befitting Lincecum: a complete game with a single run scored, 5 hits, 1 walk, and 9 strikeouts. Lester also broke the 1-1 tie in the second by lofting a sacrifice fly to right just shy of the warning track; even though he’s not a hitter, he took the intentional walk of Darnell McDonald personally. He also drew a walk from Guillermo Mota.

Unlike Clay Buchholz, who tweaked his knee running the base paths, Lester escaped AT&T unscathed. Since there is no structural damage to Buchholz’s knee, the two off days in the coming week will give him enough time to return to normal and assume his spot in the rotation. The long-term impact of Martinez’s and Pedroia’s injuries remain to be seen.

Game 77: June 27, 2010
WinRed Sox
5W: Jon Lester (9-3)
2B: Bill Hall (5), Darnell McDonald (8)
3B: J.D. Drew (2)
HR: David Ortiz (16), Adrian Beltre (12)
1L: Tim Lincecum (8-3)
No extra base hits.

Be Like Mike

Just a few days after the Red Sox signed John Lackey, news broke that the team contracted with Mike Cameron for two years of his services. The Jason Bay Era in Boston was officially over and the emphasis on offense shifted to defense. Around the same time the Yankees completed a three-way trade for Curtis Granderson, a much more dramatic acquisition.

Both Cameron and Granderson have been shelved for parts of this season but as expected the latter has had a greater impact on his team. Most of Granderson’s at bats have come in the bottom third of the lineup, a batting order with formidable bats at every position. The Yankee center fielder has 7 homers and 22 runs batted in over 173 at bats while Cameron clouted his first homer in this game with 8 RBIs in 94 at bats.

Cameron’s three-run blast in the second with two men on added to Darnell McDonald’s first inning solo shot to put the visitors ahead 4-0. Such a lead would be easy for Clay Buchholz to maintain.

Buchholz’s athleticism worked against him. He singled in the bottom of the first, his first major league hit. When he tried to run out Marco Scutaro’s grounder the pitcher came up lame, forcing Terry Francona to take Buchholz out of the game. The Red Sox skipper also had to have Lackey pinch hit in the fifth because of his short bench; the pitcher made contact, grounding out to short.

Francona had to resort to his beset upon bullpen once again, but this time his corps held the line. Only Scott Atchison and Manny Delcarmen surrendered a run a piece; the remaining relievers filled in for Buchholz admirably.

Daniel Bard whiffed the first two batters he faced but the third, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, powered a fly ball to deep center field. The crowd gasped as Cameron darted towards the wall. When the cloud of red dust cleared Cameron emerged triumphantly clutching the ball in his glove, signifying the end of the inning.

Meanwhile down the Pacific Coast Highway Granderson went 1-for-2 with a run and a walk and was pinch-hit for in the sixth in a Yankees defeat. He wishes he could be like Mike.

Game 76: June 26, 2010
WinRed Sox
4W: Scott Atchison (1-1)
H: Dustin Richardson (1), Hideki Okajima (9), Daniel Bard (18)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (17)
2B: Marco Scutaro (19)
HR: Darnell McDonald (5), Mike Cameron (1)
2L: Madison Bumgarner (0-1)
2B: Juan Uribe (14), Freddy Sanchez (18)

June 26, 2010

Dismay by the Bay

Tim Wakefield made his 400th start for the Red Sox in the series opener against the Giants at AT&T Park. Although he didn’t get the win, that he lasted seven innings was a victory given the state of the team’s bullpen.

This game was an offensive feast compared to Diamondback pitcher Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter against the Rays that was won 1-0. Kevin Youkilis lofted a four-bagger with Marco Scutaro and Daniel Nava on base in the first. The Giants tied the game in the bottom of the second and took the lead on Juan Uribe’s third-inning home run.

Former Red Sox second baseman Freddy Sanchez notched a sacrifice fly for an insurance run in the eighth. That run proved the difference in the top of the ninth.

Victor Martinez drove in Youkilis, who stood at third with a two-out triple. Adrian Beltre singled and Bill Hall walked to load the bases for Darnell McDonald. McDonald grounded into the final out, but losing the first game of the series wasn’t the biggest loss.

The United States men’s soccer team lost to Ghana in the Round of 16, breaking American hearts. Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his left foot in the third inning, fracturing his navicular bone.

Game 75: June 25, 2010
Red Sox
4L: Tim Wakefield (2-6)
3B: Kevin Youkilis (4)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (15)
5W: Jonathan Sanchez (6-5)
H: Sergio Romo (7), Santiago Casilla (6)
S: Brian Wilson (21)
HR: Juan Uribe (12)

June 25, 2010

Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation Extravaganza

Or as Dustin Pedroia calls it, “laser show.”

Ramon Ramirez took a head-clearing stroll through the forests of center field in the first inning. He must have known the bullpen would be in for a busy evening after witnessing Daisuke Matsuzaka’s laborious first inning in which he faced eight batters but still allowed just two runs.

The Red Sox starter lasted only five innings mainly because of his strenuous first frame. Manny Delcarmen took the mound in the sixth with his team leading 6-2 and proceeded to load the bases and fail to get an out. Hideki Okajima allowed all three of Delcarmen’s runners score; the third run charged to his teammate’s tab came when he failed to cover first quickly enough on Miguel Olivo’s grounder to David Ortiz. What should have been the third out became a bases-loading single. With the score 6-5 Ian Stewart golfed a single to shallow center to plate two runners for the lead.

The visiting lineup took their pent-up frustration from the previous two games out on the Rockies relief corps, scoring three runs in the seventh for the lead. Pedroia hit his second homer in the eighth for a pair of insurance runs, two runs that were sorely needed since Jonathan Papelbon was slotted to pitch the ninth.

Inevitably the Rockies tied the Red Sox in the bottom half of the ninth, fed as they were a steady diet of Papelbonian fastballs.

In his vain quest to be recognized by the security staff of Coors Field, Pedroia launched his third circuit clout in the top of the tenth for the lead. He did the requisite post-game interview with Heidi Watney and wasn’t mistaken for the bat boy as he made his way back to the visitors’ clubhouse.

Papelbon secured the final three outs in the tenth to close out Boston’s second extra-innings win of the season. He was opposed by Stewart, who heads the bottom third of the lineup, and a pinch of semi-regulars in Chris Iannetta and Melvin Mora. None of these hitters were particularly imposing, but perhaps Papelbon regained confidence by shutting them down.

