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Home » Monthly Archive » July 2011

July 31, 2011

Trader Woes

I went to bed thinking about what I would write about Rich Harden coming to the Red Sox only to wake up to discover that the deal fell through overnight. Rich Soften, as I have taken to call him, was to have come to Boston at the price of Lars Anderson and a player to be named later. With Adrian Gonzalez signed through 2018 Anderson is largely superfluous to the Red Sox’s future, but it doesn’t mean that he should be moved for an injury-prone starter.

The Red Sox finally won a game against their alabaster counterparts with one of their signature double-digit run games. The visitors burned Philip Humber for four runs in the fifth, sparked by Carl Crawford’s leadoff ground ball single to right.

Crawford’s presence on the basepaths disrupted the rapport between Humber and A.J. Pierzynski. The left fielder stole second and advanced to third on Pierzynski’s galley-west throw to second. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove Crawford in with a humpback double to right-center.

Josh Reddick dropped a perfect bunt that Humber reached but was unable to get in first in time for an out. Saltalamacchia advanced on the bunt single and scored on Marco Scutaro’s sacrifice fly. Jacoby Ellsbury put another dime in the carousel ride with a grounder to right that allowed Reddick to dash from first to third. Dustin Pedroia sacrificed Reddick in and Ellsbury proceeded to third for good measure. Ozzie Guillen called for an intentional walk of Gonzalez, which prompted Kevin Youkilis to single off Brent Morel and plate Ellsbury. Humber was thus humbled and pulled from the game in favor of Will Ohman.

While the White Sox offense wasn’t up to exchanging offensive volleys they did trade leather with outstanding defensive efforts by their infield. In the second inning Morel seized a sharp grounder off Youkilis’s bat before it skipped into the outfield for a hit. Not resting on his laurels Morel then chased down David Ortiz’s pop fly and made a catch in shallow left that resembled a wide receiver’s route more than an infielder’s typical catch.

Youkilis returned the favor in the bottom of the third. Morel tried to bunt for a base hit but Youkilis made a barehanded grab and flung the ball across the diamond with his momentum still carrying him forward from the charge. Gonzalez picked the ball out of the dirt to complete the play. The Red Sox haven’t had such seamless play at first base since Youkilis had his Gold Glove stint there in 2007.

The Red Sox were not the only New England team making moves. The Patriots traded for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. While Harden’s problems lay in his extensive medical issues the two new additions to the Patriots’ roster have tangled with their former teams’ management and the law. Ochocinco was recently pulled over for having car windows that were tinted too darkly. Haynesworth had issues with head coach Mike Shanahan about his conditioning and also is charged with misdemeanor sexual assault. Bill Belichick’s philosophy has placated players such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss in the past, time will tell if Ochocinco and Haynesworth fall into line.

The Patriot pair’s debut will likely prove to be more sensational than Mike Aviles’s Red Sox debut at U.S. Cellular Field last night. Aviles came in as a defensive replacement for Youkilis in the ninth and didn’t have to field the ball at all.

Game 105: July 30, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (11-4)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 2 (14)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (18), Kevin Youkilis (15)
Chicago White Sox
L: Philip Humber (8-7)
2B: A.J. Pierzynski (17), Brent Lillibridge (4)
HR: Paul Konerko (25), Gordon Beckham (8)

July 30, 2011

Sink Floyd

Perhaps in thanks to their respective battery mates for pitching so briskly catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski were the only players to clout extra base hits. The Red Sox backstop clubbed a solo shot in the third to give his team the lead and Pierzynski countered with a two-run home run in the seventh to snatch the advantage.

Tim Wakefield and Gavin Floyd pitching against each other is a nightmare for advertisers. They both go to work quickly with few pauses in between pitches or batters. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy must have been out of breath from trying to get in whatever promotional announcements they had to make over the course of this two hour and 10-minute game. Both starters pitched excellently

Ozzie Guillen and Dustin Pedroia ribbed each other prior to the game. Guillen threatened to intentionally walk Pedroia if he came to the dish 0-3. Pedroia led off the ninth without a hit and flied out harmlessly to Alejandro De Aza, who drifted into the right-center gap to end Pedroia’s hitting streak at 25 games. Odds are that Pedroia’s best friend Andre Ethier, holder of a 30-game streak this season, immediately texted the Red Sox keystone sacker to taunt him.

