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Home » Monthly Archive » May 2011

May 31, 2011

Humber Pie

You could say Ozzie Guillen’s offense was “CliCing” on all cylinders. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy spent as much time commenting on Guillen’s reading glasses as the White Sox did scoring.

After two outstanding starts Alfredo Aceves came crashing down to earth like Jed Lowrie tumbling after batted balls before they slip into the outfield. Lowrie missed last night’s game because of an ailing shoulder from his collision with Carl Crawford in Detroit. Kevin Youkilis almost took out Lowrie in the top of the ninth on A.J. Pierzynski’s pop out, but he’s no Adrian Beltre.

Lowrie led off the bottom of the ninth with a five-pitch walk and sparked a mini-rally. Jason Varitek queued a single off Alexei Ramirez’s glove and the deflection allowed Lowrie to advance to third. Josh Reddick anxiously swung at the first pitch but his fly ball was deep enough in left for Lowrie to tag up for a run. Drew Sutton lofted a fly ball to right that was either a home run or fan interference depending on the camera angle. The officials, like Brent Lillibridge, let the chips fall where they may for an RBI double.

Adrian Gonzalez struck out looking to end the rally. He did so as calmly as he saved his teammates from an errant foul ball in last night’s game, captured by Bill Baer and posted on The Score. Like Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, Gonzalez preternaturally tapped into his senses to fully apprehend his environment.

Orsillo has worn striped ties before, most notably opening day and April 18, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first win. This was the first appearance of this particular black and taupe accessory.

Game 55: May 31, 2011
WinChicago White Sox
W: Philip Humber (4-3)
S: Chris Sale (2)
2B: Paul Konerko (8), A.J. Pierzynski (7), Carlos Quentin (17)
Boston Red Sox
L: Alfredo Aceves (2-1)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (17), Josh Reddick (17), Drew Sutton (5)
HR: Jason Varitek (2), David Ortiz (12)

May 30, 2011

Ozmotic Pressure

Osmotic pressure: the selective diffusion process driven by the internal energy of the solvent molecules across a permeable membrane.

Ozmotic pressure: the amount of force Ozzie Guillen exerts on a given input device (e.g. Blackberry or keyboard) when tweeting.

Prior to this evening’s victory Guillen’s squad were mired in a three-game losing streak. They are still looking up at every team but the Twins in their division, but if Jake Peavy’s seeming return to Cy Young form holds they may find themselves back above .500 and in a position to threaten Cleveland’s supremacy (a phrase no one thought they would be typing this season).

When Peavy’s latissimus dorsi detached on July 6, 2010 it wasn’t unreasonable to think his career was over. A day after the injury Will Carroll commented that other pitchers had strained that muscle but no one had ever had it completely tear from the bone. Less than a year later Peavy plowed through the packed Red Sox lineup with an impressive line: 7 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, no walks, and 2 strikeouts.

In his six starts this month Jon Lester has had only two quality starts. He relinquished a season-high seven earned runs, but two of those were runs were by runners Dan Wheeler inherited and allowed to score. Not that Lester would use that as an excuse; the southpaw was clearly disappointed with his performance of late.

The K-Men don’t make signs for every player or letter, but of course Adrian Gonzalez warrants one. They cleverly turn the “I” from “PAPI” to make a hyphen for “A-GON” and tacked on an “ER” when the first baseman slammed the ball into the White Sox bullpen in the bottom of the first.

Dustin Pedroia also warrants a custom sign for his Fenway feats. “LASER SHOW” was hoisted in the bottom of the third for his two-RBI liner to center that tied the game. That was the closest the local nine came to defeating the Pale Hose.

Don Orsillo has a proclivity towards geometric blue patterns on his ties. I thought tonight’s tie might have been a repeat but in looking over the archives he actually just has a number of abstract blue ties.

Game 54: May 30, 2011
WinChicago White Sox
W: Jake Peavy (2-0)
2B: Alexei Ramirez (15)
HR: Paul Konerko (11)
Boston Red Sox
L: Jon Lester (7-2)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (17)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (10)

From Blackout to Blank Out

The 50-minute delay did little to dull Justin Verlander’s skills. Although Jacoby Ellsbury quickly dismissed the notion that Verlander would get a second no-hitter with a line drive single to start the game the Red Sox batters mustered just one extra base hit (a double by Jason Varitek off Verlander in the sixth) against the Tigers staff. Just ten days prior to last night’s contest the Tigers ace held the Red Sox to three runs over eight innings only to have his team lose in the bottom of ninth. Last night Verlander triumphed in his rematch against Josh Beckett.

This game was on the verge of being blacked out due to MLB’s blackout rules, which state that “each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In addition, in the event of circumstances that produce a programming conflict or change in schedule, the above blackout windows may be subject to change.” Credit should be given to ESPN, who waived its Sunday exclusivity so that NESN and Fox Sports Detroit could broadcast the game to the teams’ fans.

Jim Leyland tapped Jose Valverde again to pitch the final inning and for the first time in their standoffs David Ortiz didn’t give a fan a home run ball for a souvenir. Valverde made Joba Chamberlain look like Mariano Rivera with his post-game gesticulations. Toreadors have less bravado when facing down bulls bloodied by banderillas.

Not that nine innings of futility by the Red Sox lineup made for compelling television. If Terry Francona wasn’t in the middle of trying to squeeze one run out of the stingy Detroit hurlers he would have joined Jerry Remy in chiding Don Orsillo about the Providence Journal’s feature on him. The article appeared today rather than Sunday as previously stated, a fact that won’t go unnoticed by his colleagues.

“You bring nothing to the table,” Francona frequently quips in pre-game media briefings. Not even a new tie; Orsillo used the same jacket and tie combination from the afternoon game in the evening’s contest.

Game 53: May 29, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Josh Beckett (4-2)
2B: Jason Varitek (4)
WinDetroit Tigers
W: Justin Verlander (5-3)
H: Joaquin Benoit (7)
S: Jose Valverde (12)
2B: Brennan Boesch (12), Miguel Cabrera (16)

Oliver Twisting

Andrew Oliver didn’t seem like he would get out of the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury roped a double at his counterpart in center and swiped third base as Oliver couldn’t get his fastball over the dish. Dustin Pedroia walked on five pitches and took advantage of Oliver’s unease by stealing second. Adrian Gonzalez protected the plate until Oliver sent a pitch that got enough of plate for him to loft into the outfield for a sacrifice fly.

Despite his lack of command Oliver got ahead of the count against Kevin Youkilis, notching two straight strikes, one called and one swinging, to begin the at bat. Youkilis waited the pitcher’s sudden competence out and the count evened to 2-2. On the fifth pitch Youkilis increased his franchise-leading hit by pitch mark to 74.

With a greenhorn on the mound Terry Francona put on the double steal for Pedroia and Youkilis, not his speediest pair of baserunners despite what Pedroia might say. But with Oliver on the ropes Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford helped him out by popping out to the infield.

While the first inning was a slow evisceration of the Tigers’ pitching and defense Mike Cameron ripped the bandage off with a single stroke in the second inning with a solo homer. Cameron’s graceful transition from a regular to a platoon player along with his ebullient clubhouse presence makes him a well-liked player and a necessary part of mix in the grind of the regular season.

Not to be overshadowed Pedroia led off the third with a circuit clout into the bullpens in left. To Oliver’s credit, neither of the Red Sox’s home runs nor the first inning shakiness led to a rout and he left the mound with just a two-run deficit.

Clay Buchholz seemed to pitch Oliver’s game in reverse: a solid first three innings but surrendering runs at the end of his appearance. Rookie Andy Dirks launched a four-bagger to kick off the fourth. After Brennan Boesch knocked a homer into the right field stands to bring his team within a run in the sixth the coaches and trainer visited Buchholz at the mound. The starter had stiffness in his lower back and a blister on his right big toe but he stayed in the rest of the inning because of the looming night game.

Miguel Cabrera queued a double down the third base line, a sharp grounder that a Youkilis may have snared but Drew Sutton did not. Cabrera advanced to third on Victor Martinez’s ground out and tied the game on Jhonny Peralta’s Texas leaguer.

Francona entrusted Matt Albers with the game after Buchholz’s departure. The roly-poly reliever was just one game removed from his abominable performance against the North Siders, but that was in another city and besides the Cubs are dead.

In the ninth David Ortiz decided it was time he wrested back the title of clutch player from Crawford and crushed Jose Valverde’s four-seamer into the stands for the lead. The fans at Comerica Park did not lack for a boisterous, over-the-top celebration by a closer, however, because Jonathan Papelbon closed out the bottom of the ninth with two strikeouts.