Game 74: June 24, 2010 ∙ 10 innings
WinRed Sox
13BS: Hideki Okajima (3)
H: Scott Atchison (1), Daniel Bard (17)
BS, W: Jonathan Papelbon (3, 3-4)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (24), Adrian Beltre (21), Mike Cameron (6), Jason Varitek (6)
HR: Dustin Pedroia – 3 (12), Adrian Beltre (11)
11H: Joe Beimel (11)
BS: Manuel Corpas (3)
L: Huston Street (0-1)
2B: Seth Smith (7)

June 24, 2010

Late Arrivals

I watched what I could of the United States’ final group round match against Algeria. When Landon Donovan fired the winning goal to the back of the net I let out an involuntary whoop. I thought I contained myself; I couldn’t tell how loud I was because I had my earbuds firmly ensconced. Two people came running to my cube wondering if I was okay.

“The US just scored a goal!” I exclaimed, my voice shaking with excitement and relief. “They’re going to the knockout round!”

I am by no means a soccer maven, although I do know the word “soccer” originated in England and is an abbreviation of “association football,” described as such to differentiate it from “rugby football,” which is also called “rugger.” But I knew more than those particular people I alarmed, so I ended up having to explain as best I could why America would advance but that their opponent was not yet determined.

Today two different people, both who sit about 50 feet away from me, said they heard “somebody” yell when the United States went ahead. I sheepishly admitted it was me.

Later that evening I yelled for a different reason. Jonathan Papelbon blew his second save of the season in a game that would have kept his team in step with the Rays for the American League Wild Card.

Most frustrating of all is that the Red Sox battled back from trailing 5-2 at the end of the fifth to leading 6-5 in the sixth. Darnell McDonald, who has hopefully chalked up enough stats to prove he’s not a quadruple-A player, knocked in Boston’s only circuit clout off Ubaldo Jimenez, for crying out loud. The two-run shot tied the game 5-5. John Lackey improbably doubled to the left-center gap off Jimenez.

This is no slouch starter for the Rockies. He pitched a no-hitter against the Braves on April 17, 2010, a feat that has been somewhat eclipsed by the perfect games by Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, and Armando Galarraga. Until last night Jimenez had not allowed more than three earned runs in a game; in fact, he only allowed seven earned runs in April and May combined.

Papelbon’s arm wasn’t impressive but Josh Reddick’s was. The right fielder impressively hosed Ian Stewart at second when the Rockies third baseman tried to stretch a single into a double to lead off the fourth inning. Clint Barmes followed that play with a ringing double to left; the outfield assist was invaluable to keeping Colorado within reach.

Mercifully the Rockies won the game before the Red Sox limped into extra innings. Boston is an unimpressive 1-7 in extra frames and games west of the Mississippi start late enough as is. Thanks for the additional hour or so of sleep, Jason Giambi.

Game 73: June 23, 2010
Red Sox
6H: Daniel Bard (16)
BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (2, 2-4)
2B: Daniel Nava – 2 (7), John Lackey (1)
HR: Darnell McDonald (4)
8W: Manuel Corpas (2-4)
2B: Carlos Gonzalez (9), Clint Barmes (16)
3B: Seth Smith (4)
HR: Miguel Olivo (10), Ian Stewart (8), Jason Giambi (3)

June 23, 2010

Rocky Mountain Slight

Dustin Pedroia looked for the security guard that denied him entrance to Coors Field during the 2007 World Series but couldn’t find him. Unfortunately, the Red Sox second baseman also couldn’t find his laser gun: he went 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout.

Jhoulys Chacin pitched as if he were teammate Ubaldo Jimenez, shutting out Boston’s hot lineup for 6⅔ innings to the tune of 4 hits, 5 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The Red Sox had a chance to score in the third with Mike Cameron’s leadoff single but the center fielder was caught stealing. After Cameron’s wasted out Josh Reddick singled, Jon Lester sac bunted, and Marco Scutaro and Pedroia got free passes.

The Rockies nearly squandered their scoring chance in the fifth. Chris Nelson singled (his first major league hit) and Clint Barmes walked but Chacin struck out on three bunt attempts. Lester induced a fly out to right for the second out and all he had to do was face the slumping Todd Helton for the final out. Helton is a shadow of his former self but managed to line the ball to Reddick for a run.

Ryan Spilborghs returned the favor in the bottom of the eighth by driving in Helton for an insurance run. The additional run proved the difference between extra innings between the former World Series adversaries.

Adrian Beltre fired a double into center field to leadoff the ninth and scored on Cameron’s grounder to left, partial redemption for being picked off on the base paths earlier in the game. With Cameron on first and two men out Mike Lowell was tapped to hit in the pitcher’s slot. Barmes made a remarkable sprint to his right to snare Lowell’s grounder before it hopped by him for a base hit.

I blame the altitude.

Game 72: June 22, 2010
Red Sox
1L: Jon Lester (8-3)
2B: Adrian Beltre (20)
2W: Jhoulys Chacin (4-6)
H: Joe Beimel (10), Rafael Betancourt (9)
S: Matt Belisle (1)
No extra base hits.

June 20, 2010

L.A. Beaten

Sundays are supposed to be leisurely but Clay Buchholz’s day was anything but. The Red Sox offense, so potent in the first two games of the series, strung together just two runs for the spindly starter.

Dustin Pedroia singled with one out in the first, a grounder that bounced off Casey Blake’s glove towards Jamey Carroll. With David Ortiz batting Joe Torre put on the shift. Pedroia was offended by Torre’s tactic; didn’t that manager know that blinding speed was one of the weapons in Pedroia’s vast arsenal of baseball weaponry?

The Red Sox second baseman bolted for second and continued on to third after his pop-up slide as no one backed up the hot corner. Torre intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Kevin Youkilis, who called “two ball, corner pocket” in the batter’s box. The Red Sox first baseman cunningly cued the ball down the third base line and Blake’s only move was to hope it bent foul. Instead the ball skipped along the line and hit the third base bag for a single, scoring Pedroia.

The only other run came in the third inning. Marco Scutaro led off with a single to center, advanced to third on Pedroia’s line drive to right, and tagged up on Ortiz’s fly ball to right.