Guillen, who not only tweets but has blogged since July 1, has not yet put finger to keyboard to record his reaction to being part of ending Pedroia’s streak. In an interview with Heidi Watney the White Sox skipper said he saw Pedroia in Cirque du Soleil. If Guillen enjoyed that show he’ll enjoy the upcoming laser shows at U.S. Cellular Field.

While the Royals were in town something must have impressed them about Yamaico Navarro and likewise the Red Sox were intrigued by Mike Aviles. Boston completed a trade for Aviles and sent Navarro and pitcher Kendal Volz in return. It is an odd move considering Jed Lowrie is about to begin his rehab stint in Pawtucket this coming Monday.

With Lowrie’s injury luck he’ll get a concussion from a bucket dropping from the stands at McCoy Stadium.

Game 104: July 29, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Tim Wakefield (6-4)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (9)
WinChicago White Sox
W: Gavin Floyd (9-9)
H: Matt Thornton (14)
S: Sergio Santos (22)
HR: A.J. Pierzynski (5)

July 29, 2011

The Butler Did It

It wasn’t Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe in the conservatory. Instead it was no-out walks handed out to Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier in the fourth combined with the thunderous bat of Billy Butler. The designated hitter’s homer bounced about the batter’s eye as the Royals assumed the lead, 3-2.

Utility player Drew Sutton is more used fielding around the diamond rather than outside it. Jeff Francoeur’s fly ball hit the heel of Sutton’s glove and the Royals outfielder scored on Mike Moustakas’s liner to right. Josh Reddick seems to be acclimating to right field and didn’t over-pursue the ball into the treacherous curve in the wall.

The quartet of runs topped the home team’s two scores from the third inning. Jacoby Ellsbury drove in both runs with a line drive to Francoeur. So far nothing has come of the rumors that had the Royals outfielder coming to the Red Sox. If so, Francouer could reapply for a Red Sox credit card like he had in high school. Jeff’s father David hails from Springfield and is an ardent fan of the Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 25 games in the eighth with a home run to left. Knowing the cocky second baseman, he won’t be content with topping his best friend’s mark of 30 straight and wants to erase Joe DiMaggio’s 56 from the record books. Who wants to wait 21 years for Buck Bokai to do it?

With Clay Buchholz’s return to the mound stretches too far into the future the Red Sox are rumored to be in pursuit of an additional twirler. Ubaldo Jimnez seems too costly so Eric Bedard’s name has surfaced.

Game 103: July 28, 2011
WinKansas City Royals
W: Luke Hochevar (7-8)
H: Greg Holland (8)
S: Joakim Soria (19)
2B: Mike Moustakas (5)
HR: Billy Butler (10)
Boston Red Sox
L: Josh Beckett (9-4)
2B: Yamaico Navarro (2)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (15)

July 28, 2011

Bruce Alrighty

Bruce Chen has made his way through major league teams like Hob Gadling floated through eras of history. Chen has been rostered by the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, and now the Royals. Death came for Gadling 1389 but he refused to go with her and instead lived through the Middle Ages, the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras, the English Civil Wars, the Interregnum, Restoration, and then more eras of inbreds (Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian). The lesson arising from this: only left-handed starters and comic book characters are guaranteed any sort of longevity.

John Lackey surrendered three runs in the first, two of which could be attributed to shaky fielding. Alex Gordon doubled to utility player Yamaico Navarro, who played the left field wall badly. Next Kevin Youkilis bungled a grounder off Melky Cabrera’s bat. But the blast to the Monster seats by Eric Hosmer was all on Lackey, no matter that he was appalled that Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t sprout wings and flap his way to the ball before it left the park.

Ellsbury’s answer was to knock a solo homer off Pesky’s Pole in the home half of the first. Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak with a long ball of his own into the second row of the Monster seats. Once could say he hit for the cycle, it was just in ten innings over two games.

In the bottom frame of the second inning Marco Scutaro led off with a base on balls and Darnell McDonald and Navarro both singled, loading the bases. Ellsbury walked, Pedroia flied out to right, and Adrian Gonzalez grounded out; even when they aren’t hitting the Red Sox were able to score runs.

David Ortiz clubbed the 10th grand slam of his career in the fourth. Left-handed pitching hasn’t been the puzzle it has been in years past for Ortiz. I think an unofficial job title that Gonzalez holds is Personal Hitting Coach to the Designated Hitter.