Don Orsillo’s wore a striped grey tie with the darker stripes comprised of stippling. Orsillo and Jerry Remy commented how their road game habits were becoming more alike, eating the same meals at the same restaurants. Sartorially, however, they remain distinct.

Game 52: May 29, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Matt Albers (1-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (10)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (16), Jed Lowrie (10)
HR: Mike Cameron (3), Dustin Pedroia (4), David Ortiz (11)
Detroit Tigers
L: Jose Valverde (2-2)
2B: Miguel Cabrera (15)
HR: Andy Dirks (2), Brennan Boesch (4)

May 28, 2011

Waking Up in First Place

Last night two Tims on Boston teams carried their teams to victory.

In the Motor City Wakefield pitched seven solid innings, giving up just five hits with the rest of his line remarkably symmetrical. He had two of each of the categories of earned runs, walks, and strikeouts. Only Jhonny Peralta managed an extra base hit off the knuckleballer, a soaring shot to left-center that kicked off the second inning.

Wakefield’s win was powered by the resurgence of Carl Crawford, a Houston native who has heated up along with the weather. Ron Gant of the MLB Network opined that Crawford started hitting better because the weather is more like what he is familiar with growing up in Texas and playing in St. Petersburg. The left fielder clubbed a two-run homer in the third inning, topping off a rally sparked by Jacoby Ellsbury’s leadoff four-bagger. Kevin Youkilis contributed with a two-run double that whizzed through the gap in right-center all the way to the wall, no mean feat in the vastness of Comerica Park.

Back in the Hub the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t strike once with Tim Thomas between the pipes. The Bruins goalie had his second shutout of this playoff run. Nathan Horton scored the only goal of the game with 7:33 left in the third period. The pressure of a Stanley Cup Game 7 with a one-goal lead is like trying to hold a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, two out, and the count 3-2, except the hitting and pitching teams switching sides every few seconds.

Since moving to Massachusetts in 1997 the closest I had seen the Stanley Cup was Ray Bourque bringing it to City Hall Plaza on June 12, 2001. It only took him 1,612 regular season and 214 playoff games and it was the Colorado Avalanche’s championship, not the Bruins’. This was before the successes of the other New England teams, and I thought, “Is this as close to glory as these guys can get? Shipping away players whose star is fading so that they can experience a real championship in their career and the fans vicariously celebrating with them?”

I once joked that I moved to Boston to witness the completion of the Big Dig and the crowning of the Red Sox as World Champions. I’ve now been here long enough to make the Zakim Bridge part of my daily commute and have watched six parades snake through Boston’s meandering streets. Perhaps the Bruins have it in them to make it seven.

Game 51: May 27, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Tim Wakefield (2-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (14)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (6), Carl Crawford (4)
Detroit Tigers
L: Rick Porcello (4-3)
2B: Jhonny Peralta (8)
HR: Peralta (8)

May 26, 2011

Two More Touchdowns and a Rouge

The Red Sox laid waste to another Rust Belt city’s squad by scoring another 14 runs. Drew Sutton hit two doubles in a second consecutive game and Alfredo Aceves won his second start in a Red Sox uniform. It’s the baseball equivalent of “Groundhog Day” but unfortunately the Yankees are following the same script; the Bronx Bromides have won two games in a row and are just .003 percentage points ahead of the Red Sox in terms of winning percentage. However, the two AL East powerhouses are neck and neck using the “games back” calculation.

Max Scherzer, he of the heterochromic eyes, reeled off six wins in eight starts but, like the city itself, has been on the skids the last two games. His previous loss to Pittsburgh wasn’t as bad as the pummeling meted out by Boston: 7 hits, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout. All the damage was done in two innings worth of outs; Scherzer also pitched in the third and was pulled after Carl Crawford tripled to plate Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.

The difference in Scherzer’s eyes may be caused by mosaicism, which is the presence of two different sets of genes in a single person. Or it may have been a congenital condition. Whatever the cause, his oddly paired peepers were the only thing Red Sox batters were having trouble with when opposing the Tigers starter.

Today I relearned a detail about Canadian football that I always forget, like flossing. On gridirons north of the border, when there is any non-scoring legal kick into the end zone and the receiving team fails to return or kick the ball out of the end zone a point is award to the kicking team. Called a single or rouge, the Canadian Football League has considered doing away with this feature, but that would be like taking down the ladder at Fenway. Its has outgrown its purpose, but it is still nice to have around as a quirky characteristic of their sport. I might have to get familiar with this football flavor given the NFL lockout.

Daily Don Orsillo proves you can own a myriad of tie designs but in the end they all start blurring together into one silken blur. I could have sworn Orsillo sported this particular tie before but this woven basket of gray made its debut today.

Game 50: May 26, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (2-0)
2B: Drew Sutton – 2 (4), David Ortiz (12), Dustin Pedroia (7)
3B Carl Crawford – 2 (3)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (5)
Detroit Tigers
L: Max Scherzer (6-2)
2B: Don Kelly (5)

May 25, 2011

Two Touchdowns and a Safety

With no end to the NFL lockout in sight the 14-2 outcome to this game might be as close to a football score that sports fans will get this year. Cleveland all but lost before one of its players saw a pitch from Jon Lester. Dustin Pedroia scored a safety (two-run homer with Jacoby Ellsbury on base) and Carl Crawford, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Cameron, Drew Sutton, and Pedroia (again?) each tacked on extra points in the top of the first.

Ray Lewis was right about malfeasance rising without football: the way Mitch Talbot and Frank Herrmann pitched was criminal. Talbot’s line: 3 innings pitched, 12 hits, 8 earned runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout. Herrmann’s: 2⅓ innings pitched, 6 hits, 6 earned runs, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout. But hey, neither one allowed many bases on balls, right?

Of the starting nine for the Red Sox only Jed Lowrie didn’t pad his hit totals. Even without hits he scored twice; once in the first after he reached on a fielder’s choice and again in the sixth after a walk. Every single Red Sox batter who started the game notched a run.

It’s hard to write about a blowout in a regular season baseball game when the Bruins are on the threshold of their first Stanley Cup finals since 1990. I moved to Massachusetts in 1997, the first year the Bruins failed to make the playoffs after a 30-year run. In the Aughts every other team in New England enjoyed a renaissance (or in the case of the Patriots an emergence). For me the Bruins were the red-headed stepchild in the Hub, so different in stature and appearance from the Big, Bad Bruins and part of a league that had cancelled the 2004-5 in its entirety.

Sometimes that obstreperous stepson causes so much ruckus you can’t help but pay him attention, which is what has happened to me during the Bruins’ playoff run. Good thing I have practice in pivotal game sevens from the Red Sox.

I think Don Orsillo may have finally worn a tie twice. The first shot below is from the rainout of the May 17 game against the Tigers, which one could argue doesn’t count because he didn’t broadcast a game in it. The second picture is from today’s barn burner.

Game 49: May 25, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (7-1)
2B: Carl Crawford – 2 (9), Drew Sutton – 2 (2), Mike Cameron (1), Jacoby Ellsbury (15)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (3), Carl Crawford (3), David Ortiz (10), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4)
Cleveland Indians
L: Mitch Talbot (1-1)
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera (11), Jack Hannahan (6), Travis Buck (4)

May 24, 2011

Easy Keel

When Rich Hill punched out Jack Hannahan to end the seventh the camera lingered on an impassioned Josh Beckett. That was a moment that needed Dennis Eckersley’s lip-reading skills. Beckett had yet to win in Cleveland and Rob Drake’s called third strike brought him six outs closer to his first victory in the Forest City.

In the top of the seventh Beckett’s battery mate lined a two-run homer, Jason Varitek’s first of the season, into the right field stands. That four-bagger came as a surprise from the weathered veteran, as did him throwing out two runners at second.

This is the type of near stress-free win I could get used to. One anxious moment didn’t arise from the battle of wills between pitcher and hitter but rather between two outfielders. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford were both running full bore calling each other off of Michael Brantley’s fly ball to shallow left-center. The ball ended up in Crawford’s glove for the second out of the eighth and my heart ended up in my mouth.

Brantley was part of the package Mark Shapiro received for CC (then known as C.C.) Sabathia from the Brewers. Brantley was the player to be named later and was shipped out of Milwaukee on October 3, 2008. He joined Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, and Matt LaPorta. That Brantley and LaPorta are getting regular playing time and their team leads the American League despite this loss is a testament to Shapiro’s acumen. Cleveland’s general manager is perhaps a healthy Grady Sizemore from being perennial AL Central contenders.

Cleveland’s roster is a treasure trove of Remy-fications. Ca-breh-rer (both of them), La-port-er, and, of course, Easy Keel Cah-reh-rer. Don Orsillo might have mildly grimaced at some of those pronunciations just as Remy may have smirked at Orsillo’s mesmerizing tie.

