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Home » Monthly Archive » August 2010

August 30, 2010

Extinction Event

To distract myself from the dismal series loss against the Rays I watched “Last Day of the Dinosaurs,” a light-hearted romp through the end of the Cretaceous most likely precipitated by the Chicxulub Asteroid pummeling the Yucatan Peninsula. When the six-mile long bolide impacted Earth, dinosaurs were broiled alive by the heat, megatsunamis thousands of feet high surged across the planet, and sunlight was blocked from the earth for up to a year.

That got me to thinking about the Red Sox 2010 season.

Consider the 2004 World Championship the asteroid obliterating the plodding, lethargic negativity that dominated the landscape much like the dinosaurs. The cataclysmic occurrence may not have measured the 12.55 on the Richter scale that characterized the estimated seismic energy of Chicxulub, but it was nonetheless sizable. In the wake of Boston’s victory another ill-starred team, the Chicago White Sox, won its first championship in 88 years. And a mere three years later the Red Sox won another championship, overcoming a 3-1 game deficit against the Indians in the ALCS to trample the Rockies in the World Series.

For the Red Sox it was not possible to reuse the template for success. There was no need to rely on the lumbering sluggers in left any longer. Besides, Manny Ramirez quit on the team in 2008 and his replacement Jason Bay declined to re-sign with the Red Sox after the 2009 season. In 2010 the plan was to evolve the team to a philosophy of run prevention.

(John Lackey was part and parcel of that plan, but exactly how well he contributes remains in question. His reactions to his defenders’ gaffes certainly makes them wish to avoid errors.)

It boggles the mind to imagine how great this team could have been without the onslaught of injuries. If any two out of the essential troika of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis hadn’t missed playing time the Red Sox would be the apex predators of the AL East. Instead they are the opportunistic omnivores, snitching crumbs where they can to stockpile a modest store of wins.

In the last game of the series, on the eve of their extinction, the Red Sox could have made the bold leap from scrounger to hunter. But instead they were content to nibble on morsels of mediocrity.

Game 131: August 29, 2010
Red Sox
3L: John Lackey (12-8)
2B: Mike Lowell (10), Adrian Beltre (38)
5W: James Shields (13-11)
H: Randy Choate (14), Joaquin Benoit (23)
S: Rafael Soriano (39)
2B: Evan Longoria (42)
HR: Carlos Pena (25), Carl Crawford (15)

August 29, 2010

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Stupidity

It’s not that our team doesn’t have smarts, it’s just that our team’s smarts are inconsistently used. Mike Lowell is widely regarded as particularly wily, so he knew that keeping Carlos Pena pegged at first with the bottom of the order coming wasn’t a priority.

But Clay Buchholz is the poster child for nervous throws over to first. His pickoffs are like Nomar’s pre-batting tics or Wade’s chicken dinners, except since they happen in-game they may cause mayhem. Pena didn’t even have a lead and Buchholz tossed over to first.

Lowell is wise the the ways of the game but at this point is so inert he has to flip to pitchers on many ground outs to his position. One game he is going to be at first and Wakes is going to be pitching and neither will make it to first in time to stop a Molina from getting an infield single. So Mikey couldn’t get to Clay’s errant throw and it gamboled through foul territory to the Rays bullpen. Carlos galloped all the way from first to third while J.D. and Mikey pawed through the equipment, chairs, and relievers that littered the area.

(Later Amalie Benjamin tweeted that the bench called for the pickoff. Sort of like how a dog owner will apologize to their neighbors when her dog does its business in their yards. But it’s not the dog’s fault, as it’s not Clay’s fault. He was just answering the call of his nature.)

J.D. got very familiar with the Rays bullpen area. Perhaps there something about the mingled scents of chewing tobacco, Bazooka, and Red Bull that compelled him to pursue Matt Joyce’s fly ball so fiercely. Drew deftly maneuvered through the furniture and bodies to snare the second out of the inning but had no chance throw Carlos out at home.

With the game knotted 1-1, Victor acted the big brother bailing out his little sibling when they got into a jam. His fifth homer as a lefty sailed into the right field seats and erased the seventh-inning mishaps.

The spirit of Grady Little stopped whittling wood or making moonshine or whatever it is up to these days to take over Tito Francona’s body in the eighth inning. In Little’s day the mantra was “Timlin in the eighth, Williamson in the ninth.” This has since been supplanted by “Bard in the eighth, Papelbon in the ninth.” This should be Tito’s motto, but instead it was replaced by “Let’s squeeze a few more pitches out of the ace.”

B.J. Upton caught hold of Clay’s hanging curve and the game was tied again. Wisps of Grady’s wisdom still collected in the corners of Tito’s mind like cobwebs. Scott Atchison, not Papelbon, pitched to Dan Johnson, the resistible force against the movable object. Thus the paradox was solved.

Great Plays We Knew We Were Making
I am remiss in mentioning Ryan Kalish’s astounding catch to end the second inning. The shot to center came ringing off of Upton’s bat, off all players. B.J. is not known for his hustle on the field, the antithesis of Kalish.

While B.J. was drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft and was much heralded, Kalish was tapped in the ninth round of the 2006 draft and thus came with somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps that is what drives Kalish play like a hellion, throwing caution to the wind and his body about the FieldTurf.

Kalish bolted to Upton’s ball on the perfect route and gloved it with his body parallel to the ground. Rather than risking his ribs (Ellsbury take note) Kalish somersaulted sideways but missed a perfect score by a few tenths of a point by not sticking the dismount.

Game 129: August 27, 2010 ∙ 10 innings
Red Sox
2L: Scott Atchison (2-2)
2B: David Ortiz (29)
HR: Victor Martinez (13)
3W: Randy Choate (4-3)
HR: B.J. Upton (13), Dan Johnson (2)

August 28, 2010

Over Priced

It was like the old days in the Trop last night: Red Sox fans were louder than the Rays supporters and the visiting team came away with the victory. The irony is that Boston devotees are indirectly supporting the Rays. This is because the revenue-sharing scheme in MLB has luxury tax-paying teams like the Red Sox forking over money to small market teams such as the Rays.

Compared to the Marlins and Pirates, the Tampa Bay franchise is the exemplar of how revenue-receiving teams should reinvest the funds they receive to improve on-field performance. As a follower of a team in the Rays’ division, however, I really would prefer that the Rays ownership were more like Bob Nutting and Jeffrey Loria.

Although I was reeling from the news that Dustin Pedroia would probably be out for the year his teammates soldiered on. Jon Lester twirled seven innings, allowed only two hits, and struck out ten. The game was in the balance in the sixth when walked B.J. Upton to start the sixth and then allowed a frozen rope off Jason Bartlett’s bat for a single to center. Upton didn’t go all out around the bases and was surprised to be waved home. Darnell McDonald fired a seed to Victor Martinez, who was in perfect position to block Upton from scoring. Unfortunately the collision wasn’t hard enough to knock off Upton’s cheesy mustache.

Lester’s command was poor throughout the game but he used his guile against the free-swinging Rays. After the out at home Lester uncorked a wild pitch to Carlos Pena that allowed Bartlett to advance to second. Pena worked a free pass but Lester battled back to strike out Evan Longoria and induce a ground out to short from Willy Aybar.

As if he were acutely aware of his battery mate’s extraordinary effort, Martinez came through with two bombs to left field. Prior to launching his second home run Martinez tarried before stepping into the box. David Price countered by taking a stroll around the back of the mound. The showdown reminded me off how another Martinez, Pedro, would toy with batters. The tactic didn’t quite work for Price.

