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Home » Monthly Archive » April 2011

April 30, 2011

Cameron’s Latest Epic

Unlike James Cameron, Mike Cameron didn’t need $2.9 million in cameras to create breathtaking action scenes. The outfielder’s first home run curved around Pesky’s Pole in the second inning to halve the visitors’ lead. His second homer was a blast into the Monster seats to lead off the fourth inning.

The two circuit clouts sandwiched a two-run inning sparked by Adrian Gonzalez’s ground ball single up the middle. Jacoby Ellsbury easily advanced from first to third on the grounder. It was the only time the pair were on the basepaths together, breaking their four-game doubles streak. Kevin Youkilis’s sharply diving liner to left fooled Milton Bradley and plated Ellsbury for the game-tying run. David Ortiz followed with a skipping single through the shift to drive in Youkilis.

With the culinary expertise of Tony Bourdain and the trenchant wit of Dorothy Parker, Heidi Watney continued her gastronomic journey through the concession stands of ballparks across the country. She tasted two sandwich offerings, Fenway’s Turkey Gobbler and the Monster Roast Beef. “Mmm,” she keenly observed. “I like the gobbler because it’s like Thanksgiving in one bite.” Fans can vote for their favorite; the winning sandwich will remain on the menu for the rest of the season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was not as impressive as he was in his previous two outings but when he left in the fifth inning after surrendering a hit to Ichiro Suzuki his team still held a two-run lead. The starter was pulled in due to tightness in his pitching elbow. He’ll be examined today to determine the extent of the injury. Not to tempt fate but the Red Sox have pitchers both in the major league bullpen and down in Pawtucket who can make spot starts. The front office might consider tweaking the bullpen as they shift around the rotation.

Bobby Jenks shaved his bleached blond goatee but he still needs to shave some digits off his 8.64 ERA and 2.16 WHIP. Perhaps the change in facial hair will alter Jenks’s inconsistency and provide the Bruins some reverse mojo.

Game 25: April 29, 2011
WinSeattle Mariners
W: Jason Vargas (1-2)
H: Jamey Wright (7)
S: Brandon League (6)
2B: Chone Figgins (5), Jack Cust (3)
Boston Red Sox
BS, L: Bobby Jenks (1, 1-2)
HR: Mike Cameron – 2 (2)

April 28, 2011

The Gordian Slot

Solving the knotty problem of Rick Dempsey’s garrulousness and Jerry Remy’s absence was Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. The sportswriter amiably provided facts without overwhelming viewers with minutia. All in all Edes filled in quite admirably for Remy.

That is more than can be said for Marco “Scoots” Scutaro. The shortstop was put in the game for his success against Brad Bergerson but went 0-for-4. Scoots also failed on a bunt attempt in the seventh that would have put Carl Crawford, who represented the go-ahead run, 90 feet from home.

Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to second to advance Crawford to third and a different middle infielder came through. Dustin Pedroia nubbed a nasty pitch just hard enough and far enough for Crawford to dash home and break the 3-2 tie.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who like Scutaro lost his starting role, was in the box with ducks on the pond twice in the game. In the sixth he barely missed clearing the bases with a shot to the warning track in center field. But in the eighth the backstop knocked in an insurance run with a grounder up the middle.

Jon Lester notched his third win and extended his winning streak against Baltimore to 14 games, the longest active streak for a pitcher against an organziation. The victory sent the Orioles to the cellar of the AL East and deterred a third road series sweep.

Like the peanut-like pattern in Don Orsillo’s tie Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez are two peanuts in a pod. The duo extended their paired doubles streak in the first inning to four games and gave their team the early lead.

Game 24: April 28, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (3-1)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (6), Adrian Gonzalez – 2 (10), Carl Crawford (4)
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jim Johnson (1-1)
2B: Robert Andino (1)
HR: Vladimir Guerrero (4)

April 27, 2011

My Kingdom for a Hold

This loss not only guaranteed a series loss against a divisional foe but sent the Red Sox to the bottom of the AL East standings. The recently reliable Daniel Bard revisited his early season jitters in the eighth inning. The reliever allowed back-to-back singles to Nick Markakis and Derrek Lee. While pitching to Vladimir Guerrero with two on and two out Jason Varitek was hung with two passed balls. This from a backstop who just handled Tim Wakefield with no problems.

The first passed ball advanced the runners into scoring position while the second resulted in Markakis getting tagged out at home by Bard. Guerrero muscled a single up the middle and made his agonizing jog to first. While he made my every joint ache in sympathy, Lee, another grizzled veteran, scored the go-ahead run.

That run undid Kevin Youkilis’s game-tying circuit clout in the top of the inning. It must have been satisfying to Josh Beckett to see his teammate’s batted ball soar over Luke Scott. Scott had showed Beckett up in the fourth by flipping his bat and Cadillacing around the bases. The Baltimore batter should enjoy his RBIs now because he’ll pay for them with a ball in the ribs in a future at bat against Boston.

Eerily, the Bruins’ fate was entwined with the Red Sox’s. Just a few moments after Adrian Gonzalez plated Jacoby Ellsbury for the first run of the game for the visitors Chris Kelly scored the go-ahead goal for the Bruins. As Bard unraveled Patrice Bergeron was sent to the box for high sticking and P.K. Subban scored the game-tying goal for the Canadiens.

Given the relative stakes of the games a Bruins win was preferable. Perhaps the Red Sox surrendered some of their magic snuggie mojo from Camden Yards to the Garden so that their hockey counterparts could advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Errata: Special thanks to my friend for the title of this column and the screen capture of Don Orsillo’s gray ginghamesque tie. I track extra base hits for each game and I noticed that Ellsbury and Gonzalez have both doubled in three consecutive games. I wonder what the record is for a pair of hitters with consecutive games with doubles? (Paging Elias Sports Bureau.)

Game 23: April 27, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (0-3)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (8), Jacoby Ellsbury (5)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (5)
WinBaltimore Orioles
BS, W: Koji Uehara (1, 1-0)
S: Kevin Gregg (4)
2B: Derrek Lee (3), Adam Jones (2)
HR: Luke Scott (3), Jones (5)

April 26, 2011

Rule, Britton (Yeah)

The Red Sox faced Zach Britton just a few days before the Royal Wedding. Britton… Great Britain… get it?

Catherine Middleton and Prince William’s nuptials are on an entirely different plane from the upcoming ritual. I remember when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married I was nine years old and my family was on a trip in Oklahoma and Texas.

We got to choose our meals on the plane ride. It was the first time I had been in two states at the same time. I was amazed that the sun didn’t set in the ocean.

I don’t think our motel room had cable. All three networks were broadcasting live from St. Paul’s Cathedral. My mom and I lay prone on the bed, heads in our hands, transfixed by Lady Diana’s 25-foot long train. There were no tweets, status updates, live streaming web commentary, or hundreds of channels dissecting every second of the ceremony.