Game 48: May 24, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (4-1)
H: Rich Hill (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (9)
2B: David Ortiz – 2 (11), Adrian Gonzalez (16)
HR: Jason Varitek (1)
Cleveland Indians
L: Fausto Carmona (3-5)
HR: Travis Buck (2)

May 23, 2011

Cleveland Steoreotypes on a Roll

It’s 2011, the world hasn’t ended, the United States has an African-American president, and Cleveland’s professional baseball team still uses “Indians” as its nickname and has Chief Wahoo as its mascot.

Other teams have mascots that are animals (Tigers, Orioles), items of clothing (the two Sox), and occupations or types of people (Brewers, Pirates, Dodgers). Only Atlanta and Cleveland stubbornly cling to mascots that denigrate Native Americans.

Rather than tinkering with the postseason Bud Selig should do something that is truly in the best interests of baseball and force Larry Dolan and John Malone of Liberty Mutual to finally change their teams’ names. It wouldn’t hurt for them to establish a scholarship fund for people who will use their education to help Native American organizations (and I’m not talking about casinos) while they fundamentally change the face of their franchises.

When Cleveland swept the Red Sox in the second series of the season it was thought to be a fluke. Since then the squad has established itself with the best record in the majors, reaching the 30-win mark before any other club.

Justin Masterson, who looks like he is growing a playoff beard along with the Bruins, pitched well enough that Theo Epstein might have regretted trading him for Victor Martinez. While the Red Sox will get two compensation picks in return for not re-signing Martinez, if Masterson remained in Boston it is unlikely that John Lackey would have been pursued.

Just as in the middle game of the Cubs series the Red Sox seemed on their way to victory but were undone in the eighth. Daniel Bard, who everyone thought was the answer in the Cubs debacle, toed the rubber with the score 2-1 in his team’s favor, one out, and a runner on second. He induced a pop out off the bat of Carlos Santana for the second out. Michael Brantley smoked a single past a stumbling Drew Sutton. If Dustin Pedroia hadn’t been pulled in the top of the inning because of a jammed ankle I probably would be writing about his stunning web gem to staunch Cleveland’s rally.

Instead pinch runner Adam Everett crossed the plate for the winning run and the incendiary Asdrubal Cabrera pummeled the ball off the left field wall for the winning score.

Don Orsillo’s blue basket-weave patterned tie called to mind summer skies but the game was delayed for an hour and one minute due to tornado and hail warnings. Later it was discovered that the tornado indicators were just gusts caused by Asdrubal Cabrera’s batting practice session.

Game 47: May 23, 2011
Boston Red Sox
BS, L: Daniel Bard (2, 1-4)
HR: Carl Crawford (2)
WinCleveland Indians
W: Joe Smith (2-1)
S: Chris Perez (13)
2B: Austin Kearns (4), Asdrubal Cabrera (10)
HR: A. Cabrera (10)

May 22, 2011

Stung Like a Bee

Tim Wakefield, the ageless one, took the mound and confounded the Cubs with his exasperating butterfly pitch. Another leaf was added to Boston’s opus surrounding this notable series: Wakefield became the oldest Red Sox player to take the field. He is also the oldest active player in the majors.

The knuckleballer’s arsenal was new to many of the Cubs, particularly Starlin Castro, who is the first player born in the 1990s to make the majors. Castro grounded out and popped out before managing to poke a double just past Kevin Youkilis’s glove to commence the seventh. Wakefield had a no-hitter until the third when Alfonso Soriano singled up the middle. The former Yankee must have some muscle memory of his many standoffs against Wakefield.

With Matt Garza scratched Cubs skipper Mike Quade had to tap into a melange of middle relievers to get him through the series finale. Southpaw James Russell went blow-for-blow with Wakefield, notching scoreless innings with the veteran. But in the fourth Russell was on the ropes after Adrian Gonzalez led off with a single, Youkilis reached on a base on balls, and David Ortiz roped a single to left to the load the bases. Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron landed scoring combinations of sacrifice flies to center.

Quade stayed with Russell into the fifth, even after Jarrod Saltalamacchia landed a stunning blow to the third row of the Monster seats. Jacoby Ellsbury zipped to first safely as Castro’s throw to Carlos Peña was slightly off-target. Where Castro’s toss was lacking Cubs backstop Welington Castillo’s seed to second was flawlessly executed to cut down one of the speediest runners in the league. Ellsbury’s out loomed large when Gonzalez imprinted the left field wall with yet another of his signature opposite field dents.

Youkilis extended his 10-game hitting streak with a two-out, two-on triple laced to the triangle. The additional runs seemed to signal to Quade that the game was out of reach for his squad. He pulled John Grabow in favor of Kerry Wood who, although far removed from his days as a record-breaking starter, can still light up the radar gun with mid-90s heat.

Wood pitched way inside to Lowrie, the leadoff hitter in the eighth. When the next pitch plunked him squarely in the thigh home plate umpire Ed Hickox warned the dugouts. Given that the last time these two teams tangled at Fenway was 1918 and at Wrigley was 2005, Quade might have been right in balancing the books. But perhaps it is this very emphasis on vengeance rather than victory that will ensure that the Red Sox and Cubs will not meet until the next time major league schedulers draw up the regular season schedules making it so rather than in a Fall Classic.

Game 46: May 22, 2011
Chicago Cubs
L: James Russell (1-5)
2B: Starlin Castro (12), Jeff Baker (7), Aramis Ramirez (12)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Tim Wakefield (1-1)
H: Daniel Bard (9)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (15), David Ortiz (9)
3B: Kevin Youkilis (1)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3)

At the Old Ball Game

For this column Joanna was visited by her great-grandmother Eliza Manuel, a recent immigrant from the Philippines who yearned for a job as a baseball writer but was doubly unlikely to have such a career because of her ethnicity and her sex.

Game 45: May 21, 2011
WinChicago Cubs
W: Sean Marshall (2-0)
2B: Aramis Ramirez (11), Reed Johnson (7), Jeff Baker (6), Starlin Castro (11)
Boston Red Sox
H: Dan Wheeler (1)
H: Rich Hill (2)
BS, L: Matt Albers (1, 0-2)
HR: David Oritz (9)

May 21, 2011


At 3633 North Sheffield Avenue in Chicago stands the home of the Lakeview Baseball Club. The building is currently in foreclosure as the club has defaulted on $3.15 million in mortgages. Since 2004 the private buildings that ring Wrigley Field pay 17% of any revenue to the Cubs. This may have been a contributing factor to the foreclosure, but the all-around decline of the economy must be cited.

This particular baseball club were the originators two famous signs: “EAMUS CATULI” and a sign that seems like an indecipherable code. “Eamus” is the first-person plural present active subjunctive for “proceed” and “catuli” is Latin for youth or whelp. AC stands for “anno catuli” and the next two numbers are the years since the Cubs won the division (2008), the next two represent the seasons since they were National League champions (1945), and the final three are of course the span of time since they last won it all. Some Cubs fans object to the sign because of its negativity, but at least they don’t flip the numbers until the team is officially eliminated.

If last night was any indication of the Northsiders’ chances the sign changing to “AC0366103” seems inevitable. Doug Davis had nothing but “weak salad” according to Dennis Eckersley, someone who knows a thing or two about cheese, heat, moss, and iron. Even with the Red Sox rotation’s recent injury woes Davis could only make the roster as a batting practice pitcher.

Wait, the Red Sox just signed Kevin Millwood to a minor league deal? Given that pitchers of Davis’s caliber are needed as stopgaps until John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka are ready to go. Along with the Millwood acquisition Theo Epstein traded a player to be named later to the Rockies for former top prospect Franklin Morales. While Hideki Okajima will be missed for his past contributions, the upside that Morales brings to the bullpen is worth more than the sentimental reasons to keep Okajima around. Oki-Doki!

Scott Atchison earned his first major league save the Eckersley way: by pitching three or more innings. He took the mound in the sixth with the score 10-5 and held the visitors scoreless for three straight. The unassuming reliever helped his own cause in the eighth by chasing down Starlin Castro’s grounder and flipping it to Adrian Gonzalez. The play was as inelegant as it was effective, basically the opposite of Mark Buerhle’s 2010 opening day web gem.

If this is how the offense plays when it warms up, opposing bullpens had best be well-stocked when coming to Fenway. The local nine batted around in both the fourth and eighth innings. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s power outage may have finally ended; in the fifth he put a charge on James Russell’s fastball and knocked it off the Volvo sign above the Monster.

Perhaps lost in the huge gap in the score were questions about Tim Bogar’s performance as third base coach. In the bottom of the third with the score tied 2-2 Dustin Pedroia ignored his coach’s hold sign and scored on Kevin Youkilis’s sac fly ball to right. As Pedroia so often does when reaches the keystone sac safely the second baseman deftly avoided the tag and touched home with his hand to break the tie.