ESPN tried to add some action to the broadcast by having Curt Schilling visit the booth. The pitcher was more Louella Parsons than Lou Piniella, and his gossip was about as current. I will never tire of tales from 2004, but Schilling already sounds like he is practicing for the 10th, 15th, and every five-year increment thereafter anniversary of that fabled season. Schilling seemed all too eager to dish about his former teammate Manny Ramirez, but did acknowledge the slugger’s positive aspects even though he divulged Ramirez’s negative traits with a touch of satisfaction.

After such a dismal start who would have thought 2010 to have much promise for the Red Sox? Boston is now tied with Tampa Bay; the two teams are one game behind the AL East-leading Yankees. In a year when the Bruins flatlined and the Celtics fizzled, it might be the slow-starting Red Sox who carry the day.

Game 71: June 20, 2010
0L: Hiroki Kuroda (6-5)
2B: Garret Anderson (5)
WinRed Sox
2W: Clay Buchholz (10-4)
H: Daniel Bard (15)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (16)
2B: Adrian Beltre (19)
3B: Dustin Pedroia (1)

Pedey’s Big Adventure

The middle game of this series turned out to be a tug-o-war of wills between the two lineups. Manny Ramirez led off the second with a single, swiped second, and scored on a single to right by the reanimated corpse of Garret Anderson that Bill Hall failed to stop from skipping past him.

Of the myriad positions Hall can field, right field is the spot he has played the least; in 821 games started Hall has a mere 15 starts in right. Add to that novelty the difficult sun field of late afternoon games at Fenway and unsurprisingly Hall had two errors.

The second error came in the seventh. Anderson, still powered by some dark art, lifted a ground-rule double to right and scored on Blake DeWitt’s double to right. Hall incorrectly played the carom of DeWitt’s ball, following it too closely as it hugged the curve in the wall rather than allowing the ball to come to him. Anderson scored to cut the home team’s lead to a run and DeWitt made it to the hot corner.

Tim Wakefield was in line for the win when Manny Delcarmen took the mound with one out in the seventh. Maybe the reliever, a Massachusetts native, was still experiencing an emotional hangover from the Celtics’ robbery of its 18th championship title defeat. Delcarmen allowed the tying run to score with a sacrifice fly off Matt Kemp’s bat to Hall. If J.D. Drew were in right DeWitt likely wouldn’t have been sent, so yet again the ad hoc outfield led to a run for the opposition.

With two out Delcarmen walked Russell Martin and Terry Francona called for Hideki Okajima. The southpaw induced a ground out off the bat of Andre Ethier to the Dodger right fielder’s best friend, Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia nearly collided with Marco Scutaro in the eighth inning; fortunately for the second baseman his double play partner weighs about 30 pounds less than Adrian Beltre. Both Red Sox middle infielders were in hot pursuit of a Ramirez pop-up and Pedroia prevailed.

Pedroia proved superior to Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. With two on and two out Pedroia was briefly ahead of the rotund reliever when he let a slider slip by low for a ball. Broxton thought he overpowered Pedroia with his fastball and slider combination, but the two pitches seemed to help the batter time his next swing. Sure enough, Pedroia went with the fastball and lined a single to the opposite field, right to his vacation buddy Ethier.

Daniel Nava slid head-first for the winning run and was congratulated, this time avoiding the brunt of his teammates’ overzealous affection. Instead, it was Pedroia who found himself picked up like a latter-day Nelson de la Rosa.

Game 70: June 19, 2010
4L: Ronald Belisario (1-1)
2B: Garret Anderson (4), Blake DeWitt (11)
HR: Manny Ramirez (8)
WinRed Sox
5BS: Manny Delcarmen (2)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (2-3)
2B: Daniel Nava (5)
HR: Victor Martinez (9), Kevin Youkilis (14)

June 19, 2010

Doubront-ain of Youth

With the Red Sox rotation down two starters the team has had to tap into their minor league resources. Felix Doubront, signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2004, started with perfect first and second innings. But before Doubront touched off a wave of Doubrontmania the Dodgers got to him in the third, led by Ronnie Belliard’s double and ending with a 3-3 tie at the end of the third. After five innings the rookie starter left with a fair line: 6 hits, 5 runs (3 earned), 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts. The two unearned runs were the result of his own missed catch of a flip from Kevin Youkilis; he must appreciate the scoring rule that states that pitchers’ errors do not count toward earned run average.

David Ortiz’s 15th homer of the season was his 274th with the Red Sox, coincidentally tying him with none other than Manny Ramirez for fifth in career circuit clouts with the club. Ramirez’s reception was surprisingly warm given the animosity many felt when he all but forced his way out of town two years ago.

In those two years, however, Red Sox fans have seen two unsuccessful playoff campaigns. The Dodgers have gone to the NLCS twice and lost both times. The Red Sox and Ramirez were better together but seem happier apart.

Note the difference between the significant others of the Red Sox compared to the Dodgers. Bertha Lowell, Tiffany Ortiz, and other Red Sox wives band together to feed the hungry in Lawrence with the charity Labels are for Jars. On the other side, Matt Kemp’s date Rihanna took a break from her band to take in the game at Fenway. The international pop star stood out from the Fenway throng with her fuchsia hair and bodyguards.

Also enjoying the game was Roger Clemens. The former pitcher didn’t occupy the VIP seats near home plate but rather sat atop the Green Monster. He must have been amazed that the audience didn’t treat Ramirez worse than Hitler.

Game 69: June 18, 2010
6L: Carlos Monasterios (3-2)
2B: Ronnie Belliard (7), Casey Blake (13)
3B: Matt Kemp (4)
HR: Garret Anderson (2)
WinRed Sox
10W: Felix Doubront (1-0)
S: Daniel Bard (3)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (14), Jason Varitek (5)
HR: David Ortiz (15), J.D. Drew (8), Adrian Beltre (10)

June 18, 2010

Snake Strike(out)

Mark Reynolds struck out all four of his at bats, not an uncommon thing for the slugger who mans the hot corner for the Diamondbacks or the rest of his teammates for that matter. As a team Arizona leads the entire league in strikeouts with 625. The next two teams aren’t even in the 600s: the Blue Jays are in second with 535 and the Marlins rounding out the trio with 523.

Reynolds holds first and second season-highs in whiffs; in 2008 he had 204 and 2009 he upped it to 223. All the other hitters on the list, such as Ryan Howard, Jack Cust, and Adam Dunn, at least have the restraint to keep their punchout marks under 200.