Mom and I won’t be watching Will and Kate’s wedding in person together, but we’ll chat about it over our smartphones, or she’ll send me an e-mail from her iPad, or we’ll write about it on each other’s walls. That would certainly interest her more than me harping on and on about Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz is the New Matsuzaka and Matsuzaka is the Old Buchholz. Maybe they are drawing from the Mystical Pool of Pitching Talent and when one is tapped into the other withers. Perhaps a malicious sorcerer cursed the pair so that when one was the good pitcher the other was bad, like a pitching version of Ladyhawke. Not a bad idea for a movie, actually, and even Buchholz, a part-time musician, could compose a better score than Andrew Powell did for the fantasy classic.

Let’s chalk this loss up to a combination of jetlag, left-handedness, and the lack of the magic snuggie because there was no pre-game show. Don Orsillo’s lavender tie with miniature paisleys was festive but no help. The Red Sox will resume the march to a winning record tomorrow night.

Game 22: April 26, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Clay Buchholz (1-3)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (4), Adrian Gonzalez (7)
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Zach Britton (4-1)
H: Jim Johnson (4)
S: Kevin Gregg (3)
2B: Mark Reynolds (6), Luke Scott (3)

April 24, 2011

Crawford’s Circuit Clout

Carl Crawford slammed his first four-bagger in a Red Sox uniform, a two-run shot in the sixth that cleared the high wall and scoreboard in right. The homer increased Boston’s lead to 6-0.

Some negative Red Sox fans might remark how the home run came with the team’s lead well in hand. To which one could counter with the fact that it was the first home run that Hisanori Takahashi has given up to a southpaw since he entered the big leagues in 2010. Takahashi has had 115 at bats against lefties.

The Red Sox left fielder also singled off Rich Thompson in the eighth inning. His two-hit performance earned him Easter Day MVP honors from Tom Caron, which means he is awarded the coveted Chocolate Bunny. Jim Rice gave an oration on par with his Hall of Fame acceptance speech when he stood in for his fellow left fielder.

John Lackey was highly motivated after getting skipped in the rotation. “It pissed me off, yeah,” he said. I think I finally figured out why Lackey is so unpleasant. He is one of those pitchers that hate everyone and everything else and is extremely competitive. Someone like Bob Gibson, who was quoted in Roger Angell’s The Summer Game, “I’ve played a couple of hundred games of tic-tac-toe with my little daughter and she hasn’t beaten me yet. I’ve always had to win. I’ve got to win.” The problem with Lackey is that he assumes Gibson’s attitude with one-twentieth of the talent.

It’s hard to imagine, but Gibson was a Harlem Globetrotter. He attended Creighton on a baseball and basketball scholarship and his skills in the latter sport earned the attention of the famed exhibition team. His Globetrotter nickname was “Bullet,” which was probably quite apt. I can picture him beaning basketballs off Washington Generals’ heads replacing his on the mound scowl with a threatening grin.

In other Boston sports news the Celtics were the Globetrotters to the New York City Knickerbockers’ Generals, sweeping the hapless team on their home court. Time for front-running Big Apple fans to latch back onto the Yankees.

For Easter Don Orsillo was attired in a sprightly light green and gray tie. The movable feast of resurrection coincidentally occurred with the Red Sox rebirth on the road.

Game 21: April 24, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (2-2)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (3), Adrian Gonzalez (6)
HR: Carl Crawford (1)
Los Angeles Angels
L: Matt Palmer (1-1)
No extra base hits

As Advertised

Daisuke Matsuzaka could have had a no-hitter last night. Alberto Callaspo, the last out of Jon Lester’s no-hitter against the Royals on May 19, 2008, scorched a comebacker right at Matsuzaka’s head in the second inning. The starter narrowly avoided the baseball and had the presence of mind to try to catch it with his glove hand. The ball deflected to Jed Lowrie who, as amazing as he is, couldn’t get to Adrian Gonzalez’s glove in time. It was the only hit Matsuzaka surrendered in his eight-inning outing. Thus Callaspo is a footnote in two superb Red Sox pitching performances.

After his dismal April 11 start it seemed unlikely that Matsuzaka could pitch a quality start let alone live up to his pricey posting fee and contract. But his last two outings were comparable to Pedro Martinez. Matsuzaka is the first Boston pitcher since Martinez in 2002 to pitch consecutive shutouts of seven innings or more.

The two newest batters contributed to the visitors’ run total. From the eighth slot Carl Crawford knocked in the first run of the game in the second inning. His liner up the middle kicked off Erick Aybar’s glove, allowing Lowrie to score. Crawford also doubled in the sixth and scored on Jason Varitek’s double. In the third inning Adrian Gonzalez shot a single into right field to plate Jacoby Ellsbury.

Kevin Youkilis wasn’t badly hurt when he fouled a ball off his left shin this past Thursday. But he still decided to launch a homer in the fifth inning with Ellsbury on base so that he wouldn’t have to run on his tender leg.

The Red Sox are finally playing up to their preseason promise. The are just three games from a winning record and three and half games behind the AL East-leading Yankees.

Although the Red Sox scored five runs there were a surprising number of 1-2-3 innings by the visiting batters. Coincidentally or not they happened during the Bruins overtime period. Like their cross-town counterparts the Bruins were victorious Saturday.

NESN cameras captured Tom Brady watching the game from an Angel Stadium luxury box. That’s one way to relax while you’re filing a lawsuit against the NFL. Don Orsillo (with a snazzy lavender and gray striped tie) and Jerry Remy couldn’t lure him to the booth. Too bad — Remy could have tried to insert himself in an uncroppable position.

Game 20: April 23, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2)
2B: Jed Lowrie (4), Carl Crawford (3), Jason Varitek (1)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (4)
Los Angeles Angels
L: Ervin Santana (0-3)
No extra base hits

April 23, 2011

Falling Angels

When Boston came to town the Angels were in the catbird seat of the AL West. After two games the home team found themselves trailing the Rangers for divisional supremacy. But in terms of ascendancy in the Los Angeles area the Angels have surpassed the Dodgers in team management. The McCourts’ derelict ownership of one of the gems of baseball has prompted Bud Selig to announce that the league oversee the team.

Both Frank and Jamie McCourt used the franchise as their personal piggy bank even though the purchase was financed by debt. The Dodgers are weathering a series of setbacks: their owners are embroiled in acrimonious divorce proceedings, the McCourts shackled the organization with $433 million in debt (as of September 2010), and an attendee was viciously attacked on Dodger Stadium premises and to this day remains in a medically induced coma.

The worst that could happen at Angel Stadium is someone spilling a latte on you unintentionally. An overzealous Angels fan might yell in your general direction loudly if he looks up from his iPhone long enough to get his cue from the Jumbotron.

Unlike the McCourts Arte Moreno reaches out to the homeless community. Just last night they dressed up an itinerant man in authentic home whites and had him throw out the first pitch. Oh, wait — that was Dan Haren.