David Ortiz’s hit clanged off the top of the scoreboard and was gathered by Marlon Byrd. Bogar still sent Gonzalez even though he had just passed third base and is as slow as a tuatara. It would have taken an adequate throw by relay man Castro to hose Gonzalez and this time, unlike the other two times where he made errors, the shortstop’s aim was true.

Random thoughts about the broadcast: If you were playing a drinking game about how many times the Cubs’ last visit to Fenway was mentioned you would have been as hammered as the Cubs pitchers. Why didn’t Heidi Watley taste the sushi from Basho? How did the Providence Journal photographers fit Don Orsillo’s melon in frame? When did cameramen start putting up websites for themselves, and after reading about Tom Guilmette, why don’t more of them do so? I can see why ESPN the Magazine is doing a feature on him.

Game 44: May 20, 2011
Chicago Cubs
L: Doug Davis (0-2)
2B: Darwin Barney (6), Aramis Ramirez (10), Reed Johnson (6)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (6-1)
S: Scott Atchison (1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis – 2 (13), David Ortiz – 2 (8), Dustin Pedroia (6), Jacoby Ellsbury (14)
HR: Youkilis (8), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2)

May 19, 2011

Take That Left at Alburquerque

Is the price the Red Sox have to pay for a winning streak the decimation of the rotation? First John Lackey and then Daisuke Matsuzaka were shelved and tonight Josh Beckett was pulled after six innings and 83 pitches due to neck stiffness.

By the time Beckett left the mound the offense had established a 2-1 lead against the formidable Justin Verlander. The Tigers ace’s near Johnny Vander Meer was well in his rear view mirror, something he needed to see J.D. Drew’s tie-breaking, two-out longball drift into the right field stands in the fourth inning.

David Ortiz clubbed an insurance run into the bleachers behind the bullpen in the seventh. With Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in the offing the homer seemed to be a little extra something but probably unnecessary, like tonsils or the appendix. But one should never look a gift Teixeira in the mouth.

Bard, perhaps worn down from last night’s outing and intervening rain delay, surrendered the tying and go-ahead runs in the form of consecutive homers by Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera must have been excited to be in Fenway since it now offers hard liquor.

Papelbon wasn’t his sharpest either. He pitched last night just as Bard had but also was tagged by Alex Avila’s sharply rapped ground ball. The closer stayed in the game and promptly allowed a trio of Tigers to prowl the base paths. Papelbon bounced back to strike out the duo of sluggers who had victimized Bard in the previous frame. Boesch and Cabrera struck out and slunk back to their dugout.

In the span of about a month the spirit of this team has completely reversed. The April version of Papelbon would not have been in the position to keep his team in it because First Start of 2011 Beckett would have barely gotten out of fifth while giving up three runs or so. Whatever the gap the anemic April bats wouldn’t be able to make it up.

In the bottom of the ninth reliever Al Alburquerque walked Kevin Youkilis and allowed David Ortiz to arc a single into right. Jose Iglesias, who pinch ran for Youkilis, dashed to third on Ortiz’s hit. Jim Leyland sat tight in the visitors’ dugout, his only instruction to the flailing rookie was to intentionally walk Drew.

Although the atmosphere was April the team played like September. Iglesias dashed home on Jed Lowrie’s looping hit to left but was out at home on the force. Perhaps Leyland’s strategy to load the bases was a sound one.

Perhaps… if it weren’t Carl “Clutch” Crawford in the box. Crawford smacked a single over Austin Jackson’s head and Darnell McDonald, Papi’s pinch runner, made a fateful left turn at Albuquerque. Crawford was the catalyst for three walk-off wins in the Fens. May he never hear boos from the hometown crowd again.

Game 43: May 19, 2011
Detroit Tigers
L: Al Alburquerque (0-1)
HR: Brennan Boesch (3), Miguel Cabrera (8)
WinBoston Red Sox
H: Matt Albers (3)
BS: Daniel Bard (1)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (2-0)
HR: J.D. Drew (3), David Ortiz (8)

May 18, 2011


With injuries inflicting the starting rotation and a shuffling of the bullpen Clay Buchholz needed to toe the rubber as effectively and as deep into the game as possible. In his last start at Fenway the gangly starter endured a two hour and seven minute rain delay and still came out to finish the game and notch the win.

This time Buchholz didn’t win but held the Tigers scoreless for seven innings. Daniel Bard replaced him in the eighth and after one pitch the tarp was unfurled again, halting play for 26 minutes. Bard was the pitcher of record when battery mate Jarrod Saltalamacchia put a charge on the ball and knocked it deep off the left field wall. Carl Crawford, who had drawn a two-out base on balls from Daniel Schlereth, scored the only run of the game on the Red Sox catcher’s hit.

The Tigers reliever is the son of Mark “Stinky” Schlereth, a guard with multiple Pro Bowls and Super Bowl championships under his belt. The elder Schlereth recommended his son pursue baseball rather than follow in his cleats because of the injury risks and potential for long-term disabilities.

As painful as Daisuke Matsuzaka’s sprained ulnar collateral ligament might be, it doesn’t quite seem to compare to Schlereth’s 29 surgeries over his 12-year career. Matsuzaka’s injury put him on the 15-day disabled list; replacing him on the roster is reliever Michael Bowden.

Speaking of kids encouraged by their fathers to take up baseball, Victor Martinez made his first trip back to Fenway since signing with Detroit. He brought his six-year old son Victor Jose. The tot was reunited with his friend D’Angelo Ortiz and the pair donned smaller versions of their fathers’ baseball togs.

Martinez had nothing but positive things to say about his short time in Boston. “By far, it’s been the best time in my career, just to come in here and play on this team and play in this city in front of these great fans.” He didn’t get as warm as a welcome as he deserved, but perhaps the fans’ spirits were literally and figuratively dampened by the pervasive brume. He was one of the few bright spots in the futility of 2010 and still lit up the park in the gloom of this evening’s game.

Game 42: May 18, 2011
Detroit Tigers
L: Daniel Schlereth (0-1)
2B: Miguel Cabrera (12), Alex Avila (9), Austin Jackson (8), Victor Martinez (10)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daniel Bard (1-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (8)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (6)

May 16, 2011

Off the Wall

It was hard for the Red Sox to get the bats warmed up on a raw night like tonight although Orioles had no problems squaring up on Daisuke Matsuzaka. Brian Roberts’s liner off Matsuzaka’s chest to start the game may have thrown the pitcher off his game; he departed the mound after four and one-third innings with seven walks and two strikeouts under his belt and two runners on base. Scott Atchison, summoned from Pawtucket in the wake of John Lackey being placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a right elbow strain, allowed both inherited runners to score.

Looking up at a six-run deficit the Red Sox batters didn’t chip away but rather roared back in the bottom of the sixth. For just the fourth time this season the squad batted around. J.D. Drew started the inning with a line drive to Luke Scott, who made an error that allowed Drew to take second. Scott was probably obsessed to the point of distraction about requesting certificates of live birth for people whose origins he found questionable.

In the sixth inning rally Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis doubled while Drew, Jason Varitek, and Adrian Gonzalez singled. Throw in Carl Crawford reaching on an error by Mark Reynolds and a base on balls by David Ortiz and you have a baserunning barrage that had Buck Showalter making two pitching changes. The date indicated May but the weather and bullpen management seemed more like September.

The dreary, rheumy air chilled many a deep fly ball; Youkilis and Varitek had a number of fly ball outs on the warning track. But nothing short of a tornado would have derailed Mark Reynolds’s seventh inning leadoff home run to dead center. Alfredo Aceves soldiered on, however, and held off the Orioles for the remainder of the game.

Lowrie responded immediately by launching a fly ball to the triangle for a leadoff triple. Varitek queued a single down the third base line to plate Lowrie.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia worked walks off Kevin Gregg, Baltimore’s erratic closer. Pedroia’s base on balls was a nine-pitch engagement that started with him falling behind Gregg 0-2. Gonzalez took the first pitch he saw high off the left field wall to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs. The new guy must have wanted to further pad his resume in light of Crawford’s key role in two walk-off victories.

Gonzalez’s winning hit sailed high over Scott the birther’s head. How do you like that for producing a document?

Game 41: May 16, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
H: Jeremy Accardo (1)
H: Clay Rapada (2)
H: Jim Johnson (7)
H: Koji Uehara (4)
BS, L: Kevin Gregg (3, 0-1)
2B: Derrek Lee (6), Vladimir Guerrero – 2 (9)
HR: Mark Reynolds (5)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (1-0)
2B: Jed Lowrie (9), Kevin Youkilis – 2 (11), Adrian Gonzalez (14)
3B: Lowrie (2)


It seems rather perverse to cheer for a team that finally reached a non-losing record, but no more silly than Yankee fans giving a standing ovation to Jorge Posada. The veteran catcher is not only dead last in batting average with .165 but has anemic on-base and slugging percentages: .272 and .349 respectively.