Despite the opposition’s free-swinging ways, John Lackey didn’t get a season-high number of strikeouts in a game, but turned in a solid line: 6 innings pitched, 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 bases on balls, and 5 strikeouts. The game started one hour earlier to minimize the overlap between the Red Sox regular season series conclusion and the NBA Finals Game 7 finale.

While Boston’s baseball team swept its series, the roundball team was unable to overcome the Los Angeles Lakers. For the first three quarters of the game, NBA officials Joe Crawford, Dan Crawford, and Jeff Foster let the teams play hard. But once the fourth quarter rolled around, foul calls favoring the Lakers abounded.

At the end of the struggle, the Lakers had 37 fouls called in their favor compared to the Celtics’ 17. Twenty-one of the Lakers’ free throws came in the final quarter. Rasheed Wallace wanted to have a discussion with the Crawfords and Foster after the game but was turned away at the door.

Now that Boston is the new Toronto of the film industry, perhaps the Hollywood acting methods that serve their NBA rivals so well will rub off on the next Celtics team. I was trying to research which technique Pau Gasol uses to mesmerize referees to not call fouls against him and at the same time causes the slightest touch to be called a foul, but it seems to be an intensely guarded secret. Whatever system he uses, it was not enough to wrangle the Finals MVP from Kobe Bryant, which was like Martin Scorsese winning the Best Director award for The Departed rather than Raging Bull.

Game 68: June 17, 2010
5L: Dan Haren (7-5)
2B: Miguel Montero – 2 (5), Chris Young – 2 (16)
WinRed Sox
8W: John Lackey (8-3)
H: Manny Delcarmen (7), Hideki Okajima (8)
2B: Daniel Nava – 2 (4), Marco Scutaro (18), Victor Martinez (20)
HR: David Ortiz (14)

June 17, 2010

Long Distance Relationship

I can’t wait for the long distance part of my relationship with the Red Sox to be over. I just couldn’t miss two consecutive games in a row, but my computer conspired against me. After two years of faithful service the speakers on my Compaq 6910p no longer work. I tried to reinstall the speaker drivers to no avail. I discovered that something is wrong with the speaker drivers, not with the sound itself, so when I used headphones I could listen to the WEEI broadcast.

Hunched over a laptop, alone in a hotel room 437 miles from Fenway: not the ideal way to experience the Red Sox, but it’s better than no baseball.

Although Joe Castiglione is a skillful radio broadcaster, seeing the video replay of Chris Young’s snare of Victor Martinez’s fly ball to deep center was impressive. Castiglione mentioned that Young’s cap went askew in the collision with the wall and that he seemed shaken up by the impact, so I specifically looked for those things in the highlight reel. Indeed, the center fielder jogged away from the wall rubbing his ribs, his hat jauntily tilted like a dandy’s. Unlike other outfielders we could mention, his ribs were fine.

Homegrown All-Stars Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis both launched two-run homers, the former in the first for the early lead and the latter in the seventh to pad the margin. Neither Red Sox player had the longest homer of the evening; that honor belonged to Justin Upton. The prodigious outfielder yanked a two-run shot over the left field wall onto Lansdowne Street in the top half of the second inning to tie the game. It was reminiscent of the some of the home runs Manny Ramirez would hit.

Speaking of, Ramirez will make his first appearance at Fenway since he was traded out of town, burning the Zakim, Longfellow, and every other bridge in the city on his way out. Unlike Johnny Damon, who was given a standing ovation in his first at bat and was thereafter lustily booed, most of the fans will not grant Ramirez the applause he deserves. I daresay that when the slugger retires and he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, those same people will brag about how they saw him play in person.

Game 67: June 16, 2010
2L: Rodrigo Lopez (2-6)
2B: Chris Young (14)
HR: Justin Upton (11)
WinRed Sox
6W: Jon Lester (8-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (15)
2B: J.D. Drew (17)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (9), Kevin Youkilis (13)

June 16, 2010

Don’t Tread On Me

I’m traveling on business right now so I wasn’t able to watch this game. I’m in the capital of the United States, a city which I last visited when Clinton was in the White House. It wasn’t by design that I have only come to Washington D.C. when a Democrat was in office and the party had the majority in Congress, but I definitely would have different emotions seeing the edifices of our government had I been here between 2001 and 2009.

The Arizona ball club’s mascot is the diamondback, a rattlesnake found in the state. A relative of this serpent, the timber rattlesnake, was suggested by Benjamin Franklin as emblematic of the nascent United States:

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretentions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenceless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.
Franklin’s “Join, or Die” woodcut, the first political cartoon in America, was of a segmented rattlesnake, a graphic meant to urge the colonies to unite in the face of the French and Indian War. Other early Americans adopted the rattlesnake as their symbol and added the motto “don’t tread on me,” culminating in the flag designed by Christopher Gadsen.

Today this flag has been co-opted by a splinter political group that clothes itself in the words of the Founding Fathers but whose spirit is bereft of the actual philosophy and ignorant of the intent of the men they mindlessly quote. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against foreign tyranny, and if you think Barack Obama is not a US citizen because he was born in Hawai‘i or that his birth certificate is fraudulent, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

Had I been in Boston I wouldn’t have bought tickets for any of the games against the Diamondbacks. The ownership of the team would get a portion of the gate and they supported the racist Arizona Immigration Law SB1070. Jackie Robinson would be appalled, but I think most of the millionaires playing baseball these days think themselves above politics.

Game 66: June 15, 2010
3L: Ian Kennedy (3-4)
2B: Miguel Montero (3), Justin Upton (10), Rusty Ryal (1)
WinRed Sox
6W: Clay Buchholz (9-4)
H: Hideki Okajima (7), Manny Delcarmen (6), Daniel Bard (14)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (14)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (23), Kevin Youkilis (17)
HR: David Ortiz (13)

June 13, 2010

Four Get Me Not

The Phillies scored more than two runs for the first time this series. Raul Ibanez plated two runs with his fourth-inning blast, a shot into the Phillies bullpen that had the relief corps scattering as if a grenade had been tossed near them.

That’s why they don’t let pitchers catch pop-ups in the field.

Tim Wakefield’s fourth-inning meltdown couldn’t be overcome by Boston’s offense even though they outhit Philadelphia nine to seven. The timeless one just didn’t get timely hits.