Haren has been pitching a notch below Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. His first two innings were perfect and the third was shaping up to be another 1-2-3 affair until Jarrod Saltalamacchia shot a double that Torii Hunter inexplicably failed to snare. The catcher seemed to pull up lame but stayed in the game to advance on Marco Scutaro’s sac fly and score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double down the right field line.

Jon Lester got two more runs to work with in the fourth. Jed Lowrie (name spoken in appropriately hushed tones) earned a two-out walk and advanced to third on J.D. Drew’s ground ball double to right. Carl Crawford arced a ball between three Angels, rookie Peter Bourjos, Hunter, and Howie Kendrick. Bourjos called off his teammates but then dropped the ball. Lowrie and Drew scored on the miscue.

In the sixth Lowrie powered a fly ball to left that glided over Vernon Wells’s glove. The official scorer was wary of giving Lowrie the chance at the cycle and ruled the play a double and an error. Drew singled up the middle and Lowrie scored again, a run that loomed large with the Angels’ late-inning rally.

With Daniel Bard unavailable Matt Albers and Bobby Jenks were put into service to be the bridge between Lester and Jonathan Papelbon. Albers surrendered a run when Ellsbury couldn’t glove Jeff Mathis’s shallow fly ball and the Jenks Jinx reared its bleached blond facial hair. But somehow the rotund reliever got Maicer Izturis to tap out to Dustin Pedroia for the final out of the inning.

While similar to April 12th’s accessory, Don Orsillo’s dark blue and white tie with parquet-like design had a bolder, more defined pattern.

Game 19: April 22, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (2-1)
H: Bobby Jenks (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (5)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2), J.D. Drew (2), Jacoby Ellsbury (2)
Los Angeles Angels
L: Dan Haren (4-1)
2B: Peter Bourjos (5), Howie Kendrick (4)

April 22, 2011

Better Late

Perhaps inspired by the astounding comeback victory by the Bruins against the Canadiens the Red Sox rallied in the eleventh inning to beat the AL West-leading Angels. I tried very hard to stay awake for the end of the game, but the last thought I had before I drifted off to sleep was, “When I wake up I’m going straight to the MLB site and see the results of this game.”

Had Josh Beckett sustained a no-hitter I would have fought drowsiness to witness all the oblique references to the potential momentous performance: the camera panning across the scoreboard to linger on the runs, hits, and errors column, shots of Beckett alone in the dugout, Don Orsillo cryptically mentioning how many previous baserunners there were. Up until the sixth the count would have been one: Maicer Izturis led off the fourth with a nine-pitch base on balls.

Perhaps Erick Aybar was motivated by the Red Sox scoring in the top of the sixth or maybe he just wanted to avoid the no-hitter. The shortstop chopped a single high off the plate, so high that by the time Beckett gloved the ball he couldn’t have fired in first in time for the out. Jason Varitek, who will now see more time behind the plate because he seems to coax better pitching out his battery mates and because Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat hasn’t had much of an impact, missed the opportunity to increase his record for no-hitters caught. There is no other active catcher with more than three no-hitters under his chest protector.

The Red Sox had a two-run lead from the sixth thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury’s looper to shallow right that plated David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie. Ortiz reached on a leadoff walk and Lowrie lined a single to left. Both were moved over by Carl Crawford’s sacrifice bunt, a somewhat dispiriting thing to see out of one of the key off-season acquisitions.

Torii Hunter tied the game in the seventh with a towering two-run shot over the center field fences that had Ellsbury clambering half-way up the wall.

For just the second time this year Orsillo wore a paisley tie. His April 11 tie was on the scene for the Sam Fuld fiasco. His beige little brother witnessed this season’s first extra innings contest and saw Adrian Gonzalez’s go-ahead double roped to right. J.D. Drew scored and was followed by Dustin Pedroia on Lowrie’s bases loaded sac fly to center.

Pedroia was a party to plays inversely proportional to his size. The second baseman was the cutoff man in the eighth when Aybar tried to stretch his double to right to a triple. Pedroia scored the insurance by avoiding an untimely out at the hot corner. He was caught off third base by Izturis but evaded the third baseman’s tag. It appeared he eluded a tag and injury in the third inning; replay showed he was caught stealing and his play for the rest of the game proved the latter.

Kevin Youkilis was pulled in his second at bat because of a foul ball off the shin. Fortunately the third baseman’s x-rays came back negative. The last thing this under-performing team needs is a spate of injuries.

Game 18: April 21, 2011 ∙ 11 innings
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Bobby Jenks (1-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (4)
2B: David Ortiz (3), Adrian Gonzalez (5)
Los Angeles Angels
L: Rich Thompson (0-1)
2B: Erick Aybar (4)
HR: Torii Hunter (4)

April 20, 2011

First Road Win

It only took seven tries for the Red Sox to garner their first victory on the road. There are worse repeat offenders: Larry King has had eight wives, Zsa Zsa Gabor married nine times, and Floridians have put Bill Young in the House of Representatives 21 times.

Coco Crisp unveiled a few firsts of his own. His first home run of the season was his team’s first run of the game. It came in the first inning on the first pitch he saw.

Clay Buchholz didn’t let the instant score derail him completely. He only had one clean inning and allowed 10 runners to reach base (six hits and 4 walks), but like Frank McCourt with the Dodgers the Athletics failed to capitalize on their opportunities.

The visitors tied the score in the second with a string of singles: Kevin Youkilis’s leadoff line drive to right, Marco Scutaro’s rope to right, and Carl Crawford’s liner into center erased Oakland’s lead. Youkilis led off the fourth with a soaring fly ball to left-center. Before it landed Gio Gonzalez slapped his glove against the mound in disgust.

The forecast called for rain with occasional bursts of Red Sox homers. Jed Lowrie precipitated another round of Jack Baueresque hyperboles with his two-run shot in the sixth. J.D. Drew added to the downpour in the seventh with his first four-bagger of the season.

The reservoir of runs proved necessary when Bobby Jenks toed the rubber for a tension-filled two-thirds of an inning. Crisp shone against his former team again by driving in a run in the eighth. Jenks was in a pickle with bases loaded and one out when he struck out Daric Barton. Jonathan Papelbon was called to get Jenks out of the brine.

Don Orsillo’s tie looked like Game 13’s tie turned 45 degrees.

Game 17: April 20, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (1-2)
H: Daniel Bard (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (3), Jed Lowrie (3), J.D. Drew (1)
Oakland Athletics
L: Gio Gonzalez (2-1)
2B: Mark Ellis (7), Ryan Sweeney (2)
HR: Coco Crisp (1)

Crop, Copy and Paste, Clone

I’m old enough to have taken a typing class in college and to have been amazed by one-hour film processing. Don Orsillo’s penchant for cropping Jerry Remy out of his photographs was jokingly brought up by the color analyst. Remy should start standing in between the dignitary in question and force Orsillo to learn advanced Photoshop skills.