Despite the paltry production and the tepid apology the throngs at the toilet came to their feet in the bottom of the eighth when Posada hit in place of Andruw Jones. Given the applause one would think Posada was part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

Instead it was the Red Sox who entered the Bronx under cover of night and swept their divisional nemesis. Jon Lester gave up four runs early but he held the local nine scoreless for four innings. While the Yankees were unable to add to their lead Kevin Youkilis tied the game in the third with his three-run circuit clout to left. David Ortiz shattered his bat as well as the tie with a homer to the short porch. A lucky boy in a Red Sox cap seated in the luxury section not only got to lounge in leather but received Ortiz’s broken bat from the man himself.

Youkilis was aided by his counterpart at the hot corner in the seventh. With runners on first and second and one out Alex Rodriguez listlessly fielded Youkilis’s grounder. As it slipped by his glove Dustin Pedroia scored from second.

Carl Crawford gave the run right back when he timidly pursued Rodriguez’s grounder, which narrowly avoided becoming part of Youkilis’s highlight package and ricocheted off the left field stands. With all he games he has played as a Ray at Yankee Stadium as well as similar caroms off the stands at Fenway one would think that Crawford could better anticipate the ball’s path. Instead Crawford tentatively approached the ball and then as it dawned on him that Curtis Granderson was on the basepaths rushed the play by barehanding it. Granderson’s dash brought his team within a run and forced Terry Francona to go to Daniel Bard with two out in the seventh.

Bard was not quite his shutdown self but the Yankees failed to take advantage of runners on base. Shockingly the reliever allowed Posada to reach on a base on balls to lead off the eighth. The next three batters failed to get on base; the last out was Derek Jeter with a weak ground out to second. If Posada dropping in the order caused a tempest in the toilet, one can only imagine what will happen when Jeter doesn’t bat leadoff.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia clouted his first four-bagger of the season in the eighth, providing his battery mates an insurance run. That must have been what caused Alec Baldwin to punch John Krasinski in the face.

Game 40: May 15, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (5-1)
H: Alfredo Aceves (3)
H: Daniel Bard (8)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (7)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (13), David Ortiz (6)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (7), Ortiz (7), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1)
New York Yankees
L: Freddy Garcia (2-3)
2B: Alex Rodriguez (8)
HR: Andruw Jones (2), Curtis Granderson (13)

May 15, 2011

The Old and the Feckless

Rather than Josh Beckett’s dominant start (6 innings pitched, 4 hits, no runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts) the soap opera around Jorge Posada’s absence from the lineup was the hot topic in the Fox booth. While the Red Sox threatened to score in the first with runners on first and third and none out Joe Buck and Tim McCarver tittered like grandmothers over tea about the Yankees.

The Red Sox hitters didn’t get on the basepaths again until the fifth inning. Perhaps they were spurred on by Sarah Silverman’s fourth inning visit with Buck and McCarver. The comedian talked about how she as a Red Sox fan isn’t used to being anything but a lovable loser. Silverman was as coherent as an LSD-addled Doc Ellis, exclaiming that steroids are wrong but lysergic acid is good once in a while as a treat.

The real treat was Jacoby Ellsbury coming through with ducks on the pond in the fifth. Ellsbury’s two-RBI double somehow eluded Brett Gardner’s glove as it glided through the left-center gap. Were it not Jason Varitek at first it could have been a bases-clearing double.

The real treat was Jacoby Ellsbury coming through with ducks on the pond in the fifth. Ellsbury’s two-RBI double somehow eluded Brett Gardner’s glove as it glided through the left-center gap. Were it not Jason Varitek at first it could have been a bases-clearing double.

With two on and two out Adrian Gonzalez gave it “a little Ichiro.” To avoid rolling over on a pitch inside the slugger opened up earlier than his usual swing and took a step towards the mound. The result was a three-run homer to right neatly deposited into a roiling sea of dismayed Yankee fans.

It’s easy to gripe about the deference the Red Sox front office gives to players seemingly past their prime such as Varitek and Tim Wakefield. But watching the Yankees drama unfold via in-game interviews with Brian Cashman, reports from Ken Rosenfeld, and tweets by Posada’s wife Laura, prompted me to give both organizations a non-Bronx cheer. Tips of the cap to the Red Sox for generally being able to defuse such situations and to the Yankees for exacerbating what could have been a minor situation. Hip hip, Jorge!

Game 39: May 14, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (3-1)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (12)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (9)
New York Yankees
L: CC Sabathia (3-3)
2B: Nick Swisher (6)

May 14, 2011

Catch Me at the X with OG at a Yankee Game

Joba Chamberlain might want to visit Bartolo Colon’s physician, Joseph Purita, and get stem cells from his abundance of fat injected… somewhere to halt his precipitous decline. Colon, who held the Red Sox to two runs over six innings, has revitalized his career with Purita’s stem cell therapy, but it is worth noting that this doctor has used human growth hormone in his procedures on non-athletes.

Colon qualifies as a non-athlete, I would think. Three years ago he compiled a 4-2 record over 39 innings pitch with a 119 ERA+, a touch above average. While the Red Sox rolled into the playoffs Colon was placed on the suspended list in September of 2008 because he declined to leave the Dominican Republic after he went there to attend to personal matters. After the Purita procedure he is amongst his team’s better starters: second to CC Sabathia in strikeouts (44 to 41), second to A.J. Burnett in WHIP (1.25 to 1.13), and first in K/BB (4.10, with Sabathia trailing at 2.44). Colon was supposed to address questions about MLB’s investigation into his off-season surgery after the game, but he referred reporters to the Players’ Association.

I would rather have the Great Shave Debate enacted by Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis, two players with true animosity between each other. The advertising company probably realized that closeup shots of Chamberlain and Youkilis wouldn’t be as appealing as images of Jonathan Papelbon and Nick Swisher (not exactly a high bar). In the seventh inning Youkilis added to his team’s lead with a two-run homer off Chamberlain, an opposite field shot that benefited from the short porch. The Red Sox third baseman yelled something as he approached second base on his home run trot; hopefully Chamberlain heard it over the groans of the subjects of the empire.

Although there was much angst in the past two seasons over the Yankees’ successful wooing of Mark Teixeira, the fluid swing of Adrian Gonzalez is consolation enough. Particularly when he slams a home run as he did to lead off the fourth inning. Gonzalez gave his team a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, although Daniel Bard and Papelbon allowed a run apiece in the eighth and ninth innings respectively.

Most surprising was that Derek Jeter’s two-out single in the ninth wasn’t an infield hit. As Joe Posnanski has pointed out the shortstop’s power and production has degenerated. Colon can refer the infielder to a great doctor that he knows.

Appropriately for a game at the toilet, Don Orsillo’s tie was yellow.

Game 38: May 13, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (4-3)
H: Daniel Bard (7)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (6)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (8), Kevin Youkilis (6)
New York Yankees
L: Bartolo Colon (2-2)
2B: Nick Swisher (5)
3B: Curtis Granderson (3)
HR: Russell Martin (7)

May 11, 2011

Angry Herds

You know it’s a bad sign when I have to think about who I hate more, John Lackey or LeBron James.

For me Lackey is the most infuriating Red Sox player since Julio Lugo. But as abominable as Lugo was while he was with Boston at least a poor performance by him wouldn’t necessarily lead to a loss. But the mere act of Lackey toeing the rubber will probably result in a loss for his team unless they score 10 or more runs.

While Blue Jays were putting the finishing touches on a complete evisceration of the Red Sox in the seventh inning the Celtics’ season slipped away in South Beach. King James pranced like a peacock with the Heat’s 97-87 victory. James should remember that in America we rebel against kings. Except when they get hitched, in that case we devote endless, excruciating media coverage of them.

(What do you call a female peacock? LeBron James.)

When the Red Sox return to Toronto in June perhaps Lackey will buy a ticket for EdgeWalk at the CN Tower so he can see where the home run that John McDonald hit off him ended up. The combined distances of David Ortiz’s (418 and approximately 400 feet) and Adrian Gonzalez’s (383, 404, and an estimated 400 feet) home runs in this series are longer than the tower is tall (1,815.4 feet at the antenna).