The only other visitor to drive in a run was Pedroia’s replacement, Jed Lowrie, who dropped a single just out of reach of Bartlett in the fourth to plate David Ortiz. Soon Lowrie will be spouting off about his laser shows, except for him that means the laser pointer he uses when he is alter ego: Jed Lowrie, financial analyst.

Four and a half.

Game 129: August 27, 2010
WinRed Sox
3W: Jon Lester (14-8)
H: Daniel Bard (29)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (33)
2B: David Ortiz (28)
3B: Darnell McDonald (3)
HR: Victor Martinez – 2 (12)
1L: David Price (15-6)
No extra base hits.

August 26, 2010

Blind Squirrels

Even they find nuts. But who knew they officiated MLB games?

The Ameeker Pitch zone showed that all three of Felix Hernandez’s pitches to Adrian Beltre in the second inning were strikes, but Beltre stood in the box in disbelief. Rookie umpire Dan Bellino, who was filling in for Rob Drake, probably didn’t take kindly to Beltre’s display.

Beltre and Hernandez, friends since they played together in Seattle, engaged in some between innings smack talk. The pitcher bet that he would strike Beltre out three times and the hitter bet that he would take Hernandez deep. Bellino ejected the Red Sox third baseman because of the conversation.

Beltre tried to get Bellino to explain why he was ejected but the official wouldn’t tell him. Terry Francona joined in the conversation but didn’t get Bellino’s reasoning, either. Veteran umpire Angel Hernandez went so far as to protect Bellino, inserting himself between the seething skipper and the inexperienced arbitrator. Francona was ejected but it didn’t fire up the bats.

There’s 16 Dan Bellinos on Facebook. The first one I found had the profile picture you see to the right. I can’t tell if the same man who ejected Beltre is in the picture, but it is good propaganda.

Game 128: August 25, 2010
4W: Felix Hernandez (10-10)
S: Brandon League (4)
2B: Jose Lopez (24), Josh Wilson (12), Russell Branyan (16), Casey Kotchman (18), Matt Tuiasosopo (4)
Red Sox
2L: Tim Wakefield (3-10)
2B: Ryan Kalish (3), Bill Hall (9)
HR: J.D. Drew (17)

August 25, 2010

Afternoon Boon

Mariners manager Daren Brown decided to give third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo a break for the day game, thus giving Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy a brief reprieve from saying that name. I listened to part of the WEEI broadcast from the series opener to check that at least one Red Sox broadcasting team could say the name right, and to my delight Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien were spot on in their pronunciation.

Hitters must be like musicians, not getting into the groove of things until late in the day. Josh Beckett and David Pauley exchanged zeroes until the middle of the sixth; the Red Sox had only three baserunners over those frames and the Mariners just two.

Adrian Beltre broke the scoreless tie and nearly shattered David Pauley’s ankle in the process. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth, Beltre’s comebacker ricocheted off the former Red Sox starter and arced above the infield before dropping along the third base line. The trajectory was high enough to plate Marco Scutaro. Mike Lowell followed with a sacrifice fly to right and Daniel Nava doubled his team’s score by muscling a two-RBI single to shallow right.

Each one of those runs were of tremendous significance as Beckett surrendered a pair of home runs: a solo shot to Russell Branyan and a two-run four-bagger to Casey Kotchman. In 87 at bats with the Red Sox Kotchman hit exactly one homer on August 6, 2009. It was against the Yankees, but it was also part of a 13-6 losing effort.

Mike Lowell’s legs have officially degenerated to Molina-levels of functionality. He turns doubles to Fenway’s left field corner into singles and gets hosed at the hot corner when trying to get to first to third on a single by his teammate. Darnell “1-800-54-GIANT” McDonald didn’t mind; he was still credit with an RBI. If there can only be one good thing to come out of this injury-plagued season, let it be that McDonald has finally gotten enough exposure to garner a steady MLB job.

Game 127: August 25, 2010
3L: David Pauley (2-5)
HR: Russell Branyan (20), Casey Kotchman (9)
WinRed Sox
5W: Josh Beckett (4-3)
H: Daniel Bard (28)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (32)
2B: Marco Scutaro (32)

August 24, 2010

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If I were as clever or funny as Bill Simmons, I would write a column about how Johnny Damon is that type of girlfriend who leaves you for a richer guy living in a glamorous city. Then Mr. Moneybags dumps her and she has to move to Detroit. You offer to move her to Boston even though she is living in Detroit, but she feels so wronged by you she’d rather stay in Detroit.

People who live in Detroit don’t want to live in Detroit. If LeBron James’s hometown were Detroit, they’d be happy if he took his talent to South Beach. Brett Favre went through all those retirement shenanigans because he wanted to be farther away from Detroit (550 miles between the Motor City and Minnesota, 288 miles between Detroit and Green Bay).

As disappointed as I was seeing Damon sign with the Yankees, as disgusted I felt watching him frolic around the field when they won the World Series last year, I would not have minded him back on the team. The noodle-arm throws to the infield would annoy me as they always have, especially after witnessing Ryan Kalish’s and Darnell McDonald’s respectable guns, but by all accounts he’s great in the clubhouse. David Ortiz and Jason Varitek tried to convince him to return and they know far more about what would be good for the team than I do.

If Damon changes his mind before the 1:30 PM deadline tomorrow, I’ll just get used to rooting for him again. The team needs all the help it can get.

I somehow got used to cheering for John Lackey and he didn’t even have the any of the goodwill of 2004 that Damon does. Lackey didn’t even fulfill his role as an Angel and fold against the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Lackey had one of his best starts of the season: 8 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, and 10 strikeouts. To be sure, the Mariners lineup isn’t an offensive juggernaut. But they aren’t a National League team, either.

I would think Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, both products of Massachusetts, could sound out a Samoan name. They had years of practice to pronounce Mosi Tatupu. Granted, “Tuiasosopo” has a few more syllables, but it’s still shorter than “Saltalamacchia.” Orsillo never pronounced it the same way twice and Remy avoided the name as much as he could. Repeat after me: TOO-ee-ah-so-SO-po. As they said on Seinfield, “No soup for you!”

Game 126: August 23, 2010
3L: Doug Fister (4-9)
No extra base hits.
WinRed Sox
6W: John Lackey (12-7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)
No extra base hits.

August 23, 2010

Dazzler in the Downpour

The day may have been a murky day marred by two rain delays but Clay Buchholz’s supreme skill outshone the showers. “Buch-nasty” (as he was dubbed by Mike Cameron) pitched only six innings but that was with a 1 hour, 44 minute delay of first pitch and a 59-minute rain delay called in the top of the third. While he allowed five hits and three bases on balls he struck out seven and didn’t allow any extra base hits.

Both relievers, Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront, also stifled the Blue Jays batters, allowing just three baserunners between them. Jose Molina represented the final out of the game but was hit by a pitch with the count 0-2. The Blue Jays catcher seemed to want to make something of it, but if he thinks anyone let alone a rookie would intentionally plunk him in such a situation he needs to book some time with a therapist to discuss his persecution complex. It’s not like the name “Overbay” was on the back of his jersey.

Replacing Jacoby Ellsbury in the speed department was David Ortiz. The fleet-footed designated hitter sprinted around the horn while Vernon Wells and Fred Lewis chased after the ball in deep center. Ortiz nimbly slid into third for a leadoff triple and scored the first run of the game on Adrian Beltre’s rope off the wall. Ellsbury should be wary, not just of his ribs but also of his single-season stolen base franchise record: “Wheels Ortiz” is on the warpath.

