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Home » Monthly Archive » June 2011

June 30, 2011

Fateful CaraCole

Sometimes it’s just not your day. Cole Hamels had a bandage on his chin, perhaps from his morning shave or maybe he tussled with a particularly aggressive pimple. Things seemed to turn around when he effortlessly snared Marco Scutaro’s comebacker for the first out of the third. But in the next inning a hot shot off Adrian Gonzalez’s knocked off Hamels’s glove and then knocked the Phillies’ starter off the mound.

With Hamels out of the game getting his hand x-rayed the Red Sox made hay. Long reliever David Herndon gave up a triple to Josh Reddick with one down in the fifth and the replacement outfielder scored easily on Drew Sutton’s ground ball single to right. Scutaro singled and advanced Sutton to third. With runners at the corners and one out Jon Lester didn’t pull a John Lackey in the batter’s box but neither did he strike out. The lineup turned over to Jacoby Ellsbury, who sent a wormburner to the opposite field to plate Sutton.

Jason Varitek clouted home runs in the sixth and eighth, but since Dustin Pedroia also hit a four-bagger it was the second baseman’s hit that was most people heard about. Particularly because it was an opposite field homer with Pedroia batting clean-up. “He’s small in stature, but not in his own opinion of himself,” said Terry Francona.

Francona reached a significant milestone: this victory marked his 700th win with the Red Sox. Ironically it came in the city where Francona had very little success (285-363, or a .440 winning percentage) but at least got his first taste of managing a major league team. Sort of how Bill Belichick had to fail in Cleveland (36-44) before finding success with the Patriots. Thanks for breaking in two of our best coaches, Philly and Cleveland. You’re like baby Massachusettses.

Although the Red Sox came away with a meaningful and much needed win it was not without a shadow of sadness. Mike Cameron, a 17-year major leaguer, was designated for assignment. Were it not for that foul ball finding Kevin Youkilis’s leg Cameron may have lingered longer, but sometimes veterans have to be shown the door when they don’t make their own exit.

Earth tones just don’t work for Don Orsillo. He needs to go back to blues, greys, and black.

Game 80: June 30, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
46-34
5
W: Jon Lester (10-4)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (15)
3B: Josh Reddick (2)
HR: Jason Varitek – 2 (5), Dustin Pedroia (7)
Philadelphia Phillies
51-31
2
L: David Herndon (0-2)
HR: Ryan Howard (17)

June 29, 2011

AdVanced Placement

Vance Worley, born in 1987, was four years old when Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly” was released. The rookie was a man amongst boys with this impressive line against one of the American League’s most formidable lineups: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

John Lackey was the only Red Sox player to get to Worley. The hurler’s fifth-inning double to the deepest part of center field plated Josh Reddick to tie the game 1-1. Reddick was the only Boston batter to have a multi-hit game. When a mid-season call-up and a pitcher are the engines of the offense you know your team’s in a hitting slump.

Terry Francona pulled the trigger at last and played Adrian Gonzalez in right field to get David Ortiz’s bat in the lineup. With all the second guessing and hand wringing about placing Gonzalez in the outfield there should be a commemorative t-shirt sold along with Fenway 100th Anniversary swag boldly emblazoned, “I played right field at Citizens Bank Park and all I got was this crummy t-shirt.” The two fly balls hit towards Gonzalez resulted in a home run for Raul Ibanez and a triple for Chase Utley. Jacoby Ellsbury’s range and speed allowed him to cover the area outside of Gonzalez’s ambit.

Regarding the defensive shuffling Dustin Pedroia commented that he would have to cover second, first, and right. While Lackey didn’t go on record about the defense behind him, I could almost hear his mental kvetching.

Don Orsillo has a number of black and white grid ties (April 2 and May 9), but tonight’s accessory, unlike this two-game skid, isn’t a repeat.

Game 79: June 29, 2011
Boston Red Sox
45-34
1
L: John Lackey (5-7)
2B: Lackey (1)
WinPhiladelphia Phillies
51-30
2
W: Vance Worley (3-1)
H: Michael Stutes (5)
S: Antonio Bastardo (3)
2B: Shane Victorino (12), Raul Ibanez (16)
3B: Chase Utley (3)
HR: Ibanez (9)

June 28, 2011

Cliff Hanger

After rookie Domonic Brown clubbed his fifth home run of the year the only suspenseful aspect of the game was not whether the Red Sox would win but whether they would get no-hit. The two-run margin Brown’s second inning four-bagger provided would be more than enough for the Phillies to reach their 50th victory.

Appropriately enough, Shane Victorino, who hails from the 50th state, was on the basepaths when Brown deposited his home run ball into the bullpen. He added onto the lead in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run longball of his own.

Cliff Lee not only pitched nine scoreless innings but lofted a fly ball deep to left to plate Brown in the fifth. The southpaw hurler hit the ball harder and farther than any Boston batter hit him.

Kevin Youkilis broke up the perfect game by leading off the second with a four-pitch base on balls and Marco Scutaro ended the no-hitter with a line drive single to left to start the sixth. Beckett failed to bunt Scutaro over and when he was instructed to swing away he grounded into a double play.

The Red Sox needed the bat and ball Jimmy Rollins used to try and break Babe Ruth’s 575-foot shot in Detroit. Darnell McDonald was the only hitter to muster an extra base hit off Lee, a leadoff double in the eighth. McDonald, like the other three other Red Sox baserunners of the evening, were stranded.

Although the Red Sox dropped the first game of this series Boston fans could remind their City of Brotherly Love brethren of the 4-0 drubbing the Bruins visited upon the Flyers in the conference semifinals this year. To do any less would be failing to live up to our new reputation of being “obnoxious, arrogant, condescending.”

Game 78: June 28, 2011
Boston Red Sox
45-33
0
L: Josh Beckett (6-3)
2B: Darnell McDonald (1)
WinPhiladelphia Phillies
50-30
5
W: Cliff Lee (9-5)
2B: Domonic Brown (7)
HR: Brown (5), Shane Victorino (9)

June 26, 2011

Video Game Piracy

What happened to the team from less than a week ago that dropped 14 runs on the Padres? The Red Sox need to do a Google search for the cheat codes they unlocked because they have seemingly lost the ability to hit with runners in scoring position. They also need to deselect the random injury option, because the lack of the designated hitter in National League parks compounded with Carl Crawford’s absence has upset the finely-tuned offensive engine that powered Boston to the top of the division.

To cap off an ugly series the Red Sox tallied an unattractive win. Their first run came in the fourth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia ran out a double to Andrew McCutchen to start the inning. Chasing down the ball seemed to have gotten McCutchen’s juices flowing because when he fielded Josh Reddick’s fly ball the Pirates center fielder sent the relay throw over the cutoff man to third baseman Chase d’Arnaud. The ball bounced out of d’Arnaud’s glove into the stands. Saltalamacchia scored and McCutchen got the error, but if the official scorer could parse out the blame to more than one person d’Arnaud deserved a share.

Reddick was the catalyst in the sixth inning, too. The replacement left fielder drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to his counterpart.