Game 37: May 11, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (2-5)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (13)
HR: Gonzalez (7), David Ortiz (6)
WinToronto Blue Jays
W: Jesse Litsch (4-2)
H: Casey Janssen (3)
2B: John McDonald (3), Corey Patterson (9)
HR: McDonald (2)

May 10, 2011


Gregg Zaun had an abundance of anecdotes and observations to share, it’s just that his somnolent voice doesn’t rivet the audience. As Chad Finn observed, “If NPR carried major league baseball broadcasts, they would sound a lot like Gregg Zaun.”

Perhaps the problem was that Zaun approached his booth duties as if he were shooting the breeze with his teammates in the dugout. The retired catcher shared one of amusing pastimes: devising lineups based on physical quirks. His favorite seemed to be the All-Hobbit team, which included Dustin Pedroia at second, David Eckstein at short, Jason Frasor coming out of the bullpen, and himself as backstop.

I propose the All-Wizard squad with Adrian Gonzalez at first. Perhaps his goatee isn’t as grizzled as most mages, but the way he uses his wand is nothing short of magical. Gonzalez gave his team the lead in the fifth with a two run blast and tied the game in the ninth by going yard. The Gold Glover usually displays alchemy at first base by turning base hits down the line into outs but in the first inning he misplayed a pop-up off the bat of Juan Rivera and allowed a run score.

Jose Iglesias makes the All-Cuban Rookie with a Fauxhawk Whose First Major League At Bat Ended with Him Reaching First Safely on a Strikeout club. Daniel Bard heads the All-Fireballer Who Inexplicably Allowed a Rookie (Like David Cooper) to Hit His First Home Run and Tie the Game corps. Mariano Rivera has to concede his Fireman of the Year award because Alfredo Aceves can put out infernos with his sweat. And last but not least is the Platinum Arm for surprising assist of the day garnered by Corey Patterson when he hosed Carl Crawford at home plate on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single to left.

I actually think the color commentator combination of Zaun and Dennis Eckersley could be potentially hilarious. Zaun’s easygoing approach could be countered by Eckersley’s energy. The delicate dance between catchers and pitchers, as Zaun called it, could be recreated in the broadcast booth.

Game 36: May 10, 2011 ∙ 10 innings
Boston Red Sox
L: Matt Albers (0-1)
2B: David Ortiz (5), Jed Lowrie (8)
HR: Ortiz (5), Adrian Gonzalez – 2 (6)
WinToronto Blue Jays
BS: Marc Rzepczynski (1)
BS: Frank Francisco (1)
W: Carlos Villanueva (1-0)
2B: Edwin Encarnacion (12)
3B: Rajai Davis (2)
HR: Jose Bautista (11), J.P. Arencibia (5), David Cooper (1)

May 9, 2011

Going to Church

As Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save in the eighth inning the Celtics failed to break their 86-86 tie with the Heat and the game went to overtime. Paul Pierce’s layup failed to drop and yet another Twins hitter, this time Jason Kubel, dropped a cheap hit into shallow center.

Denard Span scored from second on Kubel’s single, where Span waited by benefit of a balk by Alfred Aceves. In the bottom of the seventh Span had Ellsburied Jacoby himself with a dashing, diving grab.

Across town the Celtics were outscored 12 to 4 in overtime. Jason Varitek reached on a throwing error by Luke Hughes with two out in the ninth. Darnell McDonald pinch ran for his captain but was picked off by Jose Mijares. Both teams failed to get the job done in regulation and had to do their best to further stretch their strained resources and garner a win.

Where Boston’s basketball team failed the Red Sox succeeded. Hideki Okajima pitched a gutty two innings, surviving two hits and two walks to hold Minnesota scoreless. Two of Okajima’s three strikeouts came with runners in scoring position.

As Okajima was clutch on the mound Carl Crawford was in the box. Jed Lowrie worked a one-out walk in the eleventh. Jose Iglesias (whose surname is Spanish for “church”) pinch ran for Lowrie. Fortunately Marco Scutaro didn’t hide the rookie’s cleats like he did his glove. Crawford golfed a double off the left field wall and Iglesias was safe at home.

Just five days ago Scutaro was thrown out at home in the penultimate inning of a thirteen-inning fiasco the that Red Sox eventually lost. The Red Sox could draw from their young talent in their minor league affiliates, but this might be the end of the Big Three of the Celtics.

Don Orsillo may have finally repeated a tie. Tonight’s checkerboard pattern looks like the tie from April 2.

Game 35: May 9, 2011 ∙ 11 innings
Minnesota Twins
L: Jim Hoey (0-1)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
H: Alfredo Aceves (2)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
W: Hideki Okajima (1-0)
2B: J.D. Drew (4), Jason Varitek (3), Dustin Pedroia (5), Carl Crawford (7)

May 8, 2011

Feliz Cumpleaños

Twenty-nine years ago Adrian Gonzalez was born in San Diego, California. He shares the same birth city as a southpaw slugger of some repute in these parts, Ted Williams.

The Red Sox first baseman has at last gotten into the habit of taking advantage of his easy opposite field stroke and homered off the stanchion in the bottom of the fifth. He hit his first opposite field four-bagger in the first game of the series. Dennis Eckersley admired the swing and one of the NESN cameramen caught Ron Gardenhire imitating the effortless motion. Perhaps the corner infielder will leave a legacy with the Red Sox reminiscent of the Splendid Splinter’s; even if he attained a fraction of Williams’s achievements Gonzalez may end up one of the team’s best players.

Carl Crawford, inheritor of Williams’s legacy in left, is an altogether different type of lefty from Gonzalez and Williams. Crawford swipes rapidly from an open stance without as much load as Gonzalez, which means he has to generate power by the rotation of his upper body. Gonzalez starts from a balanced, closed stance and propagates his power from his legs, up through his core, and finally his upper body. It’s unlikely that Gonzalez could have legged out a triple on a hit off the left field wall as Crawford did in the third.

The Red Sox bats seem to have hit their stride, but facing Carl Pavano can delude any team of their offensive prowess. Jose Iglesias, called up due to Marco Scutaro’s oblique strain, didn’t get a chance to face his first major league pitcher or Pavano as he was a defensive replacement in the ninth. Iglesias handled Alexi Casilla’s grounder easily and Gonzalez didn’t have to pick the the throw out of the dirt for the final out of the game.

Dennis Eckersley expressed the exasperation of the fans as he commented on Daisuke Matsuzaka’s pitching. After giving up three runs in the first and threatening to give a free pass to the leadoff hitter in the second Eckersley anxiously uttered, “Can’t be walking the leadoff hitter, you gotta go after this guy, let’s go.” As if Matsuzaka heard the advice he induced a fly ball out.

“That’s cute, I’ve never seen that,” commented Eckersley. Not about Don Orsillo’s butter yellow tie with square accents at the corners but about Daniel Bard’s book on hitters on the ledge of the bullpen fence.

Game 34: May 8, 2011
Minnesota Twins
L: Carl Pavano (2-4)
2B: Trevor Plouffe (1)
HR: Danny Valencia (3)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3)
H: Rich Hill (1)
H: Matt Albers (2)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (9), Jacoby Ellsbury (11), Jed Lowrie (7)
3B: Carl Crawford (1)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (4)

Clay Reanimation

With the bullpen in tatters thanks to an extra-inning game, a previous rain delay, and poor starts, Terry Francona had to take extreme measures. He had Clay Buchholz return to the mound after a two hour and seven minute rain delay.

Buchholz had looked sharp through the first two innings. The only baserunners were Justin Morneau in the first, who reached because of Marco Scutaro’s leisurely handling of a ground ball, and Michael Cuddyer in the second, who reached on an error by Jed Lowrie.

During the delay Buchholz kept limber by playing catch with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and getting stretched out by trainers. When the teams got word that the game would restart at 4:00 p.m. Buchholz finished up his second warm-up with long toss and bullpen sessions.

Buchholz’s efforts were extended by shutout innings by a quartet of relievers and a surprisingly adequate offense. Lowrie drove in Jacoby Ellsbury, who was at second base with a wall ball double, in the first inning. After the delay Adrian Gonzalez smacked a ground-rule double to right and scored on a ringing single off the Monster by Kevin Youkilis. In the eighth Ellsbury shot a single up the middle with the bases loaded and two out to plate two more runs.

As impressive as Buchholz’s performance was another Boston athlete rightfully dominated the news. Facing the possibility of falling 0-3 in the series with the Miami Heat the Celtics hoped that a return to the Garden would revitalize their playoff run. With 7:02 left in the third quarter Rondo tangled with Dwayne Wade. Miami’s guard seemed to intentionally pull Rondo along with him on their way down to the floor. The Celtics point guard’s left arm came down hard and it bent unnaturally as it impacted the parquet.

In the locker room Rondo had his dislocated left elbow popped back into its socket. Although his left arm dangled at his side as useless as John Lackey, Rondo nonetheless took the court in the final quarter. The Celtics notched a 97-81 victory and kept themselves in the series. Rondo joins a pantheon of gutty athletes rebounding after injury, like Larry Bird on May 5, 1991 or Curt Schilling on October 19, 2004, to name just two.