One would think that the rain delay would deaden the senses, but such an assumption didn’t apply to Bill Hall. Adam Lind, the first batter to take the box after the delay, starched a shot to shallow left. Hall charged the missile and dove head-first just in time to glove the final out of the inning.

Hall worked the other side of the ball as well, lofting a rainbow over the wall in the fifth inning. Double rainbow, all the way across the sky. What does this mean?

Game 125: August 22, 2010
Blue Jays
0L: Shaun Marcum (11-7)
No extra base hits.
WinRed Sox
5W: Clay Buchholz (15-5)
H: Daniel Bard (27)
S: Felix Doubront (2)
2B: Adrian Beltre (37), Ryan Kalish (2)
3B: David Ortiz (1)
HR: Bill Hall (17)

August 22, 2010

These Go to Eleven

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez seemed to be working together much better than they did during Matsuzaka’s streak of troubles. The battery fought through the Blue Jays’ three-run rally in the sixth to turn in two shutout, 1-2-3 innings, keeping the score knotted 4-4. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon combined for three scoreless innings to get to the home half of the eleventh.

Jed Lowrie, when not re-reading political theory classics introduced to him as a political science major at Stanford such as On the Social Contract or A Theory of Justice, hits game-winning home runs in extra-innings games in his spare time. No offense to Lowrie, but if you put him in street clothes he would be high on the list of least likely to be identified as a professional athlete. Like other political science majors, he should be bringing a senator some coffee or toiling away on an obscure blog.

But Lowrie can swing a bat, throw leather around the diamond, and avoid slipping on home plate after launching a walk-off four-bagger and thereby suffering a season-ending injury, so he can avoid lackey tasks and carpal tunnel syndrome for a while. He’ll still have to deal with dirty looks from John Lackey, however.

Imagine if it were Lackey on the mound instead of Papelbon when Lowrie dropped a foul pop-up that would have been the final out of the eleventh?

Martinez is obsessed with touching Adrian Beltre’s head. Even as his teammates feted Lowrie at home the Red Sox catcher took the opportunity to stalk Beltre from behind. Before Beltre could unleash a celebratory pummeling upon Lowrie Martinez accosted him with multiple head rubs. Martinez was the recipient of the drubbing instead.

Catchers are at least inured to physical contact. Lyle Overbay tried to tie the game in the fourth on John McDonald’s double to center field. Another McDonald, Darnell, possesses a stronger throwing arm than Jacoby Ellsbury and was able to get the ball to Yamaico Navarro in fewer than a dozen hops. Navarro fired home to Martinez, who blocked the plate in the face of Overbay’s charge. Martinez held on to the ball and the score was 2-1 instead of 2-2 and the third out was tallied. Without this play, the game would have ended in regulation.

If that doesn’t earn you unfettered access to Beltre’s noggin I don’t know what does.

Game 124: August 21, 2010 ∙ 11 innings
Blue Jays
4L: Casey Janssen (4-2)
2B: John Buck (22), John McDonald (8), Vernon Wells (37)
HR: Lyle Overbay (16)
WinRed Sox
5W: Jonathan Papelbon (5-5)
2B: Marco Scutaro (31)
HR: Jed Lowrie (3)

August 21, 2010

Blue Hot and Red

The Blue Jays certainly had their Wheaties, or, as they call it in Canada, Wheaties. The exchange rate for runs was far in favor with our northern neighbors.

The bludgeoning by the Blue Jays was made worse with visits to the booth by Bill O’Reilly and Mitt Romney. They were part of a parade of celebrities who were there to raise money for the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, a great cause of course, but less polarizing people should have been selected. Perhaps the right-wingers were brought in to stem the red tide that dominates Friday games.

The interview with Hyde Park native Maura Tierney was less coherent than a Julian Tavarez conversation. She had a charming moment when she refused to say the name of that team from the Bronx, calling their home field “You Know What Stadium.”

Meredith Viera visited in the bottom of the fifth and jinxed a bases loaded, one-out situation with Victor Martinez in the box. The backstop tapped into a 5-3 inning-ending double play.

Tierney and Viera threw out the first pitches half-way between the mound and home plate and their respective catchers were a yard or so from home plate. Yet their flimsy efforts were more respectable than Jon Lester’s worst start of his career: 2 innings pitched, 8 hits, 9 earned runs, 3 walks, and 1 strikeout.

A bright spot was infielder Yamaico Navarro’s major league debut. The international free agent rose through the ranks based on his defensive wizardry but tallied his first major league hit in the fifth inning, a ground ball single to left field.

When Dusty Brown is one team’s leading RBI man and Lyle Overbay has a career night for the other squad chances are it’s a terrible game.

Game 123: August 20, 2010
WinBlue Jays
16W: Brett Cecil (10-6)
2B: John McDonald (7), Fred Lewis (31), Yunel Escobar (17)
HR: Lyle Overbay – 2 (15), John McDonald (3), Jose Bautista (38)
Red Sox
2L: Jon Lester (13-8)
2B: David Ortiz (27), Dusty Brown (1)

August 20, 2010

2B or Not 2B

Dustin Pedroia’s absence from this game was a harbinger of his return to the disabled list. His stint with the team was as short as he was. In the two games he played he experienced pain that wouldn’t subside, so he went back on the disabled list rather than worsen the injury that obviously hadn’t fully healed.

He joins an entire cadre of wounded: Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa, Kevin Cash, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Eric Patterson. That’s one-third of a bullpen and a good part of a batting lineup, if I charitably identify Cash as a major league batter.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that Josh Beckett has been playing injured, or perhaps he doesn’t have his endurance back. He stifled the Angels for five innings but imploded spectacularly in the sixth to the tune of four runs. In the seventh the Blue Jays poured it on for three more runs, not just off Beckett but also Manny Delcarmen.

The offensive highlights for the local nine were few and far between. David Ortiz homered in the fourth for the early lead and Adrian Beltre tagged on a sacrifice fly to plate Marco Scutaro in the eighth. The most rousing Red Sox play came on the defensive side of the ball.

In the top of the third Mike Lowell pounced on Bobby Abreu’s sharply rapped grounder before it skidded into right field. The spry veteran flipped to Beckett for the second out. Not to be outdone, J.D. Drew made an amazing grab of Maicer Izturis’s fly ball, sliding head first on the verdant turf towards the warning track. It’s rare to see grass stains on Drew’s uniform, not because he doesn’t try hard, but because he doesn’t have to.

A disappointing loss, but one who was lost now is found. Wally made his return to the booth for the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon.

Game 122: August 19, 2010
7W: Erwin Santana (13-8)
2B: Maicer Izturis (13), Alberto Callaspo (22), Torii Hunter (28)
HR: Hideki Matsui (16)
Red Sox
2L: Josh Beckett (3-3)
2B: Jed Lowrie (7)
HR: David Ortiz (27)

August 19, 2010

Seventh Heaven

The Red Sox jury rigged an seventh-inning comeback with hits by Victor Martinez and David Ortiz and a walk by Mike Lowell. Kevin Jepsen helped Boston with the repair job by uncorking a wild pitch to J.D. Drew that plated Martinez for the tie and plunking Daniel Nava to force Ortiz over home for the winning run.