Dustin Pedroia had the opportunity to payback the Pirates for the multiple dusters their pitchers gave him in the seventh. With the bases loaded and none out Pedroia sent a chopper to the shortstop, pushing across the go-head run. Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked to get to Kevin Youkilis, who took the affront with aplomb by lofting a fly ball to Garrett Jones.

Jones’s catch was calamitous as it almost resulted in a collision with McCutchen. The throw to rookie catcher Eric Fryer was almost in time to hose David Ortiz, but Fryer seemed hesitant to tag the designated hitter. Perhaps 230 or so pounds of speeding slugger was too much for the greenhorn.

The Red Sox found themselves a half a game behind the Yankees despite their victory. They dropped consecutive series to the Padres (last place in the NL West) and the Pirates (third place in the NL Central) and now travel across Pennsyltucky to face the Phillies, the powerhouse of the senior circuit.

With Gonzalez unlocked as a playable character you can hit towering fly balls to the right field that just miss being fair in one pitch and then fly out to the base of the left field wall on the very next offering. Even though Gonzalez didn’t go bridge in the fifth, the fact that he could get enough on the ball to nearly hit longballs from one side to the field to the other was breathtaking. Fans in Philadelphia should prepare to get a lot of souvenirs over the next three games.

Game 77: June 26, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
45-32
4
W: Andrew Miller (1-0)
H: Alfredo Aceves (5)
H: Daniel Bard (15)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (14)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (12)
Pittsburgh Pirates
39-38
2
L: Tim Wood (0-2)
No extra base hits

Yinzer Winners

People who speak Pittsburghese, a variation of the North Midland dialect, get around English’s problem of not having a second person plural part of speech by deploying “yinz.” It is thought to be a contraction of the Scotch-Irish form “you ones.” Other US English dialects, particularly in those areas where there was immigration from Ireland, fill in that gap: in the South there is “y'all” and in Philadelphia and New Jersey “yous.” We could try to revive “ye,” but as “you” devolves to “U” because of texting and Twitter, the battle may already be lost.

Much like the battle of what was thought to be one of the best teams in the American League against the one of the middling teams of the senior circuit. With yesterday’s loss the Red Sox hold a four-game losing streak and were toppled from first place in the AL East.

Tim Wakefield obliterated the Pirates lineup for the first two innings but found his nemesis in Ronny Cedeno leading off the third inning. Cedeno broke up the perfect game with a Texas Leaguer to right but was erased by Jeff Karstens’s fielder’s choice. Karstens made his way to third by way of the wild pitch express while Jose Tabata reached on a base on balls. Karstens and Tabata were both part of the deal that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees, a move that powered the Bronx Bromides to third place in the division in 2008.

In the fourth inning the home team had solved the knuckleball enigma and knocked in four runs, three of the runs coming from gadfly Lyle Overbay’s three-run homer. While three Red Sox clubbed solo home runs, as a team they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Since the Pirates and Penguins both play second fiddle to the Steelers, one can hardly blame the Bucs organization for attempting to jazz up their on-field product with fireworks after home runs and wins. However, when Xavier Paul failed to come down with Dustin Pedroia’s fly ball to right for the final out the pyrotechnics went off prematurely. Adrian Gonzalez ended the game by striking out, and given how well the first baseman has been hitting that was reason enough shoot off a few Roman candles.

Game 76: June 25, 2011
Boston Red Sox
44-32
4
L: Tim Wakefield (4-3)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (11), Dustin Pedroia – 2 (16)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (16), Josh Reddick (1), Jacoby Ellsbury (9)
WinPittsburgh Pirates
39-37
6
W: Jeff Karstens (5-4)
H: Daniel Moskos (1)
H: Tony Watson (6)
S: Joel Hanrahan (22)
2B: Ronny Cedeno (14), Garrett Jones (11)
HR: Lyle Overbay (6), Jones (8)

June 25, 2011

Pirates of the Monongahela

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot
Drink up, me ’earties, yo ho
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot
Drink up me ’earties, yo ho

“Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)”
Music by George Bruns, lyrics by Xavier Atencio

The current Bucs player who has the swagger of an actual pirate is center fielder Andrew McCutchen. As the 11th pick in the 2005 draft McCutchen carried high expectations and has met them, providing a consistent bat in what is usually a tepid lineup. As of today McCutchen’s batting average is .286; in the past two seasons he has ended the year with that exact figure.

He shares his surname with reliever Daniel, and they are the only two players with this name to have played in the majors (although there was a Doc McCutchen McJames, active from 1895 through 1899 and in 1901, who led the National League in strikeouts in 1897 and died at the age of 27 from being thrown from a carriage). Andrew is African-American while Daniel is white, but of course that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be related. Slave owners were known to have children with their slaves and slaves would have the family name of their owner placed upon them.

Willie Ruff, an ethnomusicologist at the Yale School of Music, has uncovered evidence that the African-American tradition of gospel singing has its origins in Scottish line-singing. Ruff was prompted by Dizzie Gillespie’s assertion that some congregations in the South sang hymns in Gaelic. Line-singing may have also permeated the Native American culture when they were forced on the Trail of Tears from the South to Oklahoma. In their desperate plight many Native Americans converted to Christianity and intermarried with traders. Most of the traders were of Scottish ancestry.

So who knows? Perhaps the McCutchens actually can sing Sister Sledge’s emblematic song together and mean it. They are lucky they don’t spell their names “McCutcheon” — according to Baseball Reference none of the players with this spelling ever made the show.

Game 75: June 24, 2011
Boston Red Sox
44-31
1
L: Jon Lester (9-4)
No extra base hits
WinPittsburgh Pirates
38-37
3
W: Paul Maholm (4-8)
H: Chris Resop (9)
H: Tony Watson (5)
H: Daniel McCutchen (3)
H: Jose Veras (15)
S: Joel Hanrahan (21)
2B: Michael McKenry (2)
3B: Chase d’Arnaud (1)

June 23, 2011

It’s Raining Again

Oh no, my love’s at an end
Oh no, it’s raining again
And you know it’s hard to pretend
Oh no, it’s raining again
Too bad I’m losing a friend
Oh no, it’s raining again
Oh, will my heart never mend

You’re old enough some people say
To read the signs and walk away
It’s only time that heals the pain
And makes the sun come out again

“It’s Raining Again,” Supertramp

As the weather turned so did the Red Sox hitters’ fortunes. In dramatic contrast to the series opening beatdown in this game the local nine failed to tally a single extra base hit.

Baseball Reference’s win probability estimates indicated that David Ortiz’s inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the first was a crucial event that could have tipped the odds in the home team’s court early. When the Padres went around the horn on Kevin Youkilis’s grounder with two on and one out in the seventh the game was all but done.

Bud Black thought it should have been called much earlier, like after the last out of the fifth inning was notched. His right fielder Will Venable hit his first home run of the season to lead off the first inning. Then the Padres scored a quartet of runs in the fourth as John Lackey unraveled. San Diego scored when Lackey walked Will Venable with the bases loaded, hit Jason Bartlett with a pitch (a Pyrrhic victory given how irksome Bartlett can be), uncorked a wild pitch to Chase Headley (a name I’m sure didn’t come without some degree of aggravation), and then surrendered a single to the unfortunately named third baseman.