Southpaw reliever Dustin Richardson made his major league debut, taking over from Wakefield in the eighth with Placido Polanco on second with one out. The former “Knight School” contestant was brought in to take advantage of the lefty-lefty match-up and induced ground ball outs from two of the more formidable bats in the league, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Sparkplug Daniel Nava didn’t have the chance to blast another grand slam, but he took advantage of a late-innings situation to trigger a rally. Facing off against Brad Lidge in the ninth with J.D. Drew on and two men out, Nava grounded a gutshot single to center to bring his team within two runs. But there were no other Red Sox prospects around to precipitate an outstanding clutch comeback, so the local nine had to settle for a 2-1 series victory against their natural rivals.

Game 65: June 13, 2010
5W: Cole Hamels (6-5)
H: Jose Contreras (4)
S: Brad Lidge (4)
2B: Ryan Howard (11), Ben Francisco (4), Placido Polanco (13)
HR: Raul Ibanez (4)
Red Sox
3L: Tim Wakefield (2-5)
2B: Marco Scutaro (17), Daniel Nava (2), Dustin Pedroia (22), David Ortiz (14)
HR: Adrian Beltre (9)

June 12, 2010

Welcome to Navaville

Population: 37,061. Founded: February 22, 1983. Expanded: June 12, 2010.

Navaville was founded on the hopes and dreams of a pair of parents endlessly playing catch and throwing batting practice with their son and devotedly driving their kids to and from Little League. The verdant fields of this town are watered by the tears over years of disappointment of their child being overlooked because of his size even though he had the skills. The municipality’s boundaries were only limited by Becky and Don Nava’s belief in their son, and at 4:45 PM Daniel Nava extended the town’s borders 385 feet beyond its original borders. The former independent league player powered the first major league pitch he saw into the home bullpen with the bases loaded in the second inning.

After the Red Sox secured the series with their second consecutive blowout victory, Nava likely contacted Erin Andrews, his long-time crush, to grant her the key to the city. She already tweeted her congratulations and said she wanted to meet him.

Only one other player, Kevin Kouzmanoff, has hit a grand slam in his first major league at bat on the first pitch. Teammate Jeremy Hermida accomplished this feat as a pinch hitter on August 31, 2005, but his came with the count 1-1. William “Frosty Bill” Duggleby, a pitcher for the Phillies, did the same on April 21, 1898, but not on the first pitch.

The other Red Sox players couldn’t quite give him the silent treatment because one-third of the lineup was already high-fiving him around home plate. As he did with Darnell McDonald before him, Kevin Youkilis pummeled the rookie, his unique way of welcoming newcomers who made extraordinary plays to the club.

The headline of the day was supposed to be Daisuke Matsuzaka’s late scratch with a right forearm strain and Scott Atchison’s emergency start. Or, given the weather, a postponed game and a day/night doubleheader on Sunday. But the rain held off just enough for fans to witness an exhilarating, historic moment. Even the blunders by Dick Stockton (thought that McDonald was Nava), Tim McCarver (Charlie Manuel isn’t the brightest manager, but even he knows to slot in a designated hitter in an American League park), and Michael Milken (Tony Francona?) couldn’t tarnish the wonder of this game. On days like these, baseball transcends all.

Game 64: June 12, 2010
2L: Joe Blanton (1-5)
2B: Brian Schneider (2), Chase Utley (12), Raul Ibanez (11)
WinRed Sox
10W: Manny Delcarmen (2-2)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (21), David Ortiz (13), J.D. Drew (16), Daniel Nava (1)
HR: J.D. Drew (7), Daniel Nava (1)

Double Vision

It’s a good thing Jerry Remy likes Eric Frede or last night would have been infinitely more awkward. Frede came off as a geeky high school student trying to impress a girl on their first date. The temporary play-by-play man was constantly checking with Remy to see if he was doing okay, like a guy asking if his date was too warm or cold every five minutes. Most mystifying was Frede’s continual goading of Remy to do the “beat L.A.” chant, which reminded me of teenager trying to get his girl to down some wine coolers.

The Red Sox launched eight doubles, which meant Microsoft donated $6,000 to the Dimock Center through its “Doubles for Dimock” charity program. It also meant that Frede was initiated early in the game to the humiliating duty of intoning, “Safe and secure, New York Life,” accompanied by the cheesy organ flourish. Whatever revenue the Red Sox earn from agreeing to that marketing gimmick had better lead to Boston signing a premiere free agent instead of the Yankees.

The Red Sox scored five runs in the first, then four in the second, and three in the third. In the dream game in my head, the local nine had scored two and then one run in the next two innings and the sound booth played Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” The song would have served double duty: representative of the game’s score and of the clock ticking down to the World Cup, namely, the first match for the United States against the formidable team from England.

Game 63: June 11, 2010
2L: Jamie Moyer (6-6)
2B: Jayson Werth (24), Ross Gload (1)
WinRed Sox
12W: John Lackey (7-3)
2B: Victor Martinez – 2 (19), David Ortiz – 2 (12), Adrian Beltre (18), Dustin Pedroia (20), Marco Scutaro (16), Jason Varitek (4)
HR: Mike Lowell (2)

June 10, 2010

Baseball Bloopers

Jerry Remy covered play-by-play for Don Orsillo, who was out due to illness, for the first few batters until John Rish took over. Remy was as uncomfortable narrating the action as Daniel Bard was pitching in the ninth.

Perhaps it was the recent spate of over-usage that caused the fireballer to blow the save and not some sort of mental inability to close out a game. Jonathan Papelbon will put himself on the free agent market once he is no longer arbitration eligible and Bard is currently the most likely candidate to replace him. Bard notched his third career save on June 8 but gave up two hits and two walks in the final game in this series against Cleveland for a disheartening defeat.

The Indians led off the ninth with a base on balls for Trevor Crowe. Shin-Soo Choo’s double wasn’t deep enough to plate Crowe, but the speedy center fielder got within 90 feet of tying the game. Bard walked Austin Kearns on five pitches to load the bases, but recovered to strike out Travis Hafner and induce a pop out off the bat of Jhonny Peralta.

Rather than improving his curriculum vitae with another save Bard added his fourth blown save of the season. Russell Branyan’s blooper to shallow left wasn’t well hit but Crowe and Choo were off on contact with two outs.