The rousing victory roused temporary elation, but it’s just a sports team winning. There are larger triumphs to pursue.

Every year during Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon time I become melancholy when I meditate upon the people my friends and I have lost to cancer. Last night I looked over pictures of my friend’s daughter’s one-year birthday celebration, an event that people in Hawai‘i observe with lū‘au or party. The little girl lost her father to colorectal cancer.

I knew I would get along with L as soon as I met him. We were huge Star Trek fans, both majored in English literature, and got all the same geeky jokes. I never had to worry if I was being too nerdy; in fact we loved to out-geek each other. All the things that we both liked, or that I think he would have enjoyed, or would have liked to talk to him about — all are tinged with sorrow because I can’t experience them with him because of cancer.

The countless memories flit through my mind and endless specters of reminiscences that will never be: Oh, he would have liked “Burn Notice”! Man, this was his favorite Next Gen episode. There he goes again crushing on Marina Sirtis.

(Although in Marina’s current state, the crush would like be over, probably supplanted by Morena Baccarin.)

So, in my friend’s honor, and for many others close to me who have been impacted by cancer, I made a donation to the Jimmy Fund. I don’t want any more daughters to lose fathers.

Game 121: August 18, 2010
5H: Francisco Rodriguez (2)
BS, L: Kevin Jepsen (3, 2-3)
2B: Reggie Willits (4), Maicer Izturis (12), Bobby Abreu (33), Hideki Matsui (17)
HR: Mike Napoli (20), Alberto Callaspo (9)
WinRed Sox
7W: John Lackey (11-7)
H: Daniel Bard (26)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
2B: Darnell McDonald (14), Victor Martinez (26), David Ortiz (26), Marco Scutaro (30)
HR: Bill Hall (16), Adrian Beltre (23)

August 18, 2010


Who knew Darnell McDonald picked his jersey number 54 as a mnemonic for his favorite windshield repair company Giant Glass? The outfielder’s third-inning home run cleared the left field wall and shattered the rear window of a Toyota Camry with Rhode Island tags parked in the lot next to Gold’s Gym. I hope he got Dennis Drinkwater’s digits; there has been no sweeter marketing synergy since David Ortiz named is son D’Angelo around the time he had a deal with the sandwich chain.

McDonald’s four-bagger also broke the scoreless tie. The sheer spectacle of the shot even overshadowed Torii Hunter’s sensational snare of Adrian Beltre’s fly ball in the bottom of the second. Hunter reached over the Red Sox bullpen’s wall, nearly tipping into it as he robbed the Red Sox third baseman of a homer. Beltre was so upset he ripped off his helmet, not even thinking about how vulnerable it would make him to a head rub.

Jered Weaver is the American League leader in strikeouts, no small feat for pitcher facing the loaded lineups in the junior circuit. Last night the hurler didn’t have his ace arsenal: 5 innings pitched, 6 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts.

Four of those earned runs came courtesy of Ryan Kalish’s fourth-inning grand slam. Weaver didn’t throw a particularly bad pitch; the ball was low and away. Kalish just reached down to golf the ball into the Red Sox bullpen far out of Hunter’s reach to extend the lead and notch his first major league grand slam.

Clay Buchholz out-dueled Weaver: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, no runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts. With last night’s performance the Red Sox starter is the American League’s leader in earned run average and puns on his name.

Game 120: August 17, 2010
0L: Jered Weaver (11-8)
2B: Bobby Abreu (32)
WinRed Sox
6W: Clay Buchholz (14-5)
2B: Marco Scutaro (29), David Ortiz (25), Victor Martinez (26), Mike Lowell (9)
HR: Darnell McDonald (8), Ryan Kalish (2)

August 17, 2010

Procrastination Nation

I’m like Bryce Harper over here, waiting until the last minute to get the deal done. Except when I finally write about Sunday’s disappointing loss I won’t get a five-year, $9.9 million deal.

Instead of rolling in dough I get to savor the impressive strikeout total for Daisuke Matsuzaka (just one short of his season high of nine) that was for naught. He allowed four earned runs, but two of those were the result of Manny Delcarmen surrendering a three-run homer to Michael Young in the seventh inning.

Beyond Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon the bullpen is a throng of rags and bones. Delcarmen has never been consistent and shows no signs of reversing the trend. Dustin Richardson has potential but requires polish. Michael Bowden, another young arm, is a starter being pressed into a relief role due to the relief corps’ injuries and ineffectiveness. Richardson and Bowden allowed an earned run each to push the score even further out of reach.

While the major league team enjoyed an off day the Red Sox front office was abuzz. Before the August 15 signing deadline there was a flurry of activity with seven signings: Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle, Garin Cecchini, Chris Hernandez, Mathew Price, and Lucas LeBlanc.

The far future is promising and the near future is inspiring. Happy 27th birthday and welcome back, Dustin Pedroia!

Game 119: August 15, 2010
Red Sox
3L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-4)
2B: Adrian Beltre (36), Marco Scutaro (28)
HR: Darnell McDonald (7)
7W: C.J. Wilson (11-5)
HR: Michael Young (19)

August 15, 2010

Southpaw Savior

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, as delicate as Jacoby Ellsbury’s ribs, are the only broadcasters who close their booth windows during games in Rangers Ballpark. But their flimsy exteriors hide the hearts of hardened criminals.

The NESN duo stole a car last night. “A lot of rental cars look the same,” blurted Remy under interrogation. His plea of ignorance rang false in light of his and Orsillo’s jocular boasting about their abhorrent deed.

Not only did participate in grand theft but committed the thievery against fellow broadcasters Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien. “At no point did we think about going back,” sneered Orsillo.

In the end, nothing came of Remy and Orsillo’s hijinks, just as Bill Hall’s and David Murphy’s stolen bases didn’t impact the game. The first run in the fifth inning was scored by Ryan Kalish, who starched a single to right.

The Red Sox rookie advanced to second on a passed ball to Marco Scutaro and then to third on Scutaro’s single to Michael Young. The Rangers third baseman did well to knock down the hit and save the run but the reprieve was short-lived. J.D. Drew lobbed a single to shallow right to plate Kalish.

Jon Lester summoned all his faculties to limit the Rangers to five base hits, and only one was an extra base hit. The southpaw was feeling ill due to the heat in the sixth but gutted it out for two more innings. Nelson Cruz’s triple to right with one out in the seventh threatened the visitors’ tenuous lead, but Lester buckled down and induced consecutive ground ball outs to strand Cruz 90 feet away from a tie.

Sensing that one-man wrecking crew Josh Hamilton would have a chance to take the box the Boston batters willed themselves to score two insurance runs in the first half of the ninth. As sure as the temperature in Texas is triple digits in August Hamilton lofted a home run in the ninth.

The inspiring win almost had me chanting along with knee-jerk WEEI listeners, “Felix Doubront for closer!”

Game 118: August 14, 2010
WinRed Sox
3W: Jon Lester (13-7)
H: Scott Atchison (4)
S: Felix Doubront (1)
2B: Mike Lowell (8)
1L: Colby Lewis (9-9)
3B: Nelson Cruz (3)
HR: Josh Hamilton (26)

August 14, 2010

Mess in Texas

They certainly do do things bigger in Texas. The Red Sox had a meltdown as they did in Toronto, but this time they blew a bigger lead and extended the agony over eleven innings.