The MLB rule book is as poetic as Roger Hodgson when it comes to shortened games:

(c) If a game is called, it is a regulation game:
(1) If five innings have been completed;
(2) If the home team has scored more runs in four or four and a fraction half-innings than the visiting team has scored in five completed half-innings;
(3) If the home team scores one or more runs in its half of the fifth inning to tie the score

Can you imagine if another sport had such a rule? “If in an outdoor hockey game a game is called on account of cold or inclement weather, it is a regulation game if (1) Brad Marchand hits Daniel Sedin in the face five times. (2) Roberto Luongo’s hair product freezes. (3) Alex Burrows has his early evening snack (another player’s fingers).”

Don Orsillo’s tie resembled graphics from an Atari 2600 game.

Game 74: June 22, 2011 ∙ 8 innings
WinSan Diego Padres
32-44
5
W: Clayton Richard (3-9)
HR: Will Venable (1)
Boston Red Sox
44-30
1
L: John Lackey (5-6)
No extra base hits

June 22, 2011

Areyoukiddingme Alfredo

Alfredo Aceves served salad without cheese, but at least held back on meatballs. Dennis Eckersley needs to be on the post-game shows with disastrous pitching performances so I can expand my baseball vocabulary. Then again, he might not have any that are suitable for print.

Aceves walked five consecutive batters in the second resulting in two runs for the visiting team. In the top half of the next frame two more runs crossed the plate for the Padres, but this time Aceves made them earn it by swinging the bat. Anthony Rizzo doubled over Josh Reddick’s leap near the wall and clanged it off the “SD” sign on the scoreboard. Cameron Maybin singled to plate Rizzo and was in turned driven in by Nick Hundley’s liner to left.

What was most frustrating is that both of these scoring flurries came after Aceves notched the first two outs of the inning with relative ease. If he had it for two batters, why couldn’t he bear down for the final out of the inning?

The Red Sox scored in dribs and drabs but couldn’t coalesce them into the torrent of scores they did in the opening game of the series.

Reddick played both sides the ball with greater ease than Carl Crawford did in his first month as a Red Sox player. He doubled off the center field wall to plate Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fourth. In the sixth he robbed the pesky Jason Bartlett of a hit with a diving snare of a liner that was slicing away from him. It was a play that deserved more airtime than a random fan whose beer caught a foul ball.

Jacoby Ellsbury also had highlights at the dish and on the field. He roped a single in the third inning to drive in Reddick and hawked down a deep fly all to the triangle off Rizzo’s bat for the final out of the ninth.

It’s an unusual game where the David Ortiz highlight was his theft of second base. In the fifth the designated hitter found himself with tremendous jump on Mat Latos. He got so far off first base without eliciting reaction or notice he didn’t quite know what to do, like a kid expecting to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar but surprised when no one catches him.

Game 73: June 21, 2011
WinSan Diego Padres
31-44
5
BS, W: Chad Qualls (3, 4-3)
H: Mike Adams (13)
S: Heath Bell (19)
2B: Anthony Rizzo (3), Nick Hundley (5), Jesus Guzman (1)
Boston Red Sox
44-29
4
L: Dan Wheeler (0-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (21), Josh Reddick (3)
3B: Reddick (1)

June 21, 2011

Miller’s Crossing

That wasn’t the man on stilts who plays catch with kids on Yawkey Way before games on the mound, that was Andrew Miller. People wondered why Miller, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, had trouble with his mechanics. It’s because it takes so long for his brain to send signals to his legs.

Miller kept it together in his Red Sox debut until sixth inning. Chase Headley led off with a bloop single to right and Ryan Ludwick walked on five pitches. Miller bore down to strike out Jesus Guzman but surrendered a game-tying home run to Orlando Hudson. The Padres second baseman didn’t signal his own home run, unlike how he indicates his infield singles as safe.

While he didn’t earn a win, Miller pitched no worse than a typical John Lackey outing and should see a few more starts with Clay Buchholz on the disabled list. This is a league that has Bruce Chen and Roderigo Lopez pitching regularly at the major league level. Someone with Miller’s pedigree may never break through that glass ceiling stopping him from being considered a major league regular precisely because his ceiling as a prospect was so high.

Speaking of prospects brimming with potential, Anthony Rizzo, one of the pieces that was sent to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, went 1-for-4. His sixth-inning double off the center field wall would have been a home run most other parks. Like Gonzalez, his power will be stifled in Petco Park.

First base was like a water cooler with Dave Roberts as first base coach. When Gonzalez singled in the first inning he caught up with his former teammate and chatted with Rizzo. Hopefully he wasn’t giving the rookie too much advice about how to take advantage of Fenway as a southpaw slugger.

Don Orsillo’s ensemble called to mind the Padres’ sand-colored road uniforms that were replaced this season by more traditional road greys. Orsillo could learn from that.

Game 72: June 20, 2011
San Diego Padres
30-44
5
L: Cory Luebke (1-2)
2B: Anthony Rizzo (2), Chase Headley (21)
3B: Jesus Guzman (1)
HR: Orlando Hudson (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
44-28
14
W: Matt Albers (2-3)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (14), David Ortiz (20), Adrian Gonzalez (25), Kevin Youkilis (20)
3B: Adrian Gonzalez (3)

June 19, 2011

Our Cup Runneth Over

Fenway Park was infused not only with summer sunshine but also with the gold of Bruins jerseys and the gleam of Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Bruins boarded the duckboats again and rolled around the warning track to deafening cheers, much like the Celtics did in 2008. The crowd also got to enjoy the earsplitting horns and Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400” with each scoring play.

After circuiting the park the hockey players clambered off the DUKWs and traversed the field with the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Prince of Wales Trophy in tow. They were in their hockey jerseys but wearing Red Sox caps. The Red Sox players were in their baseball uniforms, of course, but with Bruins caps. That part was slightly cheesy, but cheese can be a glorious thing.

Zdeno Chara threw to Jason Varitek, of course. With the huge arrays of people it was difficult to discern how players were paired, further complicated by the hockey players’ unfamiliarity with pitching and in some cases the aftereffects of continual alcohol consumption. I think Mark Recchi’s battery mate was Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis also chatted with Tim Thomas in the aftermath of the first pitch; the Red Sox third baseman could easily pass for a hockey player. I didn’t see if Brad Marchand met his baseball alter ego Dustin Pedroia. Even if NESN cameras and microphones did capture such an encounter it would probably require heavy editing.

Being in the presence of world champions seemed to put a fire under the baseball squad. Tim Wakefield pitched a dazzling eight innings: 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. He surrendered homers to one improbable hitter (Nyjer Morgan) and a one unsurprising slugger (Cecil, I mean, Prince Fielder), but before the Brewers first baseman clubbed his home run he corkscrewed himself multiple times chasing after Wakefield’s butterflies.

The local nine jumped to an early 6-0 lead while batting around in the first inning on Yovani Gallardo, a pitcher who is Cy Young caliber even though Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy didn’t quite know how to pronounce his name. Every Red Sox who began the day in the lineup had a hit and all of them but Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a run. Two particularly memorable hits came in the fourth. Dustin Pedroia blasted a four-bagger to the batter’s eye to lead off the inning, prompting Remy to conjecture about what it would have been like if Roberto Luongo had the foghorn blast as his wake-up call.