I also remember being taught the copy and paste function in Unix and having to relearn the process in graphical interfaces. Unfortunately Jed Lowrie couldn’t cut and paste his previous performances into this game; the hot hitter went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, both of them coming against Brett Anderson. Also, did Orsillo copy and paste his tie from Opening Day with the tie he wore on April 18? I can’t quite tell if the stripes are the same width.

Can Anderson be cloned and placed into the Red Sox team photo? The southpaw had a dominant outing: 8 innings pitched, 4 hits, no runs, 1 base on balls, 8 strikeouts.

Game 16: April 19, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (1-2)
No extra base hits
WinOakland Athletics
W: Brett Anderson (1-1)
2B: Mark Ellis (6), Cliff Pennington (1), Hideki Matsui (5)

April 18, 2011

Lowrie’s Seasoned Salt

My mom always had a jar of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt in the cupboard to quickly add zest to hamburgers or pork chops. In much the same way Jed Lowrie adds zing to the Red Sox; it’s not a coincidence that since Lowrie has been inserted in the lineup home cooking has been tastier. Today Lowrie put Sam Fuld to shame with a 4-for-5 outing, sprinkling in four runs batted with a splash of two-run home run for good measure.

Terry Francona exploited Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero’s vulnerability to J.D. Drew by slotting the right fielder into the leadoff slot. The move also gave Carl Crawford some relief from the pressure of batting first. Drew led off the game with a triple that nearly cleared the center field wall and went on to score the first run of the game.

Kevin Youkilis also just missed a homer when he hammered the ball of the top of the home bullpen’s wall in the bottom of the third but easily lofted the ball over the visitors’ bullpen wall in the sixth. His 114th home run further padded the lead to 7-0 and equally split his roundtrippers to 57 at Fenway and 57 on the road, appropriate for such a balanced hitter. Youkilis displayed personality outside of getting pissed off at umpires’ ball and strike calls and staring down pitchers that buzz him inside in the seventh inning. Adam Lind carved a ball high into the Fenway jet stream to shallow left. Youkilis backed up for it and tumbled towards his left as he desperately tried to track its progress through the swirling wind. He gloved the ball, hit the ground, and barely stopped the ball from toppling to the turf. It’s not quite warm enough for snow cones but Youkilis served the Blue Jays a fresh one anyway.

All the offensive support would have been for naught had Daisuke Matsuzaka repeated his previous performance, but the starter hurled an outstanding 7 innings with 1 hit, 1 base on balls, no runs, and 3 strikeouts. He had a run of 16 batters out in a row. Francona wisely pulled Matsuzaka before Toronto batters could get to him, reestablishing the fifth starter’s self-confidence and perhaps allowing the fans to believe in him again as well.

Another player that may have reversed his fortunes was Crawford. From the seventh spot the left fielder was 1-for-5, but his hit clanged high off the left field wall and drove in a run, his first RBI since April 3 and his first extra base hit since April 11. Then again, it may have been Lowrie’s mere presence on the base paths that powered Crawford’s sixth inning double.

Before they jet off for their first trip to the Left Coast the Red Sox wrapped up their wrap-around series with a tidy three-game winning streak. Boston is still in last place in the AL East, but this homestand has shown that this team can play up to the lofty expectations most everyone had for them.

Game 15: April 18, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
L: Ricky Romero (1-2)
HR: Yunel Escobar (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-2)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (5), Carl Crawford (2), Adrian Gonzalez (4)
3B: J.D. Drew (1)
HR: Jed Lowrie (2), Youkilis (2), Jacoby Ellsbury (4)

April 17, 2011


So this is what a winning streak feels like. It’s only two games, but that’s how a longer streak begins. Although 2011 hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far and Boston is 4-4 against teams in the AL East, the team has assured itself of at least a split in this four-game series against the Blue Jays.

While one player of derision, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, put together a decent game (2-for-4 with three runs batted in and no strikeouts), Carl Crawford was 0-for-4 out of the leadoff spot. The left fielder even tried to bunt to get on base in the fifth inning. His misplay of Corey Patterson’s third-inning fly ball didn’t lead to any runs but did inspire a sarcastic cheer when he successfully caught Adam Lind’s can of corn to lead off the next inning.

Hub fans are being unreasonably impatient with Crawford, but the outfielder has been impetuous in the box. Only once did Crawford see five pitches and in his final at bat he tapped the first pitch into the waiting glove of the pitcher. He has a whiff of Edgar Renteria about him, but the tension of Fenway shouldn’t be a huge surprise to him as it was for that ill-fated infield acquisition. Crawford should eventually turn it around, but it will never be soon enough for Red Sox Nation.

If the scuffling start weren’t enough one of the team’s best starters was nearly impaled with a shattered bat in the third. Like a character in a Wachowski brothers movie Jon Lester deftly avoided a shard of Yunel Escobar’s bat as it spiraled towards him. Behind him Jed Lowrie gathered the ball and initiated a 6-4-3 double play.

Lowrie wasn’t quite as successful in the seventh. He tried to unnecessarily Jeter (redundant?) a throw across the diamond on J.P. Arencibia’s grounder, airmailing even over Adrian Gonzalez’s reach. He then bobbled a room service double play ball off Travis Snider’s bat, chasing Lester from the game.

Daniel Bard took over for Lester and Juan Rivera clubbed a liner right to Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia tossed the ball to Gonzalez to complete the double play, inciting Jerry Remy to (rightfully) unleash an old man rant about kids these days. Snider took a secondary lead off of first despite his team trailing by five runs. The additional distance made it possible for the twin killing.

Get off Jerry Remy’s lawn, you whippersnappers!

Game 14: April 17, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
L: Jesse Litsch (1-1)
2B: Jose Bautista (1), Corey Patterson (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (1-1)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (3)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (3)

Jim Rice’s Magical Snuggie

In contrast to another one of Don Orsillo’s staid ties (black grid punctuated with light gray rectangles), Jim Rice covered himself in a garish but ultimately lucky Snuggie (marketed as the Comfy Throw and available for $24.99 at the official online shop). Spurred on by the tremendous spirit embodied in Rice’s blanket, “Dirty Water” echoed through Fenway Park for just the third time this season.

Jed Lowrie leading off and going 3-for-5 with his first home run of 2011 might have something to do with it. Josh Beckett’s 7 commanding innings with 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 9 whiffs figured into the mix. Shutdown appearances by Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in support of their starter didn’t hurt, and neither did solid defensive play by Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Mike Cameron.

Cameron ended the game by gloving a fly ball off the bat of Travis Snider while sliding perilously close to the left field stands. A misplay by Cameron would have allowed Aaron Hill, who advanced twice on defensive indifference, to score and potentially spark a rally. Cameron has adjusted well to his role as a platoon player and will hopefully mentor Carl Crawford as the newest left fielder attempts to acclimate himself to the quirky corners of his new field. If there’s anyone that can loosen up the squad it’s Cameron, who photobombed a fan trying to get a picture with David Ortiz.