Game 102: July 27, 2011
Kansas City Royals
L: Bruce Chen (5-4)
2B: Alex Gordon 3 (30), Brayan Pena (9), Jeff Francoeur 2 (28), Melky Cabrera (26)
HR: Eric Hosmer (10), Billy Butler (9)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (9-8)
2B: Darnell McDonald (4), Jacoby Ellsbury (29)
HR: Ellsbury (17), Dustin Pedroia (14), David Ortiz (20)

July 27, 2011

Cycle Killer

Qu’est-ce que c’est? Fa fa fa fa fa fa how the fa was Dustin Pedroia’s eighth inning fly ball to left not a home run? The second baseman fell a four-bagger short of hitting for the cycle. Someone needs to refresh the franchise feat list and replace John Valentin, who remains the most recent Red Sox batter with this achievement thanks to his June 6, 1996 performance. Who will break this 15-year drought?

Terry Francona’s pinch hitting substitutions in the fifth broke open the game. The home team went into the bottom of the inning trailing six runs to seven; it was one of those games where it seemed the last team batting was going to prevail. Josh Reddick lofted a leadoff single to center and advanced to second when pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury lined a single to the opposite field.

Drew Sutton (who? Yes, I did just make a joke about Anglo-Saxon burial grounds) replaced Darnell McDonald and attempted to sacrifice the runners along. The Royals, perhaps motivated by noblesse oblige, refused the out the Red Sox handed to them. Nathan Adcock charged the ball and fired to first. Mike Aviles, a middle infielder covering the first base sack, missed the ball and had to chase it down the right field line.

The runners in motion stayed in motion, tallying the tying and go-ahead runs. Sutton made his way to third base as Aviles’s throw ended up in foul territory between near the visitors’ on-deck circle. The Red Sox batted around and ended up with six runs in the frame. So it seems that the fifth inning is the new seventh inning.

Clay Buchholz’s back woes had best resolve sooner rather than later because it is apparent that Andrew Miller is the answer only when the question is “Who’s the next guy to get sent back to Pawtucket?”

Don Orsillo owns way too many square-patterned grey ties. Combined they are like an aerial view of Soviet era apartment blocks.

Game 101: July 26, 2011
Kansas City Royals
L: Nathan Adcock (1-1)
2B: Eric Hosmer (16), Billy Butler (26), Mike Aviles (11), Jeff Francoeur (26), Alex Gordon (27)
HR: Gordon (12), Butler (8)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (6-1)
2B: David Ortiz – 3 (28), Marco Scutaro (8), Dustin Pedroia (25), Jacoby Ellsbury (28)
3B: Pedroia (2)
HR: Jason Varitek (6)

July 26, 2011

And I Wonder

Still I wonder: who’ll stop this game?

It wasn’t Dustin Pedroia, who extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a two-out single in the bottom of the third but left four men on base.

Nor was it Carl Crawford, who had hit well upon his return from the disabled list and even scored the local nine’s only run of the game, but struck out four times and grounded into a double play to end a scoring opportunity in the fourth.

Indubitably it was not Marco Scutaro, who missed the sign for the squeeze play in the twelfth inning and got Josh Reddick caught up between third and home for the second out. The Red Sox shortstop then lined the ball to left and thought that he could stretch a single into a double. He could not.

Of all players it was rookie Eric Hosmer who broke the stalemate. He led off the fourteenth with line drive double to left and advanced on Jeff Francoeur’s single up the middle. Ned Yost put on the squeeze play and although Mike Aviles failed to execute the bunt properly he did managed to pop the ball up so that neither Pedroia nor Adrian Gonzalez could reach it.

The Royals mustered an insurance off of Randy Williams. Perhaps Terry Francona should have gone to John Lackey, who requested to be put into the game, sooner.

Don Orsillo’s tie was the color of the infield soaked in rain interspersed with the color of the wood of the seats in the grandstand when the blue paint chips off of them.

Game 100: July 25, 2011 ∙ 14 innings
WinKansas City Royals
W: Louis Coleman (1-2)
S: Joakim Soria (18)
2B: Billy Butler (25), Eric Hosmer (15)
Boston Red Sox
L: Randy Williams (0-1)
2B: Josh Reddick – 2 (9)

July 25, 2011

In Which We Wake

So much for the seventh inning magic of the Red Sox — instead they started the fireworks in the first inning. Tim Wakefield surrendered two runs early by hitting Dustin Ackley with a pitch and allowing Miguel Olivo to send the ball into the Monster seats.