No one is more thankful for his team’s late inning comeback than Andy Marte. The formerly touted prospect committed three of Cleveland’s four errors, all of them coming in the first inning. His bobble of Kevin Youkilis’s grounder led to bases loaded with none out. David Ortiz and Youkilis would come around to score on Marte’s second and third errors: booting Mike Cameron’s grounder and then flinging the ball far out of the reach of Shelley Duncan.

Marte could have been at the hot corner for the Red Sox, but then the team traded him in a package for Coco Crisp, Josh Bard, and David Riske. The Red Sox wouldn’t have that memorable brawl against the Rays or Beltre talking about snakes in Fenway’s infield and hitting go-ahead homers in the ninth without the trade.

Game 62: June 10, 2010
Red Sox
7BS, L: Daniel Bard (4, 1-2)
2B: Marco Scutaro (15), Victor Martinez (17), J.D. Drew (15)
HR: Adrian Beltre (8)
8H: Frank Herrmann (2), Chris Perez (6)
BS, W: Kerry Wood (2, 1-2)
2B: Trevor Crowe (3), Jason Donald (5), Shin-Soo Choo (12)

June 9, 2010

Master and Servant

Indians pitcher Justin Masterson is such a nice guy that his former teammates didn’t want to score runs off of him. The Red Sox lineup nubbed grounder after grounder to Cleveland’s infield; by the end of his nine innings Masterson tallied 17 ground ball outs. Only Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew managed singles off the lanky starter. The other two baserunners, Kevin Youkilis and Jeremy Hermida, reached on bases on balls. I suspect Masterson bribed the Boston ballplayers with his wife Meryl’s Home Plate Cookies.

Clay Buchholz wasn’t his ace self on the mound: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, and 1 strikeout. Although he gave up a handful of runs the game was winnable until Boof Bonser and Joe Nelson took over in the eighth. Bonser, whose smartest career move was to legally change his name from the banal “John” to the memorable “Boof,” pitched to four batters and didn’t notch an out. Nelson allowed all of the runners he inherited score in a most grandiose fashion: a four-bagger with ducks on the pond lofted into right field by Travis Hafner.

Who knows if or when Bonser or Nelson will ever work it out. But there was a pitcher acquired by the Red Sox off the scrap heap who went on to become the team’s leader in innings pitched. I neglected to properly commemorate Tim Wakefield surpassing Roger Clemens for the club record in innings pitched. While Wakefield will not be remembered as an all-time great baseball player, he is all-time member of the Old Town team. After he announces his retirement he will be enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame quicker than it takes him to pitch a game.

Game 61: June 9, 2010
Red Sox
0L: Clay Buchholz (8-4)
No extra base hits.
11W: Justin Masterson (2-5)
2B: Anderson Hernandez (1)
3B: Trevor Crowe (2)
HR: Travis Hafner (5)

June 8, 2010

Error of His Ways

If Cleveland center fielder Trevor Crowe had not made a two-base error on Victor Martinez’s batted ball in the fourth, the three runs the visiting team tallied would not have been scored.

Crowe robbed Marco Scutaro of base hits in the first and seventh with daring diving grabs, but the sophomore fielder, while talented, is still unseasoned in the field. In contrast, in the sixth ball hawk Mike Cameron glided to the wall with his back to home plate to convert Crowe’s deep fly ball to the warning track into the second out of the frame.

Just as Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched better of late Tim Wakefield turned in a solid start: 7⅓ innings pitched, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), no walks, and six strikeouts. It wasn’t exactly Stephen Strasburg (7 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks, 14 strikeouts), but there hasn’t been as electrifying a pitching performance since Pedro Martinez circa 2000.

In the middle of Victor Martinez’s fifth inning at bat NESN showed Victor Jr. taking batting practice before the game. Martinez’s namesake was not amongst the Red Sox 2010 draftees, but in the sixth round Kendrick Perkins was. Not the Celtics center, but a high school center fielder who has been likened to Carl Crawford.

The Red Sox have 20 picks left in the 2010 amateur draft. The running list kept by Sox Prospects is full of intrigue and potential. Theo Epstein selected Scott Boras client Anthony Ranaudo in the supplemental first round there is sure to be endless amounts of intrigue in store.

Game 60: June 8, 2010
WinRed Sox
3W: Tim Wakefield (2-4)
H: Hideki Okajima (6), Ramon Ramirez (2)
S: Daniel Bard (2)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (16), Bill Hall (4), Adrian Beltre (17)
2L: David Huff (2-7)
2B: Travis Hafner (10)
3B: Shin-Soo Choo (2)
HR: Shelley Duncan (1)

June 7, 2010

Recharged Battery

Whatever differences Daisuke Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez had were resolved in the catcher’s former stomping ground. With the rotation weakened by Josh Beckett’s departure, Matsuzaka realized he had to step up his game. As hot as Martinez’s bat has been, the backstop also has a lot of pride in his game calling behind the plate and his skill in this arena has been questioned.

Matsuzaka had his best outing since his no-hit bid, an eight-inning performance in which he allowed just six baserunners (four by hit, two by bases on balls) and struck out five batters. An impressive 62.5% of Matsuzaka’s pitches were strikes.

Martinez went 2-for-4 with a run batted in by sacrifice fly in the seventh. He displayed his powerful stroke in the fourth with a ringing double off the pseudo-Monster that inhabits Progressive Field’s left field but was stranded.

Rare is the athlete who cottons to Cleveland, but Martinez was saddened to leave the only team he knew in last season’s deadline deal. He returned to meager applause but only because the Cleveland Indians’ attendance has declined precipitously from their 2007 playoff run. As distant as that seems, even deeper in the recesses of the club’s memory is the 455-game sellout streak from June 12, 1995 through April 4, 2001.

Flo, the chipper Progressive Insurance salesperson, wasn’t even there to give Martinez discount auto insurance or compliment him on his European shoulder bag.

Game 59: June 7, 2010
WinRed Sox
4W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-2)
2B: Marco Scutaro – 3 (14), Victor Martinez (16), Adrian Beltre (16)
1L: Fausto Carmona (4-5)
HR: Austin Kearns (5)

June 6, 2010

Unearned Bonus Baseball

The Red Sox were 1-6 in extra-innings match-ups going into this game. That is why I was only moderately enthused when Dustin Pedroia tied the game in the ninth with his sacrifice fly off Will “Oh, man” Ohman.