Game 33: May 7, 2011
Minnesota Twins
L: Brian Duensing (2-2)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (3-3)
H: Rich Hill (1)
H: Matt Albers (1)
H: Daniel Bard (6)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (10), Adrian Gonzalez (12)

May 7, 2011

Defensive Difference

Tim Wakefield is just seven victories away from 200 wins. In 2009 it seemed like an inevitability that he would reach this milestone; he went 11-5 and made the All-Star team. He had a lackluster 2010 and there was no room in the rotation for him this season. He’ll have his chances to notch wins with spot starts as he did last night or with vulture wins out of the bullpen, but given his ineffectiveness and his team’s lack of production the odds are against Wakefield reaching the two-century mark.

The knuckleballer wasn’t helped by his defense, with Jed Lowrie playing particularly poorly at short. Danny Valencia sneaked a single by Lowrie in the second after Michael Cuddyer led off with a base on balls. Ben Revere loaded the bases with a line drive single and Adrian Gonzalez uncharacteristically whiffed on a sharp grounder off Denard Span’s bat.

In the fifth Lowrie failed to stop Drew Butera’s ground ball from slipping into the outfield. Two runs had already scored that inning and Lowrie’s error allowed two more.

Terry Francona got to watch most of the game from the comfort of the clubhouse as he was ejected in the second inning when Angel Hernandez called a balk on Wakefield with Revere at third. Like calls on balls and strikes managers aren’t supposed to dispute balks. Hernandez threw Francona out right away but crew chief Joe West got involved. It is widely known that West craves the spotlight, but the rotund umpire might feel particularly emboldened with Joe Torre in the league office overseeing umpires.

Maybe Francona was giving the team hockey updates from his office. Across town the Bruins scored more goals than the Red Sox plated runs in their 5-1 triumph over the Flyers. Perhaps this will be the Bruins’ 2004?

The disappointment in this loss was somewhat attenuated by Gonzalez’s fourth inning home run. His swing was so easy and effortless and yet the ball soared as if it were a satellite in orbit. The only thing stopping it from attaining escape velocity was the Sports Authority sign above the left field wall.

Announcer Boy is still going strong without a repeat tie. Last night he sported a sky blue (not robin egg blue) tie with black and light blue grid lines punctuated by white squares at their intersections.

Game 32: May 6, 2011
WinMinnesota Twins
W: Scott Baker (2-2)
2B: Danny Valencia (6), Jason Kubel (10)
HR: Trevor Plouffe (1)
Boston Red Sox
L: Tim Wakefield (0-1)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5)
HR: J.D. Drew (2), Adrian Gonzalez (3)

May 5, 2011

Afternoon Fright

This was one of those “desperately figure out how to program your DVR through the interwebs so that you can record while you are work only to hit ‘delete’ as soon as you got home because you saw the lopsided score but at least I finally learned how to use that function (is this why I shell out so much money to Comcast?)” games.

It was also one of those “maybe Buck Showalter was right about Theo Epstein not being so bright because watching John Lackey pitch is like listening to Fergie without Auto-Tune and oh my god this stiff is in a Red Sox uniform until 2014 making $15.25 million a year I bet Lackey and Fergie have no problems paying their cable bill” afternoons.

Not to mention “how is it that these batters stitched together hits against the class of the American League but are befuddled by league average pitchers like Joel Pineiro (who no-hit them for three innings) after recently returning to the game from the disabled list” time.

Lastly it was a “wishing Jerry Remy the best and hoping for his return even though Gordon Edes, Peter Gammons, and Dennis Eckersley are outstanding replacements because when I have to listen to the other guest analysts NESN wrangles it is like watching Lackey pitch (or listening to Fergie perform live)” moment.

Don Orsillo wore a tweed blazer. The last time he did so, April 11, the team lost by 11 runs. That jacket goes to eleven.

Game 31: May 5, 2011
WinLos Angeles Angels
W: Joel Pineiro (1-0)
2B: Alberto Callaspo – 2 (5), Peter Bourjos (6), Bobby Abreu (8)
HR: Mark Trumbo (6)
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (2-4)
2B: Jed Lowrie (6)

It’s 3 a.m.

I must have been listening to bad music while bad things went down at Fenway. Actually, Edwin McCain and Eminem also have songs entitled “3 a.m.” and both of them are better than Matchbox Twenty’s effort.

The sampling of McCain’s lyrics below and his poignant performance makes me think of Carl Crawford, his struggles, and his seeming turnaround.

It’s 3:00 a.m.
I’m awake and my heart is still dreaming
It’s 3:00 a.m.
Outside I hear the souls still screaming
It’s been so long you know since my head’s been this clear
Just like a ship lost in the night
I just don’t know which way I should steer
But I’ll keep chasing my dreams
And only you can make them real
I pour my heart out every night
But do you know the way that I feel

There were a few souls, warmed by free hot chocolate or coffee, screaming from the Fenway stands. They screamed in elation as Jed Lowrie scored on a wild pitch from rookie closer Jordan Walden to bring the local nine within a run. That fervor increased when Crawford doubled to center and Jacoby Ellsbury drove Crawford in with a soft liner to right to tie the game.

Eminem’s song is about a serial killer but in the context of last night’s game it reminds me of the bullpen’s struggles (“Someone save me”), the bats’ inconsistency (“But they don’t pay no mind, goodbye”), and Terry Francona’s efforts to get his squad perform to the level of their talent (“Contemplating my next plot again”). When Eminem is in zombie makeup in this music video it reminds me of Jason Varitek.

There’s no escaping
There’s no place to hide
You scream, “Someone save me”
But they don’t pay no mind, goodbye
You’re walkin’ down a horror corridor
It’s almost 4 in the mornin’ and your in a
Nightmare it’s horrible
Right there’s the coroner
Waitin’ for you to turn the corner
So he can corner ya, you’re a goner
He’s on to ya, out the corner of his cornea
He just saw you run, all you want is to rest
’Cause you can’t run anymore, you’re done
All he wants is to kill you in front of an audience
While everybody is watching in the party, applauding it
Here I sit while I’m caught up in deep thought again
Contemplating my next plot again

Don Orsillo’s golden tie was evocative of a Pointer sister’s ensemble circa 1984.

Game 30: May 4, 2011 ∙ 13 innings
WinLos Angeles Angels
H: Fernando Rodney (5)
BS: Jordan Walden (1)
W: Trevor Bell (1-0)
2B: Erick Aybar (6), Howie Kendrick (8), Hank Conger (3)
HR: Vernon Wells (3)
Boston Red Sox
L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-3)
2B: Jason Varitek (2), Carl Crawford (6), Kevin Youkilis (8)

May 3, 2011

Ace Off

Nothing like facing a trio of aces to get your hitters into midseason form. Dennis Eckersley brought up the assassin’s string of Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren to Terry Francona in their in-game interview. “Thanks, Eck,” the skipper grimly replied. It was the top of the fifth inning and the only hit Haren had given up to that point was a ground ball single to right off the bat of Carl Crawford.

Eckersley and Don Orsillo joked about the Hall of Famer keeping a book on the batters he faced. The very notion made Eckersley guffaw. “Straight to the dugout and, I gassed him,” mimicking as if he were keeping a journal. They laugh now but Curt Schilling’s books might make it into Cooperstown if he does. Manny Ramirez, who mocked Schilling when the pitcher was poring over his book, probably won’t.

Haren and Jon Lester both benefited from John Hirschbeck’s expansive strike zone. “I love that umpire,” sighed Eckersley dreamily.

Not that Haren needs a favorable zone. Despite looking like he gets his food from a soup kitchen the pitcher has superb command. By the sixth inning, however, Haren’s pitches were catching too much of the plate and the Red Sox batters jumped on his offerings. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled down the first base line and Torii Hunter bobbled the ball. In an unusual shot from the third base side the television audience could see Ellsbury debating whether to break for third while Hunter gathered the horsehide for his throw to the cutoff man.

Adrian Gonzalez took Haren to the opposite field to plate his team’s first score. David Ortiz extended the inning with a hit similar to Ellsbury’s but with Gonzalez clogging up the bases Ortiz couldn’t unleash his speed and stayed at first. Gonzalez crossed home with Jed Lowrie’s grounder that slipped between Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo.

Perhaps Mike Scioscia was justified in bringing out Haren again in the seventh. Boston hitters weren’t necessarily smoking the ball; they were just getting enough wood on it and finding the holes. But then Crawford scorched a single to center and Jarrod Saltalamacchia knocked the ball high off the left field wall just before it angles into the center field fence for an RBI double.