The local nine responded forcefully in the bottom frame of the first, torching rookie starter Michael Pineda for five runs. The caliber of pitching that makes Pineda a prime candidate for AL Rookie of the Year wasn’t on display at Fenway.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the onslaught with a ground ball double to right that hit the stands and caused Ichiro Suzuki to slip. Ellsbury was driven in by Adrian Gonzalez who in turn crossed home on Kevin Youkilis’s two-run homer.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who might have felt particularly motivated to help his battery mate continue his march towards 200 wins, humpbacked a single to right to plate David Ortiz and Carl Crawford, rendering the score 5-2. The backstop also took part of the five-run fifth inning with another rope to right, this time driving in Crawford and Josh Reddick to make the score 10-3. The Red Sox lead the league in games where they score into the double-digits with 14.

With such a lead Wakefield didn’t need to rein in his knuckleball. He ended the sixth inning by striking out Mike Carp for the pitcher’s 2,000 punchout. Carp, the greenhorn left fielder, was six years old when Wakefield donned his first major league uniform.

When the score gets out of hand Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy get distracted. A visit by John Slattery and Mike O’Malley didn’t help them focus; Orsillo must have been busy cropping Remy out of photographs.

Slattery’s uncle was Jack Rogers, traveling secretary of the Red Sox from 1969 to 1991, ending his career just one year before Wakefield made his major league debut with the Pirates. It might seem that bats that tend to shatter, like Ortiz’s in the sixth inning, is a recent phenomenon. This article from “Baseball Digest” in 1987 with quotes by Slattery indicate that this is not a new problem. “We must have gone through $15,000 worth of bats during the ’86 season; we’re using a lot more bats than we used to,” observed Slattery. “Buckner breaks ’em merely by looking at them.”

In an effort to find Remy a proper hobby the NESN crew displayed a picture of Orsillo in the ocean. As the Brendan Ryan grand slam in the seventh inning marred the Fenway ambiance so did Orsillo’s floating figure disrupt the perfect, crystalline sea.

Game 99: July 24, 2011
Seattle Mariners
L: Michael Pineda (8-7)
2B: Justin Smoak (21), Dustin Ackley – 2 (7), Brendan Ryan (15)
HR: Miguel Olivo (14), Ryan (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Tim Wakefield (6-3)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (27), Carl Crawford (13), Josh Reddick (7), Dustin Pedroia (24)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (1)

July 24, 2011

Millennial Man

Since Terry Francona shaves his head bald you can’t see the aging caused by seven years with the Red Sox by whitening temples. There are are a few more wrinkles, but when he talks about the Red Sox he still speaks with the same level of love and enthusiasm. In the December 4, 2003 press conference announcing his hiring as manager Francona said, “We’re supposed to win here. In talking to Theo and Larry and Josh, we’re trying to win next year, but we’re trying to win for a lot of years after that. The whole idea is to build a team that can win and keep it together and win consistently. That is wonderful pressure.”

And win he did. He added 715 Red Sox wins to his 285 victories with the Phillies to reach 1,000 wins last night. Rather than remarking on his personal accomplishment Francona deflected credit to his players, Josh Beckett in particular. “I’m just glad to win any way. Beckett was tremendous. He pitched out of a little bit of a mess at the end, but he was tremendous.”

When asked about Francona’s milestone Beckett replied dryly, “If he were a pitcher it would be more impressive.”

Beckett and Francona have Jacoby Ellsbury and the squad’s penchant for scoring in the seventh inning. With two down Jason Varitek smoked a single up the middle. Marco Scutaro was robbed of an RBI when a fan reached over into the field of play on his line drive to right and the umpires ruled it a ground-rule double. Instead of tying the game 1-1, the local nine had runners at second and third. Instead of a souvenir, that fan should have gotten ejected with a lecture about situational fan interference.

Knowing the situation, Ellsbury didn’t go flailing but shortened his swing so he could advance the baserunners. The center fielder knocked a gutshot single to plate the tying and winning runs. Scott Boras must have dollar signs rolling up into his eye sockets with cash register sound effects every time Ellsbury drives in a run.