Adrian Gonzalez followed Pedroia’s home run with his 1,000th hit. Just as Wade Boggs’s 3,000th hit was a home run, a stark contrast to his slap-hitting style, Gonzalez’s milestone was a triple to the triangle. Neither of them had their landmark hits with the team that originally drafted him, but I’m happy to have Gonzalez make history in Boston. He saw a glimpse of championship atmosphere that has pervaded the region for a decade now and seems hungry to extend it.

With blowouts Orsillo and Remy got a little giggly. Orsillo’s powder blue jacket was reversed and easy trivia questions were answered.

Game 71: June 19, 2011
Milwaukee Brewers
40-33
3
L: Yovani Gallardo (8-4)
2B: Casey McGehee (14)
HR: Nyjer Morgan (2), Prince Fielder (20)
WinBoston Red Sox
43-28
12
W: Tim Wakefield (4-2)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (22), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (10), Josh Reddick (2), Dustin Pedroia (13)
3B: Adrian Gonzalez (3)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (11), Pedroia (6), Marco Scutaro (2)

Weeks Effort

Just to prove himself human Adrian Gonzalez dropped a foul ball off Rickie Weeks’s bat in the first inning. Unfortunately Weeks sent the very next pitch off the top of the Monster. Thanks to scoring convention the run didn’t count towards Jon Lester’s ERA calculation, but the southpaw probably would have preferred the lavish offensive support the Red Sox lineup had been providing the pitching staff. Instead, Boston was largely befuddled by Randy Wolf. I thought that the senior circuit mainstay would be eaten alive by Boston batters, but he prevailed and added to career splits that show while he has a losing record in interleague play he has only a few ticks difference in WHIP (1.321 career compared to 1.472 against the AL) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.2 versus 6.5).

The second batter of the game, Corey Hart, didn’t wait around to fall behind Lester in the count. The hulking right fielder powered a four-bagger over the Red Sox bullpen. The situation was almost as distressing as Don Orsillo’s jacket and tie selection.

Jerry Remy refrained from commenting on the ensemble somehow. Orsillo threatened to bring his powder blue blazer into the rotation on Father’s Day to support the league’s efforts raise awareness about prostate cancer.

The local nine responded to the Brewers’ early charge with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second. A quick response to the opposition has been a growing trait of this team. Kevin Youkilis, recovered from his intestinal turmoil, led off the inning by clubbing a double high off the left field wall, a hit that would have been a homer in most other parks. David Ortiz walked with the count full but neither Darnell McDonald nor Marco Scutaro brought them home.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia shot a single up the middle to plate Youkilis and Mike Cameron sent the ball into right field to score Ortiz. The rest of the lineup seemed to be recovering from heat stroke caused by watching the Bruins Rolling Rally.

Game 70: June 18, 2011
WinMilwaukee Brewers
40-32
4
W: Randy Wolf (5-4)
H: Kameron Loe (13)
S: John Axford (19)
2B: Ryan Braun (18), Rickie Weeks (19), Josh Wilson (3)
HR: Weeks (14), George Kottaras (2)
Boston Red Sox
42-28
2
L: Jon Lester (9-3)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (19), Marco Scutaro (6)

June 18, 2011

Brew Crew Blues

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were on fire last night, uttering one-liners as easily as Adrian Gonzalez knocks in opposite-field hits.

As NESN cameramen showed Charlie Moore the pair returned to Orsillo’s paddle boat adventure. Fish tales were exchanged, such as Adrian Gonzalez batting .453 with a .540 on-base percentage and .906 slugging in June thus far. Actually, that’s true.

In the bottom of the seventh Craig Counsell matadored Darnell McDonald’s grounder, an error that allowed Drew Sutton to score. “Looked like Roberto Luongo at shortstop on that play,” quipped Remy. Incidentally, Sutton has seven doubles in 34 at bats. Three players with more at bats have fewer doubles than him: J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro, and Jason Varitek. The latter two have their reasons, but Drew, not so much.

The NESN broadcasting pair delighted in Terry Francona’s obliviousness to basic hockey concepts. “Boy, he has no clue. None,” stated Remy. Line shifts, power plays, and offsides are as obscure to Francona as hitting offspeed pitches are to Wily Mo Pena. Nonetheless, Francona donned a Marc Savard jersey for his pre-game press conference, which was part of the Bruins treasure trove that Josh Beckett bought for his squad.

All their ribbing in light of Claude Julien’s statement of appreciation to the other Boston coaches prior to the Bruins’ Rolling Rally made me wonder what Francona, Bill Belichick, and Doc Rivers possibly discussed with the Bruins’ manager.

Francona:

  • On Brad Marchand: You gotta keep those little squirts in their place. Call him “Marshmont.” All. The. Time.
  • Dropkick Murphys: They’re gonna ask for free tickets forever.
  • “Sweet Caroline:” You are just so lucky that didn’t take over. Make it stop at “Dirty Water” and “Tessie.” Believe me.
  • On hockey strategy: What are those blue lines again?
  • Bruins Hockey Rules commercials: Wait, those aren’t actual hockey rules?

Rivers on:

  • Zdeno Chara: Is he available to play center?
  • Rene Rancourt: We gotta get a regular like him. This Gino thing is getting old.
  • Dropkick Murphys: Still waiting for our song.
  • Celtics Dancers: I know our teams are all about tradition, but damn.
  • The Garden: We’ll need an annex for the banners soon.

Belichick on:

  • Finger-biting taunts: Don’t sink to their level.
  • Tim Thomas: Too talkative in press conferences.
  • Dropkick Murphys: Same here. I’ve heard AC/DC and U2 a bit too much.
  • Their respective leagues: [Here Belichick paused as if he were going to say something.] Next question.

Game 69: June 17, 2011
Milwaukee Brewers
39-32
4
L: Marco Estrada (1-4)
2B: Prince Fielder (18)
WinBoston Red Sox
42-27
10
W: John Lackey (5-5)
2B: David Ortiz (18), Adrian Gonzalez (24), Jason Varitek (5), Drew Sutton (7)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (8), Gonzalez (15)

June 16, 2011

More Than Human

Adrian Gonzalez’s origins, like Barack Obama’s, are shrouded in mystery and speculation.

Some say he was born Kal-Gone on the dying planet Karlsbad. His parents helped escape the planet’s destruction by placing him in a spacecraft destined for Earth. Our G-type main-sequence star grants him superhuman hand-eye coordination and baseball ability.

Others claim that Gonzalez hailed from a planet called Ob (an abbreviation of “on base”). It was inhabited by the Guardians of the Universe, a puissant race whose goal was the promulgate order, justice, and Boston dominance of the four major team sports. They bestowed certain chosen players with rings that tapped into the Central Battery. Bearers of this ring could channel Central Battery power so long as they had sufficient willpower to win another kind of ring: championship rings.

Another tale making the circuits is that Gonzalez was bit by a radioactive emerald ash borer. The bite imbued him with a preternatural ability to hit to all fields and sense the speed and type of pitches when he is the box. The radioactivity is strong enough to infuse those around him with similar heightened senses. Rumor has it he is currently in discussions with Sting to bring this version of the story to Broadway in a spectacular fashion.