The runs that came so easy off the Orioles bullpen in the first two games of the series were nowhere to be found in this game. The visitors squandered bases loaded opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings. Kevin Youkilis took a pitch off the forearm to lead off the tenth but the pain was for naught.

Since there were no pinatas, Pedroia’s on-field offering for play of the game was popping an orange balloon that strayed into the infield in the seventh inning. Not to be outdone, Mike Cameron made an over-the-shoulder, game-saving basket catch of Lou Montanez’s deep fly for the final out of the ninth.

John Lackey pitched well but not spectacularly: 7 innings, 7 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts. His plodding pace and run-of-the-mill stuff was like Ambien. As the game wore on I commented to my friend that the teams were trying to out-bore each other, which should have given Lackey a tremendous advantage.

Sophomore southpaw Brian Matusz lasted only 5⅔ innings but notched seven strikeouts. Along with the whiffs came four bases on balls, but the first-round 2008 draftee showed a glimpse of the star he could be.

Game 58: June 6, 2010 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox
3L: Hideki Okajima (2-2)
HR: Victor Martinez (8)
4BS: Will Ohman (1)
W: David Hernandez (2-5)
2B: Miguel Tejada (11), Luke Scott (11), Scott Moore (1)

Left-Handed Complement

Jon Lester continued to make Juan Samuel’s new job difficult, pitching 6⅓ innings with a line of 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts. The southpaw was on his way to pitching a complete game shutout as Clay Buchholz had before him, but couldn’t quite match Buchholz’s start. This quality start further cemented the dominant double-fisted combination of Buchholz and Lester.

All three of Lester’s bases on balls came in the seventh inning against the bottom of Baltimore’s order. Lester was determined to work his way out of the seventh but was clearly gassed as he surrendered free passes to Adam Jones, Garrett Atkins, and Julio Lugo in succession after thoroughly baffling the Orioles for six innings.

Terry Francona pulled the lefty with the bases loaded and one out. Lester was as angry as Adrian Beltre getting his head touched in the dugout, not at his manager but at his inability to finish the seventh. Lester looked on anxiously as Daniel Bard attempted to preserve the visitors’ one-run lead. Bard induced a fly ball out to shallow center off Luke Scott’s bat and a pop out to Kevin Youkilis at third from Corey Patterson for the third out. The Red Sox starter was among the first to congratulate Bard on his gutty hold. The reliever also got a clap on the back from Youkilis, whose seventh-inning solo shot was the difference in the game.

Newly-summoned Josh Reddick tripled to lead off the eighth and was driven in by Marco Scutaro, tacking on an insurance run. It was the only other run Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie surrendered. While Lester has a relief corps that includes premiere talent such as Bard and Jonathan Papelbon and generally reliable arms like Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez, Guthrie has no such support. Charm City’s bullpen proceeded to relinquish six runs in the top of the ninth, including a pair of two-run doubles.

The Orioles only runs came in the bottom of the ninth in garbage innings by Joe Nelson. As Ramirez came in to finish off Nelson’s inning, Camden Yards made its full transformation to Fenway South. Only the Standells were missing from the standing ovation and applause that came with the Red Sox’s victory.

Game 57: June 5, 2010
WinRed Sox
8W: Jon Lester (7-2)
H: Daniel Bard (13)
2B: Kevin Youkilis – 2 (15), Darnell McDonald (7), Bill Hall (3)
3B: Josh Reddick (1)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (12)
2L: Jeremy Guthrie (3-6)
2B: Matt Wieters (6)

June 5, 2010

Meet the New Boss

Juan Samuel took over from the dismissed Dave Tremblay as the Orioles skipper but the new overseer didn’t bring better results. Jerry Remy thought that Samuel might get more respect in the clubhouse since he was a former big leaguer, unlike Tremblay. But greater loyalty doesn’t hit with runners on base or get opposing batters out, both of which the Baltimore squad failed to do.

The new Red Sox boss of the mound is Clay Buchholz. With Josh Beckett on the disabled list and John Lackey, well, lacking, Buchholz has joined Jon Lester as staff co-aces. Both of them have pitched the only complete games for Boston in 2010 thus far, Buchholz going the distance against the Orioles in the opening game of this series. He needed only 101 pitches to shut out Baltimore, finishing with 5 hits, no earned runs, 1 base on balls, and 2 strikeouts.

Adrian Beltre’s onslaught against his own outfield continued. The third baseman knocked Jeremy Hermida out of the game when they collided on Nick Markakis’s foul pop out in the third inning. Josh Reddick was recalled and Scott Atchison optioned to Pawtucket to shore up the ever-dwindling outfield options.

Kevin Youkilis is Mark Teixeira’s boss in production at the first station: Youkilis is out-hitting, out-on-base-percentaging, and out-slugging Teixeira but trails the Bronx’s first baseman in voting for the All-Star game. The Red Sox first baseman’s three-run, two out homer in the fourth provided firmer closure on the Orioles’ coffin and further increased his edge in production over Teixeira.

“NESN” doesn’t stand for “New England Single ladies Need date with Don and Jerry” as the two women’s sign stated but rather “New York Egregiously Supports New Yorkers.”

Game 56: June 4, 2010
WinRed Sox
11W: Clay Buchholz (8-3)
2B: J.D. Drew (14), Jeremy Hermida (8), Adrian Beltre (15)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (11), Adrian Beltre (7)
0L: Chris Tillman (0-1)
No extra base hits.

June 3, 2010

Adding Insult to Injuries

Athletics starter Brett Anderson left the game after two innings with elbow tightness and Ryan Sweeney departed in the third when Mark Ellis’s knee hit Sweeney’s head when both attempted to catch a ball in foul territory.

On the Red Sox side Darnell McDonald tweaked his knee on a pickoff attempt in the fourth. He toughed it out only to be thrown out running from second to home when Gabe Gross fielded Jeremy Hermida’s single to right.

Victor Martinez, who recently had to sit out a few games because of a foot contusion, was sent home by Tim Bogar in the third on Kevin Youkilis’s line drive double to left. The two runners represented the potential runs that would have extended Boston’s four game winning streak. But Bogar seems to be determined to earn a nickname like “Wave ’Em In” Wendell Kim and “Death Wish” Dale Sveum. Tim Bogus? Bogie? Booger?