Speaking of cash, Kevin Youkilis may have to shell out some simoleons because of his first-inning outburst. The third baseman flung his bat to the ground after Tim Timmons called the third strike. Jerry Remy remarked that Timmons reminded him of a parking enforcement officer. “I’d take that to traffic court.”

Game 98: July 23, 2011
Seattle Mariners
L: Blake Beavan (1-2)
2B: Jack Cust (15)
HR: Mike Carp ()2
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (9-3)
H: Daniel Bard (24)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (23)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (23), David Ortiz (25), Adrian Gonzalez (30), Marco Scutaro (7)

July 23, 2011

Man Bites Dog

Homeowners foreclose on bank. John Lackey beats Felix Hernandez.

Our long national nightmare is over: Terry Francona finally pulled J.D. Drew from the lineup and replaced him with Josh Reddick. The diminishment of Drew’s production has played out much like Mike Lowell’s, who visited the booth in the fourth and fifth innings. According to Baseball Reference’s calculations Drew holds -0.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), so he actually lessens the Red Sox’s chances of winning when he plays. Reddick has a WAR of 1.9.

Reddick’s uniform number has generally decreased as his contributions to the big league team have increased. In 2009 he was given 68, he wore 39 and 46 in 2010, and this season he has earned his “real” number — 16.

Jacoby Ellsbury likely won’t repeat his franchise stolen base record year of 2009, but only because he has hit twice as many home runs this season as he did the entirety of that record-breaking year. He hit his 16th four-bagger of the season off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez to leadoff the third inning. Theo Epstein has been itching to extend Ellsbury as was done with Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jon Lester, but the center fielder is a client of Scott Boras.

Given his agent and the constant controversy over his injuries last year it seems doubtful that Ellsbury will fall in line with his current teammates who were bought out of arbitration and a year of free agency. Then again, who would have thought that the Red Sox would have won last night given the pitching lineup. But if the Red Sox front office does attempt to meet Boras’s lofty demands, they have started selling upscale seafood to help foot the bill.

Don Orsillo’s grey silk tie was embossed with feather-like pattern, emblematic of the greying Lowell. “I’m retired, I don’t have any commitments,” joked the 2007 World Series MVP when asked by Orsillo and Jerry Remy to hang around for an inning longer. Perhaps broadcasting or Just For Men commercials are in his future. There’s some play for Mr. Grey.

Game 97: July 22, 2011
Seattle Mariners
L: Felix Hernandez (8-9)
2B: Ichiro Suzuki (14), Miguel Olivo (10), Jack Cust (14)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (8-8)
H: Daniel Bard (23)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (22)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (28)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (16)

July 21, 2011

Place or Group of Stones

Jake Arrieta’s last name is Basque in origin according to Ancestry.com and is a habitational name. “Arri” means “stone” and “eta” means “place or group of stones.” Arrieta was rocked by Jacoby Ellsbury in particular — the center fielder blasted two solo shots. His third inning homer was retrieved by a poor soul in a black t-shirt in the sweltering Baltimore bleachers in right. In the seventh the souvenir ball made it to the standing room only area in right, chased down by a bevy of fans in Oriole orange. Yet it was Boston that topped GQ’s worst-dressed cities list while Charm City didn’t even make the list of 40. I guess it’s because the championship blend of Patriot blue, Red Sox red, Celtic green, and Bruins yellow is somewhat jarring.

Mark Reynolds moves like a pile of animated stones at third, like a horta without the corrosive acid. One doesn’t need advanced defensive statistics to know that Reynolds is a poor fielder, his league-worst .899 fielding percentage at his position speaks volumes. What he lacks for in fielding he doesn’t make up for in batting average. That he walked twice in this game wasn’t a testament to Reynolds’s strike zone judgment but rather to Andrew Miller’s lack of control.

Daniel Bard has been a rock in the bullpen. The set-up man set a franchise record with 21 straight scoreless appearances, the longest streak since Bob Stanley in 1980. Despite his striking success Bard remained humble: “I’ve just been fortunate that I’ve made pitches when I had to, and when I made a mistake, they’re not hitting them. But nothing’s really changed about me as a pitcher or anything.”

Worries about Adrian Gonzalez suffering a post-All Star break slump dissipated in the 95-degree heat. The newly clean-shaven slugger went 4-for-5 with a run scored as the designated hitter.