J.D. Drew knocked in two four-baggers but had an unusually poor day with the glove. In the bottom of the seventh Nelson Cruz lofted a fly ball to the right field warning track that Drew misplayed. Immediately after Cruz’s double Red Sox killer Bengie Molina roped a double over Drew’s leap, a hit that plated Cruz and rendered the score 9-8. Still in favor of the visitors, but just barely.

How radically the later innings played out compared to the fourth inning. David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, and Drew slammed back-to-back-to-back home runs and scored four more runs after that. With such run support a pitcher of Josh Beckett’s caliber should have won, but in games against quality hitting Beckett is a mere scintilla of his former self. The starter seems to have rushed back to help his team.

Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t exactly rush back, and very quickly after his return he is back on the disabled list. In the first inning the outfielder collided with Tommy Hunter at first base as the speedster tried to run out a dribbler.

It’s a wonder Victor Martinez isn’t back on the bench after fouling another ball of his foot. He crumpled to the turf in anguish in the top of the eleventh. Red Sox fans joined him in the bottom of the eleventh on Cruz’s walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield’s first pitch of the game.

Game 117: August 13, 2010 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox
9H: Dustin Richardson (2), Scott Atchison (3), Felix Doubront (1)
BS: Daniel Bard (5)
L: Tim Wakefield (3-9)
HR: Jed Lowrie (2), David Ortiz (26), Adrian Beltre (22), J.D. Drew – 2 (16)
10W: Darren O’Day (4-2)
2B: David Murphy (16), Andres Blanco (3), Nelson Cruz (21), Bengie Molina (8), Josh Hamilton (37)
3B: David Murphy (1)
HR: Mitch Moreland (1), Michael Young (18), Josh Hamilton (25), Nelson Cruz (16)

August 12, 2010

Jonathan Papel-pas-bon

I wanted to press “delete” on the DVR and pretend today’s game didn’t happen. I didn’t want to see the gut-wrenching loss or the the Blue Jays’ throwbacks.

At least newcomer Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a nifty hitting debut. In the middle game of the series he came in as a defensive replacement for Victor Martinez but didn’t bat. The backstop made the day game start, doubling twice in his four at bats. He also threw out Aaron Hill in the second inning on the Toronto second baseman’s steal attempt, perhaps dispelling the lingering doubts about his defensive shortcomings.

My morbid curiosity got the better of me. I needed visual verification that John Lackey could carry a game into the ninth. After Jose Bautista’s gajillionth home run this season was struck I pressed stop. I imagined I was Terry Francona and I called on Daniel Bard, not Jonathan Papelbon, to finish the game. Boston won 5-3.

Game 116: August 12, 2010
Red Sox
5BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (6, 4-5)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 2 (2), J.D. Drew (22)
3B: Darnell McDonald (2)
HR: Jed Lowrie (1), David Ortiz (25)
WinBlue Jays
6L: Shaun Marcum (10-6)
2B: Yunel Escobar (16), Fred Lewis (29), Adam Lind (19), Vernon Wells (35), Edwin Encarnacion (16)
HR: Jose Bautista (36)

Do It All Hall

Bill Hall helped turn both of Boston’s double plays and homered twice into the second deck. The utility man started off the season ice cold; April’s statistics were a disappointing .192 batting average, .364 on-base percentage, and .231 slugging percentage. Thus far in August Hall has .286 batting average and on-base percentage but sports a .629 slugging rate.

Nearly everyone in the Red Sox lineup was mashing. Even without Hall’s four RBIs his team would have prevailed.

The Blue Jays had no extra base hits and scored their first and only run in the first inning thanks to Travis Snider reaching on Mike Lowell’s error. Snider advanced to second on Yunel Escobar’s sacrifice bunt, got to third on a passed ball to Jose Bautista, and scored on Bautista’s sac fly to right.

Clay Buchholz didn’t allow a Toronto batter past second for the rest of the game. His line wasn’t dazzling (8 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts), but being able to get to the eighth without having to use any of the reliable relievers was a boon to the team.

Dustin Richardson gave up back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth to bottom of the order batters. The rookie escaped the jam with Edwin Encarnacion’s at ’em liner to short. That wasn’t Richardson’s best play, which came in the top of fifth before he even toed the rubber. Adrian Beltre’s three-run longball soared right into Richardson’s outstretched glove hand as he stood up in the visitors’ bullpen podium. Did the greenhorn dare rub his teammate’s head when he gifted Beltre the souvenir?

Game 115: August 11, 2010
WinRed Sox
10W: Clay Buchholz (13-5)
2B: Mike Lowell (7)
3B: Darnell McDonald (1)
HR: Bill Hall – 2 (15), J.D. Drew (14), Adrian Beltre (21)
Blue Jays
1L: Shaun Marcum (10-6)
No extra base hits.

August 11, 2010

Tipping America’s Hat

Daisuke Matsuzaka replaced his first-inning yips with a third-inning meltdown. After the offense had carved out a comfy 4-1 lead the pitcher walked the nine-hole and leadoff hitters back-to-back and then conceded a game-tying bomb to Travis Snider.

Just as the Blue Jays were swinging from their heels so were the Red Sox. J.D. Drew crushed Ricky Romero’s 3-1 offering to the second deck. It landed into the waiting hands of a Toronto fan, a young man who was so excited by his snare he fist-pumped his own catch rather than booed his team falling behind in the score.

Felix Doubront took over in the sixth with two men on and two out, even surviving a misplay by Jed Lowrie at second base to load the bases. Doubront could evade the bases-loaded jam but not the beguiling Jose Bautista, the inexplicable leader in homers in the American League. The outfielder re-knotted the game in the seventh with a leadoff shot off Doubront to left field.

There might be something to the trading deadline mantra that players returning from injury would provide the boost the Red Sox needed, not a deal. It took Kevin Youkilis’s freak thumb injury to do it, but since his return Mike Lowell has mashed two pivotal homers. His eighth-inning blast eluded the grasp of fans in center field and disappeared into the void behind the incandescent scoreboards.

Ryan Kalish pinch hit for Bill Hall and roped a single to center. Jed Lowrie, another returnee, doubled to a spot that the speedy Fred Lewis couldn’t reach, plating Kalish for an insurance run.

I was writing this season’s eulogy when Youkilis was placed on the disabled list. With the impending return of the Laser Show and the Rays’ recent swoon, the Patriots just might not be the only show going on in October.

Bring your glasses.

Game 114: August 10, 2010
WinRed Sox
7BS, W: Felix Doubront (1, 2-2)
H: Manny Delcarmen (8)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (29)
2B: David Ortiz – 2 (24), Adrian Beltre (35), Jed Lowrie – 2 (6)
HR: J.D. Drew (13), Mike Lowell (4)
Blue Jays
5L: Shawn Camp (3-2)
2B: Lyle Overbay (25), Adam Lind (18), Travis Snider (13)
HR: Adam Lind (16), Travis Snider (8), Jose Bautista (35)

August 9, 2010

True Grit in Series Split

As much as I enjoy Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy (they are the best broadcast booth in the American League and all) listening to Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien can be more evocative and informative. Had the Red Sox not had an afternoon game I probably wouldn’t have learned how Ryan Kalish’s parents are ardent Red Sox fans: father Steve is from Brookline and mother Eileen hails from Dorchester.

Kalish tallied his first major league steal in the second inning after scooting a seeing-eye single between first and second. After swiping second he advanced to third on Jorge Posada’s poor throw to the keystone sack. Kalish scored on Bill Hall’s infield single to short, about which Castiglione murmured about Alex Rodriguez’s and Derek Jeter’s diminished ranges. The Red Sox went on to load the bases in the second but the Yankees escaped with just one more run scored against them.