Whatever his story, his at bats do not require embellishment by stunts, music, or lighting (sorry, Dustin). Red Sox fans are enrapt by his every plate appearance because they know he has the uncanny ability to make something good happen.

Game 68: June 16, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
41-27
4
W: Clay Buchholz (6-3)
H: Alfredo Aceves (4)
H: Daniel Bard (14)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (13)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (23), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (9), Dustin Pedroia (12)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (14)
Tampa Bay Rays
36-33
2
L: David Price (7-6)
2B: Sam Fuld (12), Casey Kotchman (10)
HR: Kotchman (3)

June 15, 2011

This Happened Also

“Okay guys, it’s time,” Papi’s voice boomed over the beat of bachata.

“Is this the best we can do? Don’t we have, like, sick days or something we can use?” smirked Dustin as he sauntered over to stand next to hulking teammate.

“Nah, man. Everyone on the card and in the pen come draw a straw. There’s two short straws, and those are the guys that have to concentrate on the game so that we can win it so the rest of us can follow the Bruins.” The summoned players shuffled towards Papi and reluctantly picked their lots from the slugger’s hand. “Let’s go, while we’re young. Well, too late for you,” grinned Papi at Tek.

Once all the straws were distributed the men all anxiously checked to see who drew the shortest straws.

Beckett’s scowl was more present than usual. “Really, me? I was planning on plunking Longoria until I got ejected to have Ace take over.”

Aceves laughed. “I pitched last night, man. The rest of the pitchers are already making me watch the game and give the outfield signs about how it’s going. Guess what this means.” The reliever put both his hands up around his neck.

“Seven years ago that meant Yankees but now it means Luongo,” guffawed Youk. He smiled at his own joke until he looked down at his straw and instantly his face twisted in annoyance akin to when umpires call strike three against him. “No way! No way! Why me? I look like hockey player. And did you see me in that commercial. I did the fricking accent and everything.”

Youk’s complaints fell on deaf ears as they usually do. The rest of the team were figuring out how to signal each other updates while on the field and who was going to relay information from the clubhouse.

“Screw them,” sneered Beckett to Youk. “I’m going balls out and you jack one.”

Game 67: June 15, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
40-27
3
W: Josh Beckett (6-2)
3B: Dustin Pedroia (1)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (10)
Tampa Bay Rays
36-32
0
L: Jeremy Hellickson (7-5)
No extra base hits

June 14, 2011

Shields Up

No ties in St. Petersburg. Instead Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were attired in matching NESN polo shirts. They were the color of the FieldTurf that covered the stadium floor from 2000 through 2010.

This season AstroTurf made a reappearance at Tropicana Field as part of MLB’s three-year licensing deal with the Dalton, Georgia-based company. The Blue Jays and Rays received free re-turfing as part of the contract. Not even new plastic grass improved the looks of this venue. MLB.com’s Gameday representations make the most drab parks have a touch charm, except for this stadium. The lack of forklifts and pallets finally convinced me that this was in fact a ballpark and not a warehouse.

James Shields chilled the red-hot hitting Boston lineup, limiting them to five hits and three walks while striking out five in a complete game shutout. Justin Ruggiano robbed Dustin Pedroia of what would have been an extra base hit with a running snare for the first out of the sixth.

Even when they weren’t fielding well the Rays still turned outs. Kevin Youkilis’s scorching grounder seemed to eat up Evan Longoria when he failed to glove the ball on the backhand. Instead the Rays third baseman stayed with the deflection, barehanded the rebound, and fired across the diamond for the second out of the ninth. The visitors grounded into three double plays

Carl Crawford was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers. He harmlessly grounded out to first with the bases loaded in the first and didn’t produce in either of his remaining two at bats. There was no way Crawford was going to stay with the Rays. The difference between the Yankees’ ($202,689,028) and Red Sox’s ($161,762,475) payrolls is $40,926,553, just slightly less than the Rays’ total salary ($41,053,571).

Game 66: June 14, 2011
Boston Red Sox
39-27
0
L: Tim Wakefield (3-2)
No extra base hits
WinTampa Bay Rays
36-31
4
W: James Shields (6-4)
2B Johnny Damon (12), Matt Joyce (16)
HR: Justin Ruggiano (3)

June 13, 2011

Eight-Cylinder Engine

The Red Sox extended their winning streak to nine games, the longest run in the majors this season and the squad’s longest since they won 11 in a row in April 2009.

Jon Lester pitched perfectly through 3⅔ innings, at which point Jose Bautista reminded everyone he was Jose Bautista with a solo shot that hit the top of the center field wall before caroming back onto the field. It was the only extra base hit and score of the game for the local nine. It was enough to make Torontonians cheer for their fellow Canadians across the continent.

Of the starting nine only J.D. Drew didn’t notch a hit. He struck out four times total with three of them swinging, which provided the opposing dugout with a refreshing breeze. I confirmed the side of the dugout with Craig Robinson’s infographic on Flip Flop Fly Ball. I’m excited for his upcoming book, which promises answers to questions like, “How are World Series winning teams assembled?” and “How far did Barry Bonds walk?”

Such questions are slightly more challenging than the trivia segment of the game, which was devised in response to Jerry Remy’s bellyaching about the difficulty of the questions of late. The NESN staff came up with, “Which two left-handed hitters stole 20 or more bases and wore the number 2?” Remy’s deadpan reply: “Jacoby Ellsbury and me.”

Remy didn’t give a ringing endorsement to summer baseball camps. While Don Orsillo promoted Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek’s RBI Baseball Camp Remy described how he almost drowned at a Ted Williams camp. There used to be a site for alumni of the program but the URL no longer works. Sons of Sam Horn has a thread for people to post their recollections; nothing about Remy’s near-death experience yet.

Game 65: June 12, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
39-26
14
W: Jon Lester (9-2)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (22), Kevin Youkilis (18), David Ortiz (18), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8), Marco Scutaro (5), Drew Sutton (6)
HR: Gonzalez (13), Dustin Pedroia (5), Ortiz (17), Youkilis (9)
Toronto Blue Jays
32-34
1
L: Kyle Drabek (4-5)
HR: Jose Bautista (21)

June 12, 2011

To Morrow and to-morrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

More like out, out, baseballs. Jason Varitek continued to produce in his part-time role by going 2-for-3 with a home run, four runs batted in, and two walks. David Ortiz benefited from his long talks with fellow southpaw Adrian Gonzalez and jolted his 16th longball of the season. His three-run homer in the fifth inning capped off a seven-run onslaught.

If only the 16 runs could be converted into goals somehow to help the Red Sox’s cross-town neighbors on Monday night at the Garden for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Jerry Remy chided Roberto Luongo for the goalie’s comments on Tim Thomas. “It’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,’’ said Luongo about Thomas. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does that’s going to happen.”

That’s like Derek Jeter saying something like, “If Gonzalez hit less fly balls like me he wouldn’t get as many fly ball outs as he does.” The only reason that Jeter hasn’t been dropped in the batting order is because of his pursuit of the 3,000 hit mark that the Yankee management seems desperately attempting to engineer so that it occurs at Noveau Stade Fasciste.