Gonzalez needs no instructor to help him field his position. As good as Kevin Youkilis was at first base, Gonzalez natural acumen is a wonder to witness. He robs extra base hits down the line and smothers grounders before they skip into the outfield as a matter of course, but as the tail-end of relays he picks throws out of the dirt and stretches to snare off-target tosses. The beauty of a first baseman is not only in his individual contributions but how he erases the errors of his teammates.

At last, an enjoyable outcome to a game. What made it even more amusing to me is NESN’s microphone picking up a beer vendor’s question in the bottom of the second: “Who likes beer?”

Game 13: April 16, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
L: Jo-Jo Reyes (0-2)
2B: Aaron Hill (3)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (2-1)
H: Daniel Bard (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (4)
HR: Jed Lowrie (1)

April 16, 2011

Jenks Jinx

The Red Sox ruined what should have been a celebratory day for two significant reasons: Jackie Robinson Day and the announcement of Adrian Gonzalez’s seven-year, $154 million dollar contract extension.

As Daisuke Matsuzaka had a few days before, Clay Buchholz almost put his team in the hole early in the game. With two men on Adam Lind launched a fly ball to right field that somehow found the top of the wall between Pesky’s Pole and the foul line painted on the right field wall padding. There is a third yellow line below the padding that is painted on to the wall. At first Paul Nauert ruled the shot a home run but after booth review the crew determined it was a foul ball. Lind ended up grounding out to second and Buchholz was spared a three-run roundtripper marring his line.

Nothing in Fenway Park’s ground rules address this specific gap and there is no further guidance from the league’s universal ground rules. John Farrell seemed to be arguing for a ground-rule double, but the umpires considered anything to the right of the pole foul even if it happened to bounce off the top of the wall to the left of the line on the padding.

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were amazed that the two lines and the pole were not aligned. I can see their point regarding the lines, but I imagine a survey team was brought in to demarcate the boundaries based on trajectories from home plate. From other vantage points the foul lines seem meandering, but from the dish they should be correct. Given the confusion, however, it might be time to update Fenway’s ground rules, especially since they still reference the screen above the left field wall.

It also might be time for Terry Francona to take an eraser to his lineup. Regulars Carl Crawford, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jacoby Ellsbury are mired in on-base percentages under .300. These are solvable problems and probably temporary. Francona needs to stop with the tee ball approach to building a lineup and start having some of his players ride pine.

Bobby Jenks had an aberrant outing when his team least needed it. The one time where the starting pitching didn’t give away the game and enough bats were making contact the relief corps failed. Jenks gave up four runs in the seventh when his team was knotted 3-3 with the Blue Jays.

Of course Orsillo was marveling over Jenks’s preceding four innings of hitless ball. Were the thin-striped light and dark blue tie and sky blue shirt a tribute to Jackie Robinson or to Toronto?

Game 12: April 15, 2011
WinToronto Blue Jays
W: Brett Cecil (1-1)
H: Casey Janssen (1)
S: Jon Rauch (3)
2B: Travis Snider (2)
3B: Corey Patterson (1)
Boston Red Sox
BS: Alfredo Aceves (1)
L: Bobby Jenks (0-1)
2B: Marco Scutaro (2)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (2), Kevin Youkilis (1)

April 12, 2011

The Price Was Right

Even though the Red Sox out-slugged the Rays in tonight’s game, the visitors knocked their singles with runners on base. Jon Lester allowed four singles in the fifth and three runs scored as a result.

One the other side of the ball Darnell McDonald kicked off the third inning with a solo homer off the Sports Authority sign, Dustin Pedroia led off the sixth with a double (his first hit off David Price), and Jed Lowrie smacked two doubles. The problem was that only one of Lowrie’s doubles came with a man on base.

Joe Maddon is often painstaking about defensive positioning and that diligent attention to detail seemed to work in his team’s favor. His infielders hardly needed to move from their spots as Red Sox batters scorched balls right into their gloves.

Aside from McDonald’s home run the highlights were few and far between. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy joked about Kevin Youkilis’s hooking foul ball and threw in a Charlie Sheen reference. Sure, Sheen is so March 2011, but credit should be given to the straight-laced Orsillo and curmudgeon Remy for keeping current.

Orsillo’s tie resembled the cell walls of plants but obviously lacked chlorophyll. David Mellor, head groundskeeper, could help him out with that now that he is done revamping Fenway’s infield. DuraEdge™, Heidi Watney explained, is like marbles and that somehow will keep the infield dry when it rains but won’t clump. Like her mascara, I suppose.

Watney also congratulated Jarrod and Ashley Saltalamacchia on the birth of their as yet unnamed daughter. Perhaps the impending birth was occupying the catcher’s mind while he was on his field — he is batting below the Mendoza line and the Red Sox staff has the worst earned run average in the league. Here’s hoping that Watney doesn’t become a distraction to yet another catcher.

Game 11: April 12, 2011
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: David Price (1-2)
H: Joel Peralta (1)
S: Kyle Farnsworth (2)
No extra base hits
Boston Red Sox
L: Jon Lester (0-1)
2B: Jed Lowrie – 2 (2), Dustin Pedroia (4)
HR: Darnell McDonald (1)

April 11, 2011

Do Not Fuld, Bend, Spindle, or Mutilate

Don Orsillo was attired in an academic tweed jacket accented by a professorial paisley tie. Appropriate, because the Red Sox were schooled by the Rays in a 16-5 blowout.

Sam Fuld, who, in case you hadn’t heard, is from New Hampshire, had a stupendous game. In front of 30 of his family and friends the left fielder went 4-for-6 with three runs and three runs batted in. His home run to right field might have been aided by a fan — or was it one of Fuld’s flock? He could have joined B.J. Upton and became the second Rays player to hit for the cycle when he laced a liner into left in the ninth inning. All he needed to do was pull up at first base and make his place in the history books.

Coming from Durham, New Hampshire, Fuld was raised a Red Sox fan and was of course steeped in the club’s tradition his entire life. In the omnibus of the epic of baseball to be an entry in a Tampa Bay page wasn’t worth the potential slugging percentage points that would be at issue at Fuld’s next arbitration hearing. This is something that Fuld, holder of an economics degree from Stanford, wouldn’t dismiss.

Fuld also robbed Dustin Pedroia of an extra base hit in the bottom of the fifth, right after Carl Crawford lofted a ground-rule double into the emptied Red Sox bullpen. The bullpen was vacated because Daisuke Matsuzaka’s talent has yet to return from vacation. Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, and Dan Wheeler pitched for seven innings combined since the starter couldn’t get out of the third with an out.

In another sign of the Soxpocalypse, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz tripled in the same game. Hopefully they pass on tips to Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury about how to unleash their speed when on the basepaths.