Scioscia inexplicably stayed with Haren in the eighth. The hard hit balls in the seventh presaged Adrian Gonzalez’s home run, his first at Fenway. Gonzalez’s circuit clout landed in the visitors’ bullpen. The Angels field manager was a batter too late with his pitching change and then went with the wrong reliever. Hisanori Takahashi relinquished homers to Ortiz and Marco Scutaro.

Like President Obama’s birthplace or Osama bin Laden’s current state of existence there was doubt about Scoots’s four-bagger. Proof supporting the veracity of these three things have either been provided or can be.

Tonight’s tie calls to mind glass bricks that were an essential part of the design aesthetic of the eighties. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.

Game 29: May 3, 2011
Los Angeles Angels
L: Daren Haren (4-2)
2B: Maicer Izturis (10), Erick Aybar (5)
HR: Mark Trumbo (5)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (4-1)
H: Daniel Bard (5)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (9), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (2), David Ortiz (4), Marco Scutaro (1)

May 2, 2011

Submission Accomplished

Dustin Pedroia can hold a grudge. Seven years after he lost out on the Golden Spikes Award to Jered Weaver he took it out on the lanky pitcher with an epic at bat in the fifth. With two out and two on and the score 2-1 in the visitors’ favor Pedroia fouled off pitch after pitch.

On the thirteenth pitch the second baseman finally got a hold of a four-seamer and shot it up the middle. Speedsters Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury easily scored the tying and go-ahead runs.

Weaver, who relinquished five earned runs total in the month of April, had the worst game of the season: 6 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. He has only pitched quality starts and Peter Gammons said it was a toss-up between he and Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young. Amazingly the Red Sox faced both aces back-to-back and defeated them.

Dennis Eckersley’s moment of the evening was calling out Terry Steinbach for calling the pitch that Kirk Gibson famously clubbed into the seats to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. “They don’t get the loss is the problem,” he grumbled. Don Orsillo shook his head as if he were on the mound disagreeing with his catcher and asked, “Why didn’t you just do this?” Baseball is so simple for Announcer Boy, who could hit .280 in the bigs, easy. Eckersley also lost his scorecard in the sixth inning and a MacGyver-like NESN crew member retrieved it with a stick equipped with a loop of tape on the top.

Orsillo was garbed in a pink shirt with coordinating tie. It was cross-hatched with white and black stripes so you could play tic-tac-toe in slow innings.

The seventh inning wasn’t one of those monotonous frames. Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez were back to their doubles-hitting way. Gonzalez’s double clipped the edge of the last sign on the left field wall, allowing all three runners on base to score. Pedroia was on Ellsbury’s tail like Navy SEAL Team 6 on Osama bin Laden. With Weaver out of the game Pedroia had to take his frustrations out on someone and that seemed to be his swift teammate.

Pedroia won’t be satisfied until everyone admits he has Ortiz’s power, Ellsbury’s speed, Jon Lester’s pitching ability (see the Sullivan Tire spots), and J.D. Drew’s arm, just like he claims he does.

In a happy bit of sports synchronicity Hideki Okajima notched the final out of the Red Sox game at about the same time David Krejci’s goal was ruled good to give the Bruins a 3-2 win in overtime and a 2-0 series lead.

Game 28: May 2, 2011
Los Angeles Angels
L: Jered Weaver (6-1)
2B: Maicer Izturis – 2 (9), Torii Hunter (4)
HR: Vernon Wells (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (2-3)
H: Daniel Bard (4)
2B: Carl Crawford (5), Jacoby Ellsbury (8), Adrian Gonzalez (11), Kevin Youkilis (7)
HR: David Ortiz (3)

May 1, 2011

Storybook Beginning

Remarkably the Red Sox managed to score against Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. Keep in mind that this is the same team that was blanked by Doug Fister. The home team threatened in the first inning by loading the bases but continued the trend in this series by failing to hit with runners in scoring position.

They did capitalize on Hernandez’s second time through the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the third with a single up the middle and Dustin Pedroia lined another single to left. David Ortiz knocked the horsehide high off the left field wall to plate two runs.

Peter Gammons had asked Pedroia what he thought of Andre Ethier’s hitting streak as the two are best friends and former Arizona State teammates. With his usual cockiness Pedroia said he’ll have a longer one. It’s definitely time for a sandwich for the Laser Show.

Bobby Jenks took one for the team today, blowing a two-run lead to set up a dramatic comeback. He took the mound in the sixth with two out and one on. Tim Wakefield was in line for his 180th win with the Old Towne team. Jenks surrendered a soft liner to left off the bat of Miguel Olivo and then walked the next three batters. Fenway fans sarcastically cheered whenever he somehow managed to hurl a strike. The steady stream of bases on balls tied the game 2-2.

With one out in the ninth Jed Lowrie clouted the ball to deep right. His fly ball ricocheted off Ichiro Suzuki’s leg and bounced far enough away for Lowrie to reach third. Don Orsillo and Gammons said it was because of the difficult sun field, but Red Sox fans know that it was the saint-like corona that surrounds Lowrie’s being.

Like Jenks and Lowrie before him Marco Scutaro played his part. The shortstop tapped the first pitch he saw to Chone Figgins for a quick out, setting up Carl Crawford’s moment in the sun (or was that still Lowrie’s aureole?).

With two out and the go-ahead run 90 feet away Crawford faced off against Jamey Wright. The left fielder laid off the first pitch, a pitch in the dirt. He let the second pitch traverse the plate for a called strike. His timing thus calibrated Crawford stung the ball up the middle of the infield to score the winning run. His teammates mobbed him as he tried to run the bases. Perhaps this is the real beginning to Crawford’s Red Sox career.

The earth tones stripes of Orsillo’s tie resembled layers of sedimentary rock. It’s tempting to make a joke about Gammons’s age here, but with his blues guitar and Hall of Fame honors he’s twenty times more hip than me.

Game 27: May 1, 2011
Seattle Mariners
L: Jamey Wright (0-1)
2B: Jack Cust (4)
WinBoston Red Sox
BS: Bobby Jenks (2)
W: Jonathan Papelbon (1-0)
2B: David Ortiz (4)
3B: Jed Lowrie (1)

Double Trouble

The magic snuggie has been forever tainted by Peter Abraham.

Did you have a Laffey over Doug Fister’s surname? In every fantasy baseball league the same joke is inevitably made. But last night the joke was on the Red Sox lineup — it couldn’t string together hits off Fister and Aaron Laffey over eight innings. Dennis Eckersley, who was filling in for Jerry Remy, all but stated that the Mariners pitchers he saw were throwing salad.

Speaking of tossed salads and scrambled eggs, Milton Bradley was ejected from the game in the third inning by second base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis. Kevin Youkilis double clutched on Miguel Olivo’s grounder to make sure Chone Figgins didn’t break for home. That delay allowed Olivo to beat Youkilis’s throw to first but Todd Tichenor called the Mariners catcher out. Eric Wedge (who with his mustache strongly resembles Ron Swanson of “Parks and Recreation”) argued for a bit but relented. His outfielder did not. At least this time Bradley did not get injured while getting ejected.

When Peter Gammons sat in as the color analyst for Jerry Remy in the first game of this series he mentioned that Bradley sent him the most e-mails while he was recovering from his stroke. The contradiction between Bradley’s off and on-field attitude might be surprising but no one could be as angry as he seems all the time. When dealing with umpires I think Bradley’s reputation precedes him; most other players who chirp a bit here and there wouldn’t get tossed. But when Bradley is involved it will likely result in a quick hook by the officials.

The Bruins scored more goals in one game than the Red Sox have scored runs in the two games of this series thus far. David Krejci and Brad Marchand both scored two goals in the Bruins’ 7-3 rout of the Flyers. Can either one play left?

Thirteen was unlucky in total baserunners and for number 13 Carl Crawford as well. The left fielder is now mired in the worst stretch of his career. It might be time for Crawford to see a sports psychologist so that he does not go the way of Julio Lugo and Edgar Renteria.

The score should have been ridiculously in favor of Red Sox with all the baserunners they had and the six different players hitting doubles, but the team went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and J.D. Drew had towering shots that would have been home runs in most other parks but clanged high off the left field wall for doubles. The wall giveth and the wall taketh away.

The variegated tie that Don Orsillo wore had blue and green tones shifting into each other like the sheen of oil on water. Over the streaks of color were abstract floral decorations. He has yet to duplicate a tie this season.

Game 26: April 30, 2011
WinSeattle Mariners
W: Doug Fister (2-3)
H: Aaron Laffey (1)
S: Brandon League (7)
2B: Milton Bradley (5)
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (2-3)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (7), Jed Lowrie (5), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3), J.D. Drew (3), Kevin Youkilis (6)

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