Luongo gave up eight goals on 38 shots in Game 3 and four goals on 20 shots in Game 4 when he was finally pulled in favor of Cory Schneider. Luongo’s save percentage during the Canucks’ playoff run is .919. In stark contrast, Thomas’s save percentage is .937. Perhaps the Canucks players should stop making so many difficult shots on goal for Thomas to kill.

Mike McCoy was the only other pitcher besides Jon Rauch (who only faced one batter) to not allow a baserunner. McCoy is a second baseman. He received a standing ovation for his perfect inning in the ninth. McCoy, like Luongo, should admonish the Blue Jays pitching staff. “It’s not hard if you’re getting them to ground out. It’s an easy out for me, but if you’re going all out and pitching like Brandon Morrow does that’s going to happen.”

Another tie trend of Don Orsillo’s I’ve noticed besides blue is a recent proclivity towards gold. Perhaps this is to show support for the Bruins since he hasn’t grown his playoff beard as Tom Caron has.

Game 64: June 11, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
38-26
16
W: John Lackey (4-5)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (21), Dustin Pedroia – 2 (11)
HR: Jason Varitek (3), David Ortiz (16)
Toronto Blue Jays
32-33
4
L: Brandon Morrow (2-4)
2B: Adam Lind (6), Rajai Davis (10), Mike McCoy (3)

June 11, 2011

Attack on America’s Hat

The penetration of the eastern territory, concentrated on +43° 38' 29.66", -79° 23' 25.06" was largely successful. Second-inning forays led by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dustin Pedroia (who returned to duty when results of a scope by fiber-optic camera showed his patella was merely bruised and there was no structural damage) breached the Torontonians’ defense. Adrian Gonzalez feinted with a groundball that distracted the infielders into a double play but allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to score.

Toronto’s counterattack allowed Corey Patterson to cross home plate in the fourth but the Red Sox counter-offensive in the fifth gave them the high ground. Singles by Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis penetrated the Blue Jays defense into the outfield, plating Ellsbury and Pedroia. Gonzalez wrapped up the battle with a volley into left field to once again advance Ellsbury for the final victory of the evening. In two more days will see if Toronto will fall decisively to Boston.

However, the western front was compromised. Boston sent a force of 20 to lay siege to +49° 16' 39.58", -123° 6' 29.19" but fell short. Perhaps the fighting force, specialized to battle through the winter, were enervated by the heat, or perhaps the army overextended itself by deployment too far west. The Bruins fall back to Boston and reengage the Vancouverites on their home ice on Monday.

Game 63: June 10, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
37-26
5
W: Clay Buchholz (5-3)
H: Daniel Bard (13)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (21), Adrian Gonzalez (20)
3B: Carl Crawford (4)
Toronto Blue Jays
32-32
1
L: Jo-Jo Reyes (2-5)
No extra base hits

June 10, 2011

CC Oh Enemy

I imagine most male readers won’t be familiar with the hand-clapping songs that girls like me played while we waited in line for lunch or to pass the time while riding the bus to school. There were two flavors of “See See Oh ———” songs, one for playmates and one for enemies. When I think of CC Sabathia I always think of the latter.

See see oh enemy
Come out and fight with me
And bring your weapons three
Climb up my poison tree
Slide down my razor blade
And through my dungeon door
And we’ll be enemies
For ever more more shut-the-dungeon-door

Another version:

Say say old enemy
Come out and fight with me
And bring your BB gun
And we’ll have lots of fun
I’ll scratch your eyes out
And make you bleed to death
And we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore

Such is training for grade school girls to become cruel teenagers. I picture Henrik and Daniel Sedin singing these chants while they sit cross-legged across from each other, a odd mirror of floppery.

The three-hour, 27-minute rain delay didn’t entirely dampen the Bronx fan base. Yankee fans were tantalized by Curtis Granderson’s two-run bomb in the first inning. A surprising number stayed until the seventh inning instead of leaving early with the assumption that their team was finally going to win a game against the Red Sox at Nouveau Stade Fasciste.

Instead the visiting nine notched seven runs in the seventh. David Ortiz led off the inning with a single that might not have been a hit had Joe Girardi put the shift on. Ortiz scored when Nick Swisher fell down in an attempt to field Jed Lowrie’s batted ball down the right field line. Mike Cameron tied the game with a humpback to left. Consecutive singles by Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury plated Cameron for the lead.

Sabathia was chased from the mound after surrendering a single up the middle and his replacement David Robertson allowed three more runs. While adding these four runs to the lead the Red Sox batted around. Lowrie’s line out to left ended the rally, but most of the witnesses to the act of mercy were empty chairs.

Don Orsillo’s tie was a storm-tinted blue.

Game 62: June 9, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
35-26
8 W: Josh Beckett (5-2)
2B: Mike Cameron (2), David Ortiz (17), Marco Scutaro (4), Adrian Gonzalez (19)
3B: Jed Lowrie (3)
New York Yankees
33-26
3 L: CC Sabathia (7-4)
2B: Robinson Cano (13), Chris Dickerson (2)
HR: Curtis Granderson (18)

June 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Timmies

It was the best of times… and it was the best of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of whoop ass, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of in your face, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Unbearable Lightness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of dope, we had everything before us (101 more games), we had nothing before us (2-2 tie in the Stanley Cup Finals), we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way (to escort certain Canuck players) - in short, three periods were scoreless, the noisiest authorities in the Bronx were silenced, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Tim Wakefield kept the Yankees scoreless through three innings, Tim Thomas held the Canucks at zero through three periods. The knuckleballer hit Robinson Cano with a pitch in the sixth, Thomas hit Alexandre Burrows with his stick with seconds left in the game.

The only problems with tonight’s multiple sportsgasm were the overuse of the “Last Channel” button and the news that Dustin Pedroia may have to undergo knee surgery that would keep him off the team for at least a month. The injury explains Pedroia’s flagging production. Drew Sutton would likely be recalled to spell Jed Lowrie at the keystone sack and Marco Scutaro in the hole when necessary.

The Bruins rallied around the loss of Nate Horton, perhaps the same will happen for the Red Sox. That is to say, instead of beating the Yankees 11-6 they could demolish them by twenty or so runs.

Alfredo Aceves had Yankee fans shaking their heads and wondering, “Why can’t we get players like that?” Aceves earned his save not by preserving a three-run or less lead but by pitching three or more innings. Meanwhile the Yankee reliever Lance Pendleton surrendered pimp-free homers to Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew.

David Ortiz took Joe “Mr. Manners” Girardi’s comments to heart and didn’t flip his bat on his towering two-run homer in the first. If only the Canucks were as conscientious and took heed of Claude Julien’s words about finger biting and taunting.

Don Orsillo’s tie resembled a Triscuit covered in gold leaf. It sounds like a snack that Alex Rodriguez would have while gazing upon a painting of him as a centaur.