Paisley Park is in Don’s heart. Orsillo has worn four paisley ties this season: April 11, April 21, April 26, and today.

Game 96: July 20, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Andrew Miller (4-1)
H: Matt Albers (8)
2B: Carl Crawford (12), Kevin Youkilis (27)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury – 2 (15)
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jake Arrieta (9-7)
No extra base hits

July 19, 2011

Life Ain’t Nothin’ But a Funny, Funny Riddle

Riddles such as why do they play “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” in the seventh? To make a long story short, the general manager in the 1970s wanted to update the entertainment from golden oldies and organ music to popular music. John Denver’s song was a hit at the time but as other songs fell out of the rotation this one stayed. What was supposed to modernize games in Charm City became traditional, which isn’t that odd when one considers their park, something new that was made like a throwback to classic parks.

Orioles fans would rather listen to anything than the “Orioles Magic” song released for the 1980 season.

Puzzles such as the Tigers’ interest in Jeremy Guthrie. Not because his record is 4-13, as any pitcher can suffer from poor run support, but rather because his ERA+ is 89. He had just enough to hold the Red Sox to two runs, a particular feat after the visitors’ 15-run outburst in the series opener. The Yankees and Red Sox are both courting Ubaldo Jimenez, who isn’t pitching at a Cy Young caliber this season but maintains an ERA+ of 111.

Since the Red Sox didn’t make much news between the white lines I searched for Red Sox news off the playing field. I learned that Elizabeth Warren, who will oppose Scott Brown to represent Massachusetts in the Senate, is married to Bruce Mann. Mann is a Boston sports fan whose family has been in Boston thirteen generations. Warren hopefully won’t make the sports faux pas that doomed Martha Coakley.

Warren should refresh her baseball knowledge by figuring out which Red Sox player she is.

Last but not least there is a bank robber in Portsmouth, New Hampshire who left behind a bag thought to contain a bomb. Surveillance camera footage shows him wearing a Red Sox cap, but one of those alternate fashion hats that are even more hideous than the alternate hat.

Game 95: July 19, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Kyle Weiland (0-1)
2B: Josh Reddick (6)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8)
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Jeremy Guthrie (4-13)
S: Jim Johnson (1)
2B: Mark Reynolds (18)
HR: Derrek Lee (10), Reynolds (21)

The Whole Breakdown of It

On the early morning charter flight from Florida to Maryland the Red Sox and their manager, in their itchy-eyed delirium of sleeplessness, must have passed the time making ridiculous predictions.

“When we play Baltimore today we’ll score as many runs as we played innings last night!” declared Dustin Pedroia.

Darnell McDonald rolled his eyes. “That’s nuts, man. Each guy would have to have around two ribbies. But maybe I could do it by sneaking a double down the left field line with the bases loaded. As long as Adrian wasn’t clogging up the basepaths.”

“Okay, maybe not more than 16 runs. But close,” asserted Pedroia.

“I could push the envelope and pull Wakes before things got out of hand for once,” Terry Francona murmured as he sipped his favorite tea.

Dan Wheeler whispered to newcomer Randy Williams. “That’s not pushing the envelope, that’s being awake instead of in a coma.”

“Francoma,” snorted Williams. “He can keep me on the bump as long as he wants, I got this.”

Back in real life Kevin Gregg and David Ortiz served their three-game suspensions simultaneously and they were replaced on the field with mixed results. Not one of the six Orioles pitches who toed the rubber had a clean inning; each one of them surrendered at least a hit or earned run. Jacoby Ellsbury took over as designated hitter but stayed in his leadoff slot; he went 3-for-4 with a walk, a run scored, and an RBI.

Mike Cameron’s presence is missed not only in the clubhouse but on the field. Josh Reddick took an inexplicable route on Derrek Lee’s first-inning fly ball, a miscue that allowed two runs to score and Lee to notch his first triple since 2009. Cameron’s bat is not missed, mainly because he seemed to have misplaced it from the beginning of the season. Despite his defensive lapses Reddick’s hitting keeps him in the lineup, particularly when he curls home runs off foul poles as he did in the fifth.