Castiglione mentioned how he and O’Brien shared a taxi with Mike Lowell to the game today. They noted that he is an honest evaluator of players, including himself, and believe that he could make a career in the front office someday. He couldn’t write a glowing report on his 0-for-4 showing, but the numbers don’t show the double that Nick Swisher robbed from him in the second inning.

The box score also doesn’t show Marcus Thames’s near home run in the seventh. Any other Yankee would have scored on the shot that ricocheted just inches from the top of the center field fences, but luckily it was Posada scuttling from first. Jon Lester hit Austin Kearns to load the bases but got Curtis Granderson to strike out.

Daniel Bard took the mound with ducks on the pond and one out and struck out Jeter and Swisher. Somewhere Bill James fondly recalls his concept of relief ace.

While Bard allowed a home run to Mark Teixeira in the eighth and left two runners on with two out, the good Jonathan Papelbon came to play. I wonder what Lowell in the role of a baseball operations employee would say about Papelbon?

Game 113: August 9, 2010
WinRed Sox
2W: Jon Lester (12-7)
H: Daniel Bard (25)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (28)
2B: Victor Martinez (26)
1L: Phil Hughes (13-5)
2B: Marcus Thames (5)
HR: Mark Teixeira (26)

Surely You Josh

And don’t call me Shirley.

Josh Beckett made his bones against the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series as the youthful pitching phenom of the Florida Marlins. He was the MVP of that championship team, pitching two games on three days rest, the second of which was a complete game shutout.

So far in 2010 Beckett has had four starts against the Yankees:

  • April 4: 4⅔ innings pitched, 8 hits, 5 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 home runs
  • May 7: 5⅓ innings pitched, 9 hits, 9 earned runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 home run
  • May 18: 4⅔ innings pitched, 5 hits, 5 runs (3 earned), 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 home run
  • August 8: 4⅔ innings pitched, 11 hits, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 home run
At least he cut down on his bases on balls in his most recent start.

Between Joe Morgan’s incessant, inane babbling and the cannonade of runs in the fifth inning this game was particularly insufferable.

Was the game as intolerable as a sidelined Dustin Pedroia? No, probably not that bad.

In the bottom of the fourth Jon Miller asked Terry Francona what the latest on Pedroia was. “He’s a pain in the ass,” jested Francona. “I don’t know. We have to get him out of the dugout.” A few minutes later John Farrell had the second baseman in a headlock with a hand over Pedroia’s ever-nattering mouth.

Farrell should have been administering such discipline to his own charge.

Game 112: August 8, 2010
Red Sox
2L: Josh Beckett (3-2)
2B: Adrian Beltre (34)
HR: Bill Hall (13)
7W: Dustin Moseley (2-1)
H: Boone Logan (8)
2B: Lance Berkman – 2 (18), Derek Jeter (23)
HR: Mark Teixeira (25)

August 8, 2010

Pinstripes Are Not Slimming

I had chalked this up to a loss even before the first pitch was thrown, but John Lackey pitched competently enough to keep the Yankees to a handful of runs and was supported by perfect innings by Manny Delcarmen and Felix Doubront. When two questionable relievers hold the line in a pressure-packed situation, you hope that the offense will come through and notch a run or two.

The Red Sox shot out to an early lead in the second by virtue of Victor Martinez’s leadoff homer and consecutive doubles by Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell. After the second inning the visiting batters managed a mere four baserunners: singles by Marco Scutaro and Beltre, a base on balls by J.D. Drew, and Darnell McDonald reaching on Ramiro Pena’s error.

Pena filled in at third for Alex Rodriguez. In typical Rodriguez fashion the third baseman was scratched from the game because of a freak injury during batting practice. Rodriguez was too preoccupied saying hi to Joe Buck that he didn’t realize Lance Berkman peppered a ball straight at him. After the strike to the shin Rodriguez was shown rolling on the turf in agony, like Cristiano Ronaldo. X-rays were negative.

The last-minute substitution of Pena only served to fire up the inconsequential infielder. Pena overcame his fifth-inning error to single to right in the sixth to plate his second run of the game.

Scutaro had an error of his own in the first. Nick Swisher was being swisheriffic at first with one out and Mark Teixeira grounded out to Lowell. Lowell touched first and fired to Scutaro to complete the double play. As the force was off Scutaro attempted to throw it back to Lowell to initiate the rundown but ended up Knoblauching it over his first baseman. The flub was not costly.

The Red Sox shortstop made a heady play in the sixth, all but tackling Pena when he tried to advance past the keystone sack on his stolen base attempt. Martinez’s throw slipped by Scutaro but the infielder made sure Pena wouldn’t get any further than second base.

Major league pitchers should not be allowed to name their kids. Roger Clemens’s children all have names that start with “k,” as in strikeout. C.C.’s initials stand for Carsten Charles and his sons are named Carsten Charles III and Carter Charles (born August 5, 2010). His two daughters are named Jaeden Arie and Cyia Cathleen (after Cy Young). Jaeden is either happy to be different or will have years of therapy to cope with that difference.

Game 111: August 7, 2010
Red Sox
2L: John Lackey (10-7)
2B: Adrian Beltre (33), Mike Lowell (6)
HR: Victor Martinez (10)
5W: C.C. Sabathia (14-5)
S: Mariano Rivera (23)
3B: Curtis Granderson (6)

August 7, 2010

Yankee Doodle Do or Die

With two down and the count 3-2 in the first inning David Ortiz tried to bombard Monument Cave with his home run ball, his 21st of the season. In Nouveau Stade Fasciste the open-air museum is protected from onslaught by netting, so circuit clouts no longer bounce impertinently amongst the marble slabs.

The Yankees answered back in the bottom frame of the first with a two-run shot off the bat of Mark Teixeira. The first baseman took advantage of one of the few poor pitches hurled by Clay Buchholz, who notched his 12th victory with his 7⅓ innings, 9 hits, 3 earned runs, and 4 strikeout outing. He can celebrate his win along with the birth of his first child, a daughter he and his wife Lindsay named Colbi, born a mere two days ago.

The visitors took back the lead second. Javier Vazquez, who never looks comfortable against the Red Sox, failed to peel off on Mark Lowell’s infield pop-up to Francisco Cervelli. Vazquez’s battery partner dropped the ball, allowing Lowell to reach first safely and Adrian Beltre to take third. It seemed like Vazquez was trying too hard to make the play himself, as if he had something to absolve himself of, such as Johnny Damon’s grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

The Yankees starter struck out Ryan Kalish on three pitches but then walked Jed Lowrie to load the bases. Vazquez gave up a free pass to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hasn’t been impressive at the dish since his return, to knot the game 2-2. Marco Scutaro mashed a double to left to plate two runs, granting his team a lead they would not relinquish.

Rookie Kalish added to the lead in the sixth by sending his first major league home run into the Yankees’ bullpen. There was no silent treatment on this four-bagger; the team’s injury situation and playoff picture are simply too dire to not revel in such an accomplishment. Now he is a true Red Sox player.

Most of the Yankees and their fans seemed remarkably complacent, satisfied even though their six-game lead was about to be diminished by one. Everyone but Derek Jeter, that is, who fended off 13 pitches to work a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth.

Theo Epstein hasn’t given up on his team, unlike me. He signed left-handed Carlos Delgado to a minor league deal to platoon with Mike Lowell at first. He’s no Lance Berkman, but the low-risk signing might shore up the weakened lineup.