Game 61: June 8, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
35-26
11 W: Tim Wakefield (3-1)
S: Alfredo Aceves (1)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (20), Marco Scutaro (3)
HR: David Ortiz (15), Carl Crawford (6), J.D. Drew (4)
New York Yankees
33-26
6 L: A.J. Burnett (6-4)
2B: Francisco Cervelli (2), Derek Jeter (8)
HR: Alex Rodriguez (11)

June 7, 2011

Not So Hairy Garcia

The title is not a comment on Freddy Garcia’s current coif or his lack of allegiance to a team in the Stanley Cup Finals but rather refers to his utter lack of velocity. Garcia threw variations of, as Dennis Eckersley would say, soft salad, nothing balls, and dead fishes, leading to his departure with a mere 1⅔ innings under his belt. Although the Yankees nipped at the Red Sox’s heels until the last inning, the visitors’ early lead sustained them.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the first with a four-bagger to right. Dustin Pedroia reached on a base on balls and was tripled in by Adrian Gonzalez. That is not a typographical error. Kevin Youkilis capped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left and the Yankees were lucky the Red Sox only scored three runs.

Pedroia might be showing flashes of a return to laser show status: he doubled in the second to plate Jarrod Saltalamacchia. David Ortiz started building his case for AL Player of the Month for June with a two-run no-doubter to right. His subsequent bat flip might result in a ball in the ribs sometime in the next two games, but he has some padding there.

Another player that might be back on track was Jon Lester. Lester improved to an 8-2 record despite not having his best stuff: 6 innings, 8 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. His cutter hit two batsmen in nearly the exact same place: the right knee. He knocked out Mark Teixeira, who had to leave the game, and two batters later plunked Russell Martin, who stayed in. Yankee fans reacted to the hit batters as if it were a blind-side hit that clearly violated NHL Rule 48.1 on a key hockey player that led to a severe concussion.

On the self-inflicted injury side Bobby Jenks left the game in the seventh. Although Jenks pitched to Jorge Posada and worked a 3-1 count the walk that Matt Albers completed would be part of Albers’s record.

Coming back from injury Marco Scutaro went 1-for-4 from the nine-hole. On the defensive side he made an impressive snare of Robinson Cano’s liner for the second out of the third but was overshadowed by J.D. Drew’s on-the-run and stretching grab of Martin’s liner for the final out.

Jonathan Papelbon’s 200th save was marred by a leadoff base on balls to Martin and an RBI single off Posada’s bat. Save is a save is a save is a save. He can celebrate during his three-day suspension, should he have to serve the full sentence.

Don Orsillo wore his “I’m secure in my masculinity and can therefore wear cotton candy pink” tie.

Game 60: June 7, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
34-26
6
W: Jon Lester (8-2)
H: Matt Albers (6)
H: Daniel Bard (12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (12)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (9), Jacoby Ellsbury (19)
3B: Adrian Gonzalez (2)
HR: Ellsbury (7), David Ortiz (14)
New York Yankees
33-25
4
L: Freddy Garcia (4-5)
2B: Nick Swisher (10)

June 5, 2011

Lackey’s Back

The Red Sox could ill afford a short outing by John Lackey given Saturday’s 14-inning marathon. Lackey’s pitch limit was 90 pitches and he was able to stretch himself to 5⅔ innings with a line of a 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts. The Red Sox lineup came through for the returning starter. In the power department Carl Crawford clouted a three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen in the second and Adrian Gonzalez lofted a two-run longball into the Monster seats in the fourth. From the speed side Jacoby Ellsbury singled in the sixth, advanced on two wild pitches, and crossed home on Dustin Pedroia’s single.

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s third inning blast to dead center had cameraman Mike Porta momentarily abandoning his equipment as the ball ricocheted about the camera hut. The resulting footage of Gonzalez’s feet wasn’t as stirring as Lou Gerard’s shot of Carlton Fisk in Game Six of the 1975 World Series, but it did provide a moment of levity in what could have been an augury of Lackey’s devolution.

But if there’s any team a pitcher would choose to face after coming off the disabled list it would be the Athletics. Their offensive production is paltry: last in the majors with 33 home runs, 27th in runs batted in, and 25th in on-base percentage. Oakland didn’t score without Lackey’s help. With two down in the fourth Lackey hit Kurt Suzuki. Lackey wasn’t thrown out despite home plate Larry Vanover’s dugout warning in the previous inning, issued after Brett Anderson plunked Crawford in the upper arm. Suzuki swiped second and scored on Daric Barton’s line drive single to right.

The third and last run in the sixth also came as the result of a hit by pitch. Conor Jackson’s uniform was barely grazed by Lackey’s cutter inside so again Vanover didn’t eject the Red Sox starter. And like déjà vu all over again Barton made contact and drove in the hit batsman. So this weekend we learned that MLB officials take actions that are in the end inconsequential while NHL officials fail to take action resulting in game-changing consequences in their championship series.

If Jerry Remy ever wanted to take a break from baseball and chime in on a hockey game it would be endlessly amusing. Remy named Vancouver Canuck Alexandre Burrows “Mr. Bitefinger.” Don Orsillo’s jacket should be named “Mr. Test Pattern.”

Game 59: June 5, 2011
Oakland Athletics
27-33
3
L: Brett Anderson (3-6)
2B: Daric Barton (12)
HR: Kevin Kouzmanoff (4)
WinBoston Red Sox
33-26
6
W: John Lackey (3-5)
H: Matt Albers (5)
H: Tommy Hottovy (2)
H: Dan Wheeler (2)
S: Daniel Bard (1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (8), David Ortiz (16)
3B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1)
HR: Carl Crawford (5), Adrian Gonzalez (12)

Just Like They Drew It Up

The Red Sox wrote their first non-linear game story, a pastiche of 14 innings covering three storylines: Josh Beckett’s dominance, Jason Varitek’s and Jonathan Papelbon’s unraveling, and Alfredo Aceves’s perseverance.

The first five innings of the game were a taut pitchers’ duel between Beckett and Trevor Cahill. As any good writer would, Beckett created tension when he hit David DeJesus in the foot and walked Ryan Sweeney on four pitches to begin the sixth. Cahill’s club, representing the young up and comers, tied the game with Josh Willingham’s two-run double.

The local nine battled back in the bottom of the sixth with a three-run barrage sparked by Jacoby Ellsbury’s patented leadoff single/stolen base combination. Dustin Pedroia drove in the go-ahead run and Kevin Youkilis plated Pedroia with a double that eluded Willingham’s pursuit multiple times as it caromed around the left field corner. Carl Crawford, a pivotal character in late and close games, knocked a gutshot single for the third run.

Beckett and Matt Albers added minor twists by allowing a run and an out between them in the seventh, but in a feel-good touch rookie Tommy Hottovy took the mound and induced an inning-ending double play.

The traditional dramatic structure would entail the falling action (Daniel Bard’s scoreless eighth) and dénouement (Papelbon closing out the ninth). However, Pedroia uncharacteristically allowed a grounder through his legs, turning what should have been a game-ending double play into a run. Then Tony Randazzo and Varitek tangled over the former’s strike zone consistency, earning the catcher his fourth career ejection.Jarrod Saltalmacchia donned the tools of ignorance but no armament could undo the four runs of damage already done, nor any weapon deter Papelbon from inciting a confrontation with Randazzo resulting in the closer’s first ejection.