As poorly as Reddick replaced Ellsbury on the field he didn’t embarrass himself as badly as the Orioles did in front of their own fans. In the fourth Jarrod Saltalamacchia blooped the ball into shallow left. Mark Reynolds chased it down from third as Felix Pie dashed in from left, their paths intersecting just as the ball dropped on the turf out of both their ranges. The pair rolled around like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr before Reynolds finally recovered it.

Later in the fourth Lee allowed Marco Scutaro’s grounder to skip through his legs. The error resulted in a run for the visitors.

In an interview Gregg said, “It’s about playing the game right and doing what we have to do win the ballgame.” In that same interview, however, he continued to whine, “You look at the whole breakdown of it, we lost our DH for two weeks and they lost theirs for three days. So, no it’s not fair.”

Game 94: July 18, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Dan Wheeler (2-1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (22), Darnell McDonald (3)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7), Josh Reddick (4)
Baltimore Orioles
H: Troy Patton (1)
BS: Jason Berken (2)
L: Michael Gonzalez (1-2)
2B: Nolan Reimold (2)
3B: Derrek Lee (1)
HR: J.J. Hardy (14), Adam Jones (16)

July 18, 2011

Sixteen Haiku

In honor of the Japanese women’s soccer team, nicknamed nadeshiko after a flower and the phrase for the ideal Japanese woman, winning the World Cup, last night’s (this morning’s) game is conveyed through haiku. May the United States women take this loss and let it propel them to the 2012 Olympics.

Gonzalez single
Lonely cloud in summer sky

Both pitchers dealing
Batters dropping like mayflies
Ephemeral lives

Swift like summer storms
Six batters’ sound and fury
Nothing to show

Dustin Pedroia
Laser shows outshine the sun
Wait, that’s an orange

Josh Reddick free pass
Rare as a drifting snowflake
In St. Petersburg

Running out of ways
To describe futility
Dustin grounded out

Lawn without sprinkler
Koi pond without without lily pads
Batters 1-2-3

Shower of glass shards
The national pastime is
Entombed like a corpse

Professor Farnsworth
Lasers penetrate glasses
Loaded base squander

Hey, hey, hey! It’s Fat
Albers! I always wanted
To make that joke. Ha.

Three bases on balls
Two strikeouts and a pop-up
Scutaro throws bat

The twelfth was boring
But the eleventh featured
Feisty Red Sox fan

Patient like a stone
Upton saw more than one pitch
Two is more than one

Six innings had no
Baserunners whatsoever
This was one of them

Three hit by pitches
Of course Youkilis was hit
One way to get on

Pedroia drives in
The only run of the game
Sing Dirty Water

Game 93: July 17, 2011 ∙ 16 innings
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (5-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (21)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (21)
Tampa Bay Rays
L: Adam Russell (1-2)
No extra base hits

July 17, 2011

Not Your Lackey

Even Tim McCarver, who has not had many opportunities to observe John Lackey, felt compelled to comment on how the starter reacted to being pulled after five and two-thirds innings. As Lackey moped from the mound he shot an unfriendly glance back at his manager.

Many of Lackey’s teammates have seen him pull such a face. Marco Scutaro must have when he jammed his finger when fielding Johnny Damon’s grounder in the first, allowing the leadoff man to reach. Damon advanced to third on Ben Zobrist’s single to center and scored when Scutaro booted Casey Kotchman’s grounder up the middle. But it was Lackey who surrendered consecutive singles to Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton for two more runs in the first. Were it not for a 4-6-3 double play anchored by Scutaro, Lackey would have been in the showers without an inning to his name.

The Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the second, not too challenging task as James Shields seems to be the Rays’ version of Lackey. Jarrod Saltalamacchia worked a one-out walk and Josh Reddick launched his third home run of the season to bring the visitors within a run.

Shields unraveled further in the third, relinquishing a leadoff walk to Adrian Gonzalez, a single to Kevin Youkilis, and consecutive doubles to David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. With the tying, go-ahead, and insurance runs across the plate Shields got a visit from his pitching coach Jim Hickey and secured the next three outs without incident, but the Red Sox would not give up the lead.

Randy Williams, the most recent hurler to audition for left-handed reliever for the major league team, made his Red Sox debut with three outs split across two innings. The journeyman reliever cleaned up Lackey’s two on, two out mess in the sixth and then got the first two outs of the seventh, which included a pop out off the bat of Evan Longoria and striking out All-Star Matt Joyce. Quite a feat for a player whose Google image results don’t even show him as the first result.