Game 10: April 11, 2011
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: Jeremy Hellickson (1-1)
2B: Ben Zobrist – 2 (4), John Jaso – 2 (2), Sam Fuld – 2 (4)
3B: Fuld (1)
HR: John Damon (2), Fuld (1)
Boston Red Sox
L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2)
2B: Carl Crawford (1), Kevin Youkilis (3)
3B: Adrian Gonzalez (1), David Ortiz (1)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (2)

April 10, 2011

Home Free

Alex Rodriguez was scratched from the lineup, an absence that Josh Beckett would appreciate. The third baseman has an impressive line against Beckett: .286 batting average, .365 on-base percentage, and .518 slugging percentage in the 56 at bats they have squared off against each other.

Looking over the splits the Yankees in general have hit Beckett well, but the starter bucked the trend in the series finale. The righty was reminiscent of his 2003 self that won the World Series MVP. Beckett had the second quality start by a Red Sox starter: 8 innings pitched, 2 hits, no runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts. If starts were graded like beef, Beckett’s would only be available at fine restaurants.

Of course it was the sparkplug of the team, Dustin Pedroia, who scored the first run. Pedroia led off the third with a single up the middle and scrambled to third on Adrian Gonzalez’s rope to right. Kevin Youkilis walked to load the bases.

Then David Ortiz grounded out to Robinson Cano. The Yankees second baseman relayed to Derek Jeter, who had no problem completing the double play with a toss to Mark Teixeira. Pedroia seemed to score on the twin killing, but second base umpire Mark Wegner applied the letter of the law to Youkilis’s take-out slide and made Pedroia return to third. Fortunately for Wegner, Pedroia was driven in by Mike Cameron’s infield single to Eric Chavez. Rodriguez’s replacement bobbled the ball and couldn’t throw it across the diamond in time for the final out.

Ironically, it was probably Nick Swisher’s collision with Tsuyoshi Nishioka on April 7 that prompted Wegner’s call. Nishioka will miss three to four weeks with a fracture of the fibula.

Another incident that may have influenced Wegner was a tangle between former Red Sox player Bill Hall and former Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez on Friday. The Mariners meted out justice today when reliever Edward Mujica drilled Hall in their series finale in Houston.

But the Astros and Marlins have only one more series against each other. The Red Sox and Yankees have 16 more games. As tempted as Joba Chamberlain was to drill Youkilis in the bottom of the sixth, with the score 1-0, the bases loaded, and two out, he didn’t. Chamberlain can return to his head-hunting ways next series — provided he is still in the majors.

It’s one thing to turn a double play with Ortiz trucking down the first base line, but Pedroia turned a stunning double play in the third with the speedy Brett Gardner in the box. Pedroia chased down Gardner’s batted ball, dashed to second with Chavez bearing down on him, and then pivoted on the sack using it to propel his throw to first.

The home team had loaded the bases two times and had a single run to show for it. Marco Scutaro finally came through with a two-RBI double to left in the seventh with ducks on the pond and one out.

Ortiz tacked on another run in the eighth, plating Youkilis with a double to the triangle. Jonathan Papelbon took out his anger about not pitching in a save opportunity against the Yankees, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

Perhaps this game will convert the boy in this video. If not, we don’t need him.

Game 9: April 10, 2011
New York Yankees
L: CC Sabathia (0-1)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (1-1)
2B: Marco Scutaro (1), David Ortiz (2)

Home Wreckers

The elation caused by Boston’s lone win on Friday evaporated like self-tanner off Cameron Diaz’s shoulders on Saturday. Twice the Red Sox came within a run of the Yankees but the home team went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Such a paucity of timely hitting by the local nine combined with the power of New York’s bats and relievers equaled another notch in the loss column for the team that most experts said were going to reach if not win the World Series.

Despite Clay Buchholz’s two consecutive dismal starts the starter signed a four-year contract extension worth approximately $30 million. It was similar to Jon Lester’s extension but Buchholz’s contract has two team options compared to Lester’s single team option. Buchholz has already surrendered more than half (5) the homers he gave up the entire season last year (9).

The Red Sox pitching staff has given up 19 home runs, the most round-trippers in 2011 for any team. The Toronto Blue Jays, the team where former Boston pitching coach John Farrell is now skipper, has only four home runs against its staff. Along with this departure Jason Varitek is no longer the full-time catcher with Jarrod Saltalamacchia installed as the starting backstop. It would be difficult if not impossible to quantify the impact of these two changes separately or in conjunction with each other as such corollaries do not figure into even the most assiduous sabermetrician’s equations.

Like a laser pointer punctuating a tedious business presentation Dustin Pedroia’s three doubles were the only bright spot in a dreary game. The second baseman led off the third with a grounder that hugged the third base line all the way to the left field corner and scored by two consecutive ground outs. He drove in two more runs in the fourth with a two-bagger over Curtis Granderson’s head to the base of the wall in center field. He led off the ninth with his third double of the day but was stalled at third when Luis Ayala induced a double play off the bat of David Ortiz to end the game.

Pedroia made a Gold Glove-caliber stop in the top of the sixth, ranging to his left and stabbing at Mark Teixeira’s sharp grounder before it skipped into left field for a single. His highlight reel play at least kept his counterpart Robinson Cano’s monster homer later that inning to a solo score.

All this from a guy not much taller than Ken Rosenthal.

Game 8: April 9, 2011
WinNew York Yankees
W: David Robertson (1-0)
2B: Robinson Cano (4), Eric Chavez – 2 (2)
HR: Russell Martin – 2 (3), Curtis Granderson (2), Robinson Cano (2)
Boston Red Sox
L: Clay Buchholz (0-2)
2B: Dustin Pedroia – 3 (3)

April 8, 2011

Home Is Where I Want to Be

Pick me up and turn me round. With his signature corkscrew swing Dustin Pedroia rocked Phil Hughes’s lazy change-up into the first row of the Monster seats. The inaugural home run in the first game at Fenway in 2011 only brought the Red Sox within a run of the lead as John Lackey didn’t start particularly sharp.

I feel numb, born with a weak heart. Lackey allowed at least one run in every inning of the five he pitched. But when trying to outrun a zombie you need only be faster than someone else, and Hughes was that other guy.

I guess I must be having fun. Particularly in the second inning when the Red Sox scored as many runs in one inning as they did in three games in Cleveland. J.D. Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in consecutive singles to start the inning and Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz singled after two RBI ground outs.

The less we say about it the better. Make it up as we go along. But Lackey was lacking and his team’s 6-3 lead melted like snow in spring. Amongst the Red Sox and Yankee starters and swing man Bartolo Colon the latter pitched the best. Here’s where the pitching statistics wins and losses show how poorly they correlate with performance: Lackey got the win with a line of 5 innings pitched, 7 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, and 2 whiffs while Colon the loss with 4⅓ innings pitched, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 base on balls, and 5 strikeouts. Meanwhile Hughes went unscathed despite 2 innings pitched, 7 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, and no punchouts.