Game 110: August 6, 2010
WinRed Sox
6W: Clay Buchholz (12-5)
H: Daniel Bard (24)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (27)
2B: Adrian Beltre (32), Marco Scutaro (27), J.D. Drew (21)
HR: David Ortiz (21), Ryan Kalish (1)
3L: Javier Vazquez (9-8)
2B: Robinson Cano (21)
HR: Mark Teixeira (24)

August 6, 2010

Remove Helmet, Touch Head

Get your mind out of the gutter, not that head.

I speak of Marco Scutaro and Victor Martinez, the tandem who launched a combination attack on Adrian Beltre’s head after his fourth-inning grand slam. The shortstop trotted up behind Beltre to remove the third baseman’s helmet and catcher massaged Beltre’s melon. As Beltre mans the hot corner he has a fast reaction time, but not even his reflexes could fend off that fiendish duo.

Up until the fourth inning rookie Josh Tomlin was enjoying a perfect game. Scutaro sent a single over the third base bag with one out and Martinez and Drew walked to load the bases. Beltre’s fly ball cleared the Green Monster and the crowd erupted.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has gotten over his first-half inconsistency and first inning jitters at last. In his eight innings on the mound the starter allowed 5 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. That he got to the eighth was particularly beneficial with a four-game series against the Yankees looming.

Even with a 6-1 lead Terry Francona couldn’t guide his team to a win without burning one of best relievers. Hideki Okajima took over in the ninth and struggled to get just one out while allowing Cleveland’s seven-hole hitter Luis Valbuena to drive in a run on a single roped to right. Okajima landed on the disabled list with a calf strain and was replaced on the roster by Felix Doubront.

Jonathan Papelbon inherited runners on first and second and struck out Andy Marte but walked the excitable Shelley Duncan to load the bases. It feels like a coin flip with Papelbon toeing the rubber in such situations; neither a game-tying grand slam nor a dominating whiff would surprise me. This time it was the latter.

Game 109: August 5, 2010
2L: Josh Tomlin (1-1)
2B: Luis Valbuena (7)
HR: Shin-Soo Choo (14)
WinRed Sox
6W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (26)
HR: Adrian Beltre (20)

August 5, 2010

Justin Time to Party Marte

I likened this Red Sox team to a rescued puppy in my last column. Now, imagine bringing home that puppy after he so carelessly captured your heart and finding out a few days later that you had to put him down because he had a congenital defect that would only bring him pain and suffering if he grew out of puppyhood.

In effect that is what Kevin Youkilis’s thumb injury did. His season-ending hand surgery is an insurmountable setback for the Red Sox.

With the loss of this game Boston fell 6½ games behind the Rays and the Yankees, who were tied with an identical record of 67-40. Their ever-diminishing postseason chances hinge upon Mike Lowell and possibly Carlos Delgado. Delgado was born in 1972, the same year as the newly-minted Celtic center Shaquille O’Neal.

What next, is Brett Favre going to take snaps from Dan Koppen?

Two former Red Sox players had their way against Boston. Justin Masterson lasted only 5 innings and surrendered a homer to David Ortiz while striking out 3 and walking 4. Andy Marte lofted a three-run shot into the Monster seats to put the game well out of reach in the seventh.

A face one may have forgotten, Jacoby Ellsbury, started for the first time since April. He was an unimpressive 0-for-5. When Youkilis goes under the knife Ellsbury will miss their thumb-wrestling matches.

Jon Lester was out of sorts: 5 innings pitched, 7 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts. He might have been distracted by the birth of his baby boy. At least this time he went to the hospital for a joyful event.

Game 108: August 4, 2010
9W: Justin Masterson (4-10)
H: Tony Sipp (11), Joe Smith (11)
2B: Shelley Duncan (7)
HR: Jayson Nix (8), Andy Marte (4)
Red Sox
1L: Jon Lester (11-7)
2B: Victor Martinez (24), Kevin Cash (2), Adrian Beltre (31)
HR: David Ortiz (23)

August 4, 2010

Hollywood Lowell

This team is like the sad-eyed puppy at the shelter that you just can’t turn your back on. No matter how pathetic the circumstances, the team musters that irresistible tail-wag, that cloying big-eyed gaze, that spunky growl as it plays tug-of-war with a shredded remnant of fabric.

That tattered cloth may have well been Boston’s playoff hopes, ragged and threadbare. Mike Lowell, activated to replaced the injured Kevin Youkilis, played the tailor in the second inning. Since June 22 Lowell has not faced major league pitching, yet the first pitch he saw he knocked over the Green Monster to give his team a two-run lead. The Fenway faithful didn’t even have time to sit down from their “welcome back” standing ovation; they continued to stand as they cheered Lowell around the bases.

The only runs that scored in this game were by way of the longball. Indians backstop Lou Marson, who took the spot of Carlos Santana, homered in the third to shave Boston’s lead to a single run. Bill Hall responded in the bottom of the fourth with a no-doubter over the left field wall.

Homers weren’t the only fireworks the 37,714 fans enjoyed. As retaliation for Josh Beckett hitting Shelley Duncan and Shin-Soo Choo both David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre had pitches thrown behind them. Choo lolled about on the ground like a soccer player before promptly swiping second, so in the ledger of baseball retaliation that hit by pitch didn’t need to paid back. According to Dennis Eckersley, if Justin Germano couldn’t plunk Ortiz in the rather sizable tuchis, the Indians shouldn’t get another bite at the apple.

Of all players the Indians selected Beltre, who led off the eighth, as a target. Perhaps they were unaware that Beltre singled-handedly wiped out two-thirds of his own outfield and charges teammates who dare muss his hair. Jensen Lewis’s pitch missed Beltre but still cleared the benches.

In the dust-up Beckett got into a highly-charged verbal tussle with Duncan. He was done for the evening so Beckett’s ejection didn’t impact the game. Jensen was also tossed along with visiting third base coach Steve Smith.

It’s rare to see coaches get actively involved in the fray; not everyone administers headlocks à la Tony Cloninger in the 2002 brawl against the Orioles. Smith had some choice words for John Farrell, prompting Terry Francona to shout at Smith with Beckett-like ferocity.

And so that fiesty puppy found a home, yet again.

Game 107: August 3, 2010
1L: David Huff (2-10)
HR: Lou Marson (2)
WinRed Sox
3W: Josh Beckett (3-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (25)
2B: Victor Martinez (23)
HR: Mike Lowell (3), Bill Hall (12)

August 3, 2010

Coup de Grâce

Translated literally, “coup de grâce” means blow of grace or mercy. It refers granting the reprieve of a quick end to suffering of one who is on the verge of death, such as a shot to the head of a prisoner who wasn’t quite finished off by the firing squad. In short, it is the killing stroke, as Kevin Youkilis’s right thumb injury is to Boston’s playoff hopes.

My friend and sports guru asked me, “Guess who texted his teammates and told them he was going to retire?”

My first real guess was Mike Lowell. My second humorous quip was Jacoby Ellsbury, Of course the real answer was Brett Favre, but I feel badly for writing his name. Sports media to Favre is like your brain to “Mambo Number 5.” Once you hear it, it’s impossible to get out of your head.

As entertaining as the thought that the returns of Ellsbury and Mike Lowell might make up for the loss of Youkilis, at some point the beleaguered team and fans have to appeal to the baseball gods as Roberto Duran did to referee Octavio Meyran: “No mas.”