Bobby Jenks calmly striking out two batters to end a threat does strain the suspension of disbelief, but not any more than the Oakland Athletics scoring more four runs in an inning to tie the game in the ninth. Saltalamacchia had to chase down Hideki Matsui’s third strike and fire to first to get the final out of the inning, an out that cut down the potential go-ahead run by Conor Jackson. If Varitek hadn’t been thrown out by Randazzo it is unlikely he could have made that play.

The final subplot, Alfredo Aceves’s four innings, had an eleventh-inning false climax (that’s what she said). He started off shakily with Pennington reaching on a base on balls and advancing to third on Jackson’s double to the base of the wall. Sweeney sacrificed to left to plate what might have been the winning run and allow Jackson to take third. The ever-present, vexing Willingham grounded out to Jed Lowrie with just enough to plate Jackson but the shortstop threw to Saltalamacchia to kill a run and notch the second out of the inning. Saltalamacchia just missed a homer in the bottom of the eleventh but was driven in by Ellsbury’s ground-rule double to right.

The clutch Crawford reasserted himself in the fourteenth inning with a two-out double to the left field corner. Bob Geren gave the four-finger salute to Lowrie (0-for-6 with four strikeouts on the day) to get to J.D. Drew. As unperturbed and placid as Drew appears, an intentional walk to Lowrie to get to him would have provided a modicum of motivation. Drew’s liner found a gap between Crisp and Sweeney to drive in the winning run.

Drew managed a smile as he was pounded by teammates in congratulation. For him, fist pumps and exclamations are reserved for the postseason.

Game 58: June 4, 2011 ∙ 14 innings
Oakland Athletics
27-32
8
BS: Andrew Bailey (1)
L: Guillermo Moscoso (2-1)
2B: Cliff Pennington (5), Conor Jackson (7)
WinBoston Red Sox
32-26
9
H: Matt Albers (4)
H: Tommy Hottovy (1)
H: Daniel Bard (11)
W: Alfredo Aceves (3-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis – 2 (17), David Ortiz (15), Carl Crawford – 2 (11), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7), Jacoby Ellsbury (18)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (11)

June 4, 2011

Lucky Number Seven

Seven-hole hitter Carl Crawford lined a single to former Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp in the seventh inning with two down, the count full, the bases loaded, and the score 6-5 in Oakland’s favor. Crawford’s hit wasn’t scorched and its lack of speed along with Crisp’s weak arm allowed even slow-running Adrian Gonzalez to score and Kevin Youkilis to break the tie a few seconds later.

Perhaps Terry Francona’s vision of Crawford as a leadoff hitter has at last finally dissipated. The splits for this season so far indicate:

  • 1st: 33 plate appearances, .094 BA, .121 OBP, .125 SLG
  • 6th: 30 plate appearances, .379 BA, .400 OBP, .793 SLG
  • 7th: 38 plate appearances, .286 BA, .324 OBP, .400 SLG
  • 8th: 103 plate appearances, .242 BA, .272 OBP, .343 SLG

Sabermetricians will theorize about batting lineup optimization and Markov chains and field managers will obsess over handedness but in the end the player in the box is a person who doesn’t fit into formulae. Whatever makes Crawford comfortable in donning the number 13 might be the same thing that he thinks slows his reaction time or dulls his senses when he bats leadoff.

Clay Buchholz paid tribute to rotation Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will be undergoing Tommy John surgery, by surrendering four runs in the first inning. Buchholz picked a good time to have his worst outing of the season as the Red Sox offense chipped away at the early lead by abusing the ironically named Josh Outman. Athletics manager Bob Geren pulled Outman with two outs in the third and the local nine completed their comeback against Joey Devine (another inappropriate name) and Brian Fuentes.

Working alongside Gonzalez seems to have helped David Ortiz take the ball the other way: both of the designated hitter’s hits were to the opposite field. Jed Lowrie, batting from his dominant right-hand side, knocked in a go-ahead run in the third off Outman. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his fifth homer of the season in the eighth to provide insurance for Jonathan Papelbon.

The only thing Josh Willingham knows about Fenway’s left field is how to hit balls there for doubles. A career National Leaguer who had never played at Fenway before, he showed his unfamiliarity with the left field’s quirks. He backed up all the way to the wall on Ortiz’s second-inning double, forcing shortstop Cliff Pennington to dash to shallow left to field the carom.

Willingham might want to attend a lecture on physics by Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder displayed an impeccable understanding of trajectory on Mark Ellis’s fly ball in the top of the fourth and snared the fly ball right before it hit the wall; the only clang came when Ellsbury’s gloved hand hit the Monster.

Longtime farmhand Tommy Hottovy made his major league debut, inducing a ground out off the bat of David DeJesus with Crisp at first and two men out. He was drafted the same year as Dustin Pedroia, the epic year of 2004.

Don Orsillo, who survived a paddle boat capsizing on the scale of the Titanic, lived on to wear a chic tie striped in shades of purple and lavender.

Game 57: June 3, 2011
Oakland Athletics
27-31
6
H: Craig Breslow (4)
H, L: Joey Devine (3, 0-1)
BS: Brian Fuentes (3)
2B: Josh Willingham – 2 (10)
WinBoston Red Sox
31-26
8
W: Bobby Jenks (2-2)
H: Daniel Bard (10)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (11)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (15), David Ortiz (14), Adrian Gonzalez (18)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5)

June 1, 2011

South Siders Sweep

Ozzie Guillen’s tweets are hilarious. A sampling, with the most recent at the top:

Terry Francona should join Guillen on Twitter and get into tweet wars with Don Orsillo rather than torment him with texts. It’s a pity we only hear about Francona’s gibes second-hand. Dustin Pedroia could join in and engage in cribbage smack talk with his manager.

It would be a nice distraction from the four-game losing streak that unfortunately coincided with four straight victories by the Yankees. Hopefully another Hub club doesn’t follow suit. The Bruins recommence their Stanley Cup campaign tonight in Vancouver. Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Jonathan Papelbon recorded a few words of encouragement, and Youkilis even attempted his in a Boston dialect. “Go Bruins! Shahpen yore-ah skates!” (It was better than Curt Schilling’s feeble attempts captured in that Dunkin’ Donuts commercial.)

Just when Daniel Bard and Rich Hill got the bullpen band back together again it might break up. Not because of egos or girlfriends but because of Hill’s injury in the seventh inning that had him clutching his left elbow as he left the mound. The White Sox literally (said like Chris Traeger from “Parks and Recreation”) added injury to insult: Hill had replaced Matt Albers because Albers surrendered three consecutive singles, the last of which was scorched off Paul Konerko’s bat and plated the go-ahead run.

Orsillo’s tie resembled grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis), a nice departure from the geometric blue designs that dominate his wardrobe.

Game 56: June 1, 2011
WinChicago White Sox
27-31
7
W: Gavin Floyd (6-5)
H: Chris Sale (3)
S: Sergio Santos (9)
2B: Brent Lillibridge (3), Carlos Quentin (18), Omar Vizquel (5)
HR: Lillibridge (6), Paul Konerko (12)
Boston Red Sox
30-26
4
L: Matt Albers (1-3)
2B: David Ortiz (13), Jed Lowrie (11)
HR: Ortiz (13)

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