Feet on the ground. Head in the sky. Saltalamacchia saved his battery mate by thumping a double off the wall with two on and two out in the fifth. With a slim one-run lead Gonzalez led off the seventh by bunting with the shift on. The tactic worked well: Ortiz doubled off the wall and Drew plated Gonzalez and Ortiz. In a race between the Nazca Plate, the Red Sox first baseman, and the designated hitter, continental drift has a chance of winning.

It’s okay I know nothing’s wrong. Nothing. Four relievers, Alberto Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon combined for four innings of scoreless ball.

Hi yo. I got plenty of... ties. Don Orsillo’s robin’s egg blue (or is it sky blue?) mini-check tie mirrored the vibrant spring sky. I wonder, if Carl Yastrzemski told Orsillo he didn’t like it how quickly Announcer Boy would take it off? Larry Lucchino swiftly removed his green Red Sox cap when Yaz expressed his displeasure at the hat.

Game 7: April 8, 2011
New York Yankees
L: Bartolo Colon (0-1)
2B: Robinson Cano – 2 (3), Curtis Granderson (1), Brett Gardner (1)
3B: Gardner (1)
HR: Alex Rodriguez (3)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (1-1)
H: Alfredo Aceves (1), Bobby Jenks (1), Daniel Bard (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1), David Ortiz (1)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (1)

April 7, 2011

The Devil is Six

Yesterday I said I wasn’t concerned. Now yesterday seems so far away and yes, I do need a place to hide away.

But I don’t believe that yesterday or today, or any of the days since April 1, are indicative of what this team is capable of. Which makes this losing streak all the more baffling.

Fausto Carmona was battered by the Pale Hose for 10 runs over three innings just last week. Today he two-hit what was supposed to be one of the most potent lineups in the league. The Red Sox were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

Jon Lester turned in the starting rotation’s only quality start of the season thus far: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 walks, and 9 strikeouts. Behind Lester’s stellar start were a number of dazzling defensive gems.

To start the fourth inning Adrian Gonzalez tumbled after a grounder off the bat of Shin-Soo Choo and fired to first from his knee, expertly leading Lester to the first base bag with his underhanded toss. Carlos Santana reached on a base on balls right after but was erased by Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s timely throw. Dustin Pedroia had to pick the throw out of the dirt but it was better than allowing the opposing backstop to swipe a base.

Saltalamacchia showed off his glove in the seventh. Shelley Duncan led off that inning with a double and Austin Kearns tried to bunt him over. Saltalamacchia scrambled after Kearns’s bunt pop-up and snared it just before it found the foul territory behind home.

But there was no defense to counter the home team in the bottom of the eighth. The Indians scored the only run of the game without the benefit of a hit: Adam Everett walked, stole second, advanced to third on Orlando Cabrera’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s perfect execution of the squeeze play with a bunt down the third base line.

The game ended with a play sure to make baseball blooper reels for the next few decades. J.D. Drew shot a scorcher off Chris Perez’s leg. The ball deflected to Everett who saw he had no play at first and glanced over to second. To everyone’s surprise Darnell McDonald wandered too far off second and tried to get back to the bag with all the elegance of Deena from “Jersey Shore.” (I know, I know. But I just can’t look away.) Orlando dashed to cover the keystone sack and McDonald was tagged out in his flailing failing effort, a fitting end to a frustrating road trip.

Don Orsillo’s tie was an aggressive melange of houndstooth and stripes. When you really look at the design components of a tie they don’t seem to harmonize, but from a distance they blend into pleasing abstraction. As more games are played and the Red Sox notch a few wins, this ugly patch of losses will be nothing but a insignificant slub in an otherwise silken swatch.

Game 6: April 7, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (0-2)
No extra base hits
WinCleveland Indians
W: Rafael Perez (2-0)
S: Chris Perez (2)
2B: Shelley Duncan (1)

April 6, 2011

DFA (Dennys Reyes for Assignment)

I’m not so much concerned than I am disappointed. On paper this should be the best team in baseball, like how the Dream Team was assembled for the 1992 Olympics. Instead, the 2011 version of the Red Sox have played out like the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, who were supposed to be juggernauts of the NBA.

Coincidentally, James purchased a minority stake of John W. Henry’s Liverpool Football Club today. The basketball superstar grew up a fan of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bulls. Apparently the Glazer brothers weren’t shopping shares of Manchester United.

Jason Varitek made his first start of the season and over the course of the game it was clear he had not completely shaken free of the off-season rust. Dennys Reyes rolled onto the mound in the sixth and loaded the bases faster than he loads up at the post-game spread. The rotund reliever hit two batters and walked a third. Of the dozen pitches Reyes hurled only one was a strike. Terry Francona yanked him in favor of Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler induced a liner off Michael Brantley’s bat into Kevin Youkilis’s glove. Youkilis dropped the ball and third base umpire Dan Iassogna gestured fair, signaling that the ball was not intentionally dropped. Youkilis tagged third, which made the play at home a tag play rather than a force play. Varitek didn’t notice the tag and failed to tag Travis Buck as he trotted across home plate. It was a far cry from the gutty plate-blocking collisions Varitek was known for. The defensive miscue was immediately followed by a three-run shot by Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Indians capitalized like a Wall Street bank on TARP with their bases-loaded situation while the Red Sox had two spates of scoring. In the second inning Boston loaded the bases and tied the game 2-2 with Marco Scutaro’s first base hit of the season and Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground out.

Adrian Gonzalez launched his first home run in a Red Sox uniform. The seventh-inning homer was the culmination of an epic 12-pitch at bat against Frank Herrman. He plated Carl Crawford, whose stagnant start has blossomed into an above the Mendoza Line batting average.

Keep calm and carry on.

Don Orsillo’s tie reminded me of an Atari 2600 video game, maybe Combat or Skiing.

Game 5: April 6, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-1)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (2)
HR: Gonzalez (1)
WinCleveland Indians
W: Rafael Perez (1-0)
H: Tony Sipp (3)
HR: Shin-Soo Choo (1), Asdrubal Cabrera (1), Matt LaPorta (1)

April 5, 2011


Four losses, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Japanese word for four being a homonym for death — coincidence? Most assuredly not.

There’s only 158 games left in the season. It’s far too late for the Red Sox to dig themselves out of this hole. I recommend taking up a hobby that one can pick up quickly to distract yourself from these last few torturous days of the season. Might I suggest stone carving, helicopter piloting, or Galápagos giant tortoise caretaking?

Jarrod Saltalamacchia turned around his year in the twilight of his team’s campaign. His second-inning single slipped past second baseman Orlando Cabrera to plate David Ortiz for Boston’s only run of the game. If only Theo Epstein made a move as he did in 2004 picking up Cabrera to turn around the squad’s fortunes.

Josh Beckett turned in another disastrous season. His five-inning outing with a line of 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts was a sterling example of all his other 2011 starts.