I’m already nostalgic about Adrian Beltre’s inevitable departure. No one else takes out outfielders, swings so viciously as to bring himself to his knee, or attacks teammates who touch his head quite like him. His two homers kept his club’s chances for a victory alive just as his consistent offensive production has sustained the Red Sox’s season.

If only John Lackey signed a contract like Beltre’s. Instead, we have the unspectacular pitcher until 2014. He’ll still be in a Boston uniform when the next Word Cup rolls around.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts doesn’t divulge how long Tim Bogar’s contract with the squad will run, but hopefully the organization has an out clause based on how many outs he gets when he injudiciously sends a runner home. While the third inning hosing of Marco Scutaro could partially be attributed to the shortstop taking a peek behind him, Ryan Kalish’s seventh inning out at home is on Bogar’s wildly waving arm.

Not only were the Red Sox left with a runner at first with two out instead of players at the corners with one out but Indians catcher Carlos Santana was removed from the game on a cart after his collision with Kalish. Knees shouldn’t bend like that, as teams shouldn’t have as many injuries as this. But sometimes they do.

Game 106: August 2, 2010
6W: Fausto Carmona (11-8)
H: Frank Herrmann (6)
S: Chris Perez (13)
2B: Matt LaPorta (12), Jordan Brown (1), Shelley Duncan (6), Trevor Crowe (16)
Red Sox
5L: John Lackey (10-6)
2B: Marco Scutaro (26), Ryan Kalish (1)
HR: Adrian Beltre – 2 (19)

August 2, 2010

The Maim Game

Papelbon, Papelbon, bo-ba-pelbon
Banana-fana, fo-fa-felon
What the f*ck was that?

Clay Buchholz pitched a sterling eight innings and watched the dint of his efforts get hammered into a shape unrecognizable by Jonathan Papelbon. Buchholz left two runners on base, none out, and MVP-candidate Miguel Cabrera at the dish for the closer, so it wasn’t an easy save. But for Papelbon, lately there have been no easy saves.

Cabrera’s inevitable double plated two runners. Papelbon struck out Brennan Boesch, formerly a candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year but slumping of late. Jhonny Peralta, acquired from the Indians, has proved to be a spark plug for the Tigers. The infielder singled up the middle to plate Don Kelly, who Jim Leyland pinch ran for Cabrera.

As ill-advised as it was for Terry Francona to send Buchholz to the mount to attempt to notch the novelty of a complete shutout, it was still smarter than Leyland pulling Cabrera. He must have had supreme confidence two things: Papelbon blowing the lead and Boston’s offense unable to make up the deficit.

Then again, the Red Sox batters failed to get an extra base hit over the course of eight innings, why would Leyland expect differently in the bottom of the ninth?

Jed Lowrie, who had made the error on Will Rhymes’s batted ball that led to the visitors’ three-run rally, led off the bottom frame with an infield single to Peralta. Unlike Marco Scutaro in the seventh, Lowrie ran through first base to maintain his speed and beat out the throw. Even though Lowrie flashed his wheels, Francona opted to pinch run Darnell McDonald for him. Eric Patterson tried mightily to hand Detroit an out on bunt attempts but home plate umpire Dale Scott resolutely called a couple of strikes balls.

With runners on first and second Scutaro laid down a perfect bunt that skidded no more than 10 feet from home plate and equidistant between Peralta and Robbie Weinhardt. In his haste Weinhardt fired the ball past Kelly, allowing McDonald to dash across home for the second walk-off win in a row.

By sweeping the Angels and winning the series against the Tigers, the Red Sox kept their faint playoff hopes alight while extinguishing other clubs’ aspirations.

Although a late-inning comeback is admirable, a few words, as meager as they may be, should be allotted to describe J.D. Drew’s catch of Boesch’s fly ball in the second inning for the first out. Drew, as always, got an early jump and ran a flawless route to ball’s landing spot. He slides only when he needs to and for this play he did. The left fielder glided elegantly along the warning track and popped up with ball in glove, effortlessly as Fred Astaire.

Game 105: August 1, 2010
3L: Brad Thomas (4-1)
2B: Jhonny Peralta (24), Miguel Cabrera (36)
WinRed Sox
4BS, W: Jonathan Papelbon (5, 4-4)
No extra base hits.

August 1, 2010

A Coke and a Smile

The Red Sox got the leadoff hitter on base seven out of nine innings but grounded into three double plays. The home team also ran into a couple of outs, one ill-advised and another unlucky. In the seventh inning with Adrian Beltre on first, none out, and the score 4-0 in favor of the Tigers, Bill Hall tried to stretch a single to left into a double and was hosed at second. In the bottom frame of the next inning Victor Martinez knocked a long single off the left field wall. Beltre followed him with a bloop to shallow right that looked catchable enough that Martinez couldn’t commit to taking second. The ball dropped just out of reach of Brennan Boesch’s glove and the catcher was erased from the basepaths.

Despite Hall’s gaffe his team halved the deficit in the seventh thanks to Ryan Kalish’s first major league run batted in. In the same play he knocked over his first major league umpire when his shattered bat hit Dan Iassogna. He scored his first major league run on Darnell McDonald’s double in the seventh. In his premier major league at bat in the third Kalish led off with a single between first and second, but the rookie’s debut, as sparkling as it was, wouldn’t be the story of the game.

As he did in the ninth inning in the first game of the series, David Ortiz took the box with the bases loaded and his team trailing 4-2 in the seventh. Tigers reliever Ryan Perry deftly threw Ortiz’s timing off with a stream of fastballs punctuated by a change-up that had the designated hitter flailing.

Phil Coke wasn’t as skillful has his bullpen brethren in the ninth, but the reliever had to cope with Jim Leyland’s decision to walk Youkilis, who represented the winning run, to load the bases with Ortiz at the dish. Coke couldn’t get his slider over for a strike so attempted to sneak fastballs past Papi. Ortiz got a hold of a pitch and lined to out of the reach of Don Kelly and Austin Jackson.

The two Tigers outfielders hesitated in their pursuit of Ortiz’s ball, a split-second pause that allowed all three baserunners to score. Ortiz celebrated at the keystone sack and was mobbed by his teammates. Amongst the first to reach him was Hideki Okajima, whose perfect ninth might be a harbinger that his pitching woes are over.

As Theo Epstein was unwilling to pay the exorbitant prices that other general managers were asking for relievers, any positive indicators that the bullpen is back on track would be welcome. Ramon Ramirez was traded away to the Giants; the righty can only benefit from the change of scenery, the pitchers’ park AT&T, and the weaker hitters that populate the senior circuit.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who possesses the longest surname in major league history, was acquired from Texas for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, a player to be named later, and cash considerations. While the trade doesn’t change the balance of power in the AL East, it does provide an insurance policy if the Red Sox and Martinez and Jason Varitek part ways. The Yankees may have acquired a bigger impact player with Lance Berkman, but the Red Sox now have the incumbent longest surname and his potential successor in Seth Schwindenhammer.

Game 104: July 31, 2010
4H: Ryan Perry (11)
BS, L: Phil Coke (2, 6-2)
2B: Jeff Frazier (1), Ramon Santiago (8), Austin Jackson (26)
HR: Miguel Cabrera (26)
WinRed Sox
5W: Hideki Okajima (4-3)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (26), Darnell McDonald (13), Jed Lowrie (4), David Ortiz (22)

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