Kurt Suzuki is the bane of Tim Wakefield’s existence. The plucky catcher broke up the knuckleballer’s no-hit bid in the eighth inning on April 15, 2009. Wakefield was far from a hurling a no-hitter in the afternoon game, and Suzuki took advantage by taking the veteran pitcher deep twice.

After dropping the getaway game the Red Sox travel to Baltimore and Cleveland to face two cellar-dwelling squads. The seven-game road trip should be a great opportunity to make up ground in the standings, provided Bogar recovers his depth perception.

Game 55: June 3, 2010
9W: Vin Mazzaro (1-0)
H: Brad Ziegler (9), Jerry Blevins (5)
S: Andrew Bailey (12)
2B: Gabe Gross (5), Mark Ellis (5), Eric Patterson (5)
HR: Kurt Suzuki – 2 (7), Jack Cust (1), Kevin Kouzmanoff (5)
Red Sox
8L: Tim Wakefield (1-4)
2B: Jeremy Hermida (7), Kevin Youkilis – 2 (13), Dustin Pedroia – 2 (19), Bill Hall (2), J.D. Drew (13)
HR: Jeremy Hermida (5), Marco Scutaro (3), Bill Hall (5)

June 2, 2010

All Too Human

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Prior to tonight the only thing I knew about Jim Joyce was that he would make rather dramatic strike calls when working home plate. From now on he will forever be known as the umpire that blew the call on what should have been the final out of a perfect game by Armando Galarraga.

There is no reprieve or no method of appeal for those aggrieved by an incorrect call. Chuck Klonke, the official scorer who ruled Jason Donald’s nubber to Miguel Cabrera a hit, has 24 hours to change his determination of the play and give Galarraga a no-hitter, but that would be like makeup over an imperfection on the face of baseball.

Many other sports use technology in crucial situations but baseball steadfastly clings to its ever-disintegrating tradition. But it is not just the governing bodies of national pastime’s fault. Joyce could have corrected his call seconds after he made it. Or if he didn’t want to appear as if he were capitulating to Miguel Cabrera’s remonstrations, he could have convened the crew or asked another umpire for help and then rectify his decision. But Joyce’s obstinate stance is the same as every other MLB umpire’s: stand by a call with conviction and never concede.

In his second start after his no-hit bid Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first inning performance showed that he was all too human. After a rough opening frame, however, the starter along with Daniel Bard shut out the Athletics. Jonathan Papelbon allowed a solo shot to a pinch-hitting Kevin Kouzmanoff in the ninth, but the Red Sox kept their advantage.

Home team run support came early: Marco Scutaro led off the bottom half of the first frame with a single, David Ortiz doubled off the wall over Gabe Gross’s head, and Kevin Youkilis drove them both in with singled roped to center.

Darnell McDonald led off the fifth with a double high off the left field wall that just missed being a home run. Both Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia failed to advanced the runner, but Ortiz blasted the ball into the right field seats for the lead. Pedroia tacked on an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI double lasered down the left field line. Then, for the first time this season, the opposing manager signaled four fingers to his battery.

When the designated hitter was intentionally walked I could almost see the change in Ortiz’s mien. For so many years he played with exceptional clutch capability. While he may never attain those heights again, witnessing just a hint of his superhuman flair was a sight to behold.

Game 54: June 2, 2010
4L: Ben Sheets (2-4)
2B: Daric Barton (15), Ryan Sweeney (11)
HR: Kurt Suzuki (5), Kevin Kouzmanoff (4)
WinRed Sox
6W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-2)
H: Daniel Bard (12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (13)
2B: David Ortiz (10), Darnell McDonald (6), Marco Scutaro (11), Dustin Pedroia (17)
3B: J.D. Drew (1)
HR: David Ortiz (12)

June 1, 2010

To the Victor Goes the Spoils

Victor Martinez used the Oakland pitching staff as his personal batting practice pitchers, going 5-for-5 with four doubles and two runs batted in. In the fifth the backstop doubled off the left field wall and was driven in by Adrian Beltre’s three- run home run off the wall behind the first row of the Monster seats. Martinez’s ground-rule double to the center field bleachers in the sixth broke the 4-4 tie.

The Athletics jumped out to a 4-0 lead, a lead that would have seemed insurmountable in April. But the Red Sox offense jolted to life, bailing out their starter. John Lackey pitched a sloppy six innings: 12 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts.

Two players, Kurt Suzuki and Bill Hall, knocked in their first triples of the season. Suzuki’s third-inning hit was actually at best a double but was converted to a triple thanks to Darnell McDonald’s ill-advised diving attempt at a spectacular catch in center. Hall’s seventh-inning shot ricocheted high off the deepest part of the left field wall and then caromed over center fielder Rajai Davis’s head into the triangle. Had it been someone with Davis’s speed running the bases instead of Hall it could have been an inside-the-parker, but Hall settled for an RBI triple that plated J.D. Drew for an insurance run.

Even though the Athletics are in first place in their division I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Billy Beane has a talented young rotation in the works with Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Rounding out the staff are Dallas Braden who, perfect game notwithstanding, is a serviceable starter and Ben Sheets, whose one-year $10 million deal is a stopgap until the young starters can carry the team.

Oakland is poised to replicate the success they had with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, but that success will again be limited by the ownership’s allotted payroll. In the wake of Dan Duqette the Red Sox courted and nearly acquired Beane as general manager. Beane got cold feet at the last second, spurning the new ownership and citing family reasons for his refusal. Who knows what Beane could have achieved with the financial resources of the Red Sox, but he seemed hesitant to take on the challenge.

Instead the Red Sox hired Theo Epstein, who at the time was the youngest general manager in history. The rest is history.

Game 53: June 1, 2010
4L: Tyson Ross (1-4)
BS: Craig Breslow
2B: Kevin Kouzmanoff (10), Gabe Gross (4), Ryan Sweeney (10), Mark Ellis (4), Kurt Suzuki (6)
3B: Kurt Suzuki (1)
HR: Daric Barton (4)
WinRed Sox
9W: John Lackey (6-3)
H: Manny Delcarmen (5), Daniel Bard (11)
2B: Victor Martinez – 4 (15), Dustin Pedroia (16)
3B: Bill Hall (1)
HR: Adrian Beltre (6)

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