Four games in and still no repeat ties from Don Orsillo. Tonight’s accessory featured a dark blue and silver pattern that conjured images of scales of a piscine creature wading in methane sea on Titan. Or maybe a close-up view of a cheese grater.

Game 4: April 5, 2011
Boston Red Sox
1L: Josh Beckett (0-1)
2B: J. D. Drew (1)
WinCleveland Indians
W: Josh Tomlin (1-0)
H: Tony Sipp (2)
S: Chris Perez (1)
2B: Michael Brantley (2), Travis Hafner (1), Asdrubal Cabrera (2)

April 3, 2011

Violent Torpedo of Truth

All is not well on the good ship Red Sox. The Rangers’ bats pummeled Clay Buchholz for a quartet of homers. At least this time Ian Kinsler didn’t hit a leadoff four-bagger; he waited until the third inning to unleash his salvo. In Charlie Sheen’s spectrum of winning, Kinsler would rate a respectable tiger blood.

(Josh Hamilton would undoubtedly be Adonis DNA-driven while Nelson Cruz is the warlock. “Boom stick” is a euphemism for “wizard staff.”)

Carl Crawford was dropped to seventh in the order and Buster Olney made it sound as if Terry Francona had as much faith in his left fielder as Egyptians do Hosni Mubarak. Rather than a vote of no confidence it was a pragmatic tactic in light of facing a southpaw.

The newest Boston outfielder responded with his first hit with the Old Towne team, a two-out single in the second that snaked down the first base line. He notched the visitors’ only run of the game in the seventh inning with a line drive to left-center.

Later in the seventh Darnell McDonald worked the count full and finagled one of the two bases on balls Matt Harrison would issue. Jacoby Ellsbury took the box with the bases loaded but didn’t hit what would have been his first major league grand slam.

Some Red Sox fans may be seeing red (“They’re ruining my early spring!”), others black (“Looks like another fruitless season”). I’m seem a calm and pacifying beige, like Don Orsillo’s Sunday offering. As disappointing as an opening series sweep might be, it did happen against the class of the AL West at their home park. If history repeats itself in Cleveland there could some cause for concern.

Someone who left Cleveland to bring his talents elsewhere can well attest: gelling as a team doesn’t happen overnight. Baseball is far less of a team sport than basketball, but this team’s character has yet to reveal itself. Three games do not a season make.

Game 3: April 3, 2011
Boston Red Sox
1L: Clay Buchholz (0-1)
No extra base hits
WinTexas Rangers 3-05W: Matt Harrison (1-0)
H: Darren Oliver (1)
2B: Andres Blanco (1), Michael Young (1)
HR: David Murphy (1), Ian Kinsler (3), Mike Napoli (2), Nelson Cruz (3)

The Dirty Dozen

The defending American League champions put up their 2010 pennant and received their American League championship rings. They celebrated with a 12-run drubbing of the team most baseball pundits say will supplant them. The Rangers didn’t need an ace like Cliff Lee when their opposition trots out the maddeningly average John Lackey.

As impressive as the Texan boom sticks were, Josh Hamilton’s theft of second base in the third inning stands out to me. Jarrod Saltamacchia’s throw was in time but on the shortstop side of the bag, forcing Dustin Pedroia to swing his glove hand around to attempt to tag the reigning American League MVP. Hamilton outfoxed the former MVP by sliding around the keystone sack while keeping his right hand then his right foot in contact with the bag. Baseball players aren’t considered the highest caliber athletes, but that maneuver displayed all the body control of an elite wide receiver.

Speaking of football, the fervor of the Rangers fans is remarkable. They are either frontrunners or have found their replacement players to distract them from the ongoing NFL lockout.

While Red Sox hurlers continue to disappoint the offense has met most of the lofty expectations heaped upon it. David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury, two players who got more than their fair share of ribbing (pun intended) last season, were the only two players to drive in runs yesterday. Ortiz launched a two-run home run in the second inning and Ellsbury chipped in with a two-run shot in the seventh.

Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-5 with two runs) has been a revelation and I can’t wait to don his player t-shirt. Carl Crawford has reached base once in two games as a Red Sox player so I’m not ready to make a purchase yet. I’m sure he’ll do something in the next seven years to convince me. I’d even get a (temporary) neck tattoo.

Don Orsillo was attired in a natty black and white grid tie, perhaps inspired by the news of Tron 3 and the release of Tron: Legacy on Blu-ray.

Game 2: April 2, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (0-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (2), Adrian Gonzalez (1)
HR: David Ortiz (2), Jacoby Ellsbury (1)
WinTexas Rangers 2-012
W: Colby Lewis (1-0)
2B: Ian Kinsler (1), Yorvit Torrealba (1), Elvis Andrus (2)
3B: Andrus (1), Julio Borbon (1)
HR: Kinsler (2), Adrian Beltre (1), Torrealba (1), Nelson Cruz (2)

April 1, 2011

April Cruel

Barren trees were limned with snow, stark limbs stretched across the gray sky like cobwebs in a disused room. Similar skeins seemed to etch the edges of the players’ minds even though they were thousands of miles away in Texas. Spring training, like spring cleaning, can’t clean every corner perfectly.

Jon Lester relinquished a home run to leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler, the first batter he opposed this season, and later surrendered two more. Kevin Youkilis returned to the hot corner and erred on the first ball he fielded, a chopper off the bat of speedster Elvis Andrus.

Most egregious was Daniel Bard’s two-thirds of a inning debacle in the eighth. David Murphy, Andrus, and Josh Hamilton all sprayed doubles around the outfield. The 5-5 tie made possible by David Ortiz’s solo home run evaporated in a puff of chalk when Murphy’s fly ball bounced just fair on the left field line.

Sometimes it snows in April. New England was shrouded in somber white for the passing of Lou Gorman, former general manager of the Red Sox. He will always be known for trading Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson in 1990, a “win now” tactic that didn’t bring the championship to the Hub that year and may have hindered the squad’s chances for future glory. One pitch from glory — trade pitch, that is.

Theo Epstein’s trade for Adrian Gonzalez paid immediate dividends: 2-for-4 with three runs batted in. The names Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes, the bounty the Padres received in return for Gonzalez, will be followed closely for any Bagwellian overtones.

In matters sartorial, I was struck by Don Orsillo’s statement in a spring training game that he never wears the same tie twice in a season. Seeing is believing, so I’ll track his ties like Jacoby Ellsbury hawks fly balls.

Game 1: April 1, 2011
Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (0-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (1), Jacoby Ellsbury (1)
HR: David Ortiz (1)
WinTexas Rangers 1-09
H: Mark Lowe (1), Arthur Rhodes (1)
BS, W: Darren Oliver (1, 1-0)
2B: David Murphy (1), Elvis Andrus (1), Josh Hamilton (1)
HR: Ian Kinsler (1), Nelson Cruz (1), Mike Napoli (1)

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