Another Randy Williams is the founder and sifu (master) of Close Range Combat Academy, a global network of schools who train students in wing chun (insert Wang Chung joke here). The origins of wing chun attribute it to two women, one a monk who fled destruction of the Shaolin temple and her student, who needed to learn self defense to avoid forced marriage to a bandit.

If only there were a martial arts technique that could extricate the Red Sox from the five-year contract with Lackey.

Game 92: July 16, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (7-8)
H: Randy Williams (1)
H: Daniel Bard (22)
2B: David Ortiz (24), J.D. Drew (6)
HR: Josh Reddick (3), Jacoby Ellsbury (13), Dustin Pedroia (13)
Tampa Bay Rays
L: James Shields (7-7)
2B: Sam Fuld (15)
3B: Casey Kotchman (2)
HR: Matt Joyce (13)

July 16, 2011

Dust Off the Rust

Although the Red Sox hit four home runs all but one of them came without runners on base. Dustin Pedroia was the only visiting player to have a more than one extra base hit: a leadoff homer for the sixth and a inning-opening double in the eighth. Taking out his frustration about not being named an All-Star on Tampa Bay pitchers resulted in an RBI and a run scored for the second baseman, but Andrew Miller dug too deep of a hole for his team.

Miller might have felt betrayed by his battery mate’s miscue in the second. Jarrod Saltalamacchia could have easily thrown out Sam Fuld at first but he wanted to throw to third, which was unoccupied because Kevin Youkilis charged to field the bunt. With none out and two on the Red Sox catcher threw to second after fielding Fuld’s sacrifice bunt. Fuld’s awesomeness dazzles everyone, even the opposition.

Rays fans and their incessant cowbells remind me of our cousin, the chimpanzee, which in turn makes me think of the music video for “Head Over Heels.” Why is a there a chimpanzee in a Red Sox jersey? Was Roland Orzabal or Curt Smith or both fans of the team? That would be as inexplicable as Saltalamacchia’s decision. The chimpanzee pops up at 30 seconds (shushing someone in the library), 1:44 (covering his eyes in horror after tight shot of Dave Coulier lookalike), 2:09 (seated at a table with a book), 2:12 (high-fiving Curt Smith), 2:51 (rubbing nose), 2:55 (air keyboarding), 3:40 (clapping after Coulier catches a book on his third attempt), and 3:49 (kissing Curt Smith). You know you are on the way to remainder bins of obscurity when your original video has fewer hits than the literal version.

Don and Jerry wore the sky blue polos for the second time this season, just 12 days after they previously wore them.

Game 91: July 15, 2011
Boston Red Sox
L: Andrew Miller (3-1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (20)
HR: Darnell McDonald (3), Jacoby Ellsbury (12), Pedroia (12), Marco Scutaro (5)
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: David Price (9-7)
H: J.P. Howell (3)
S: Kyle Farnsworth (18)
2B: Elliot Johnson (6)
HR: Ben Zobrist (11), Casey Kotchman (4)

July 10, 2011

Lost the Plot

Home plate umpire Marty Foster would have been the worst sporting official of the day had Jacqui Melksham not stepped on the pitch of Rudolf-Harbig Stadium (also known as Glücksgas Stadion) in Dresden, Germany.

The 32-year old Australian official bungled a number of calls in the quarterfinal match between the United States and Brazil for the Women’s World Cup. Melksham failed to give Carli Lloyd a yellow card for a handball but then went out of her way to make up for the error.

In the 65th minute Melksham ruled that a tackle of Marta by Rachel Buehler was worth a red card and also gave the Brazilians a penalty kick. Hope Solo made a tremendous save on Christiane’s kick, but Melksham had the Brazilians retake the penalty because a US player encroached into the box. By all accounts such a strict execution of the rule is rare. Solo was given a yellow card for arguing with the retake. Solo guessed wrong on Marta’s kick and the Brazilians equaled the score 1-1.

Even though they were a player down it took the world’s best female player until the second minute of extra time to pull her team ahead. Marta made a truly remarkable goal, a kick perfectly spun and angled so that Solo had no chance of blocking it, rather like how Daniel Bard’s slider eludes bats. A replay of the goal showed that Brazil was offsides and that the goal should have been waved off.

The US women had more than a touch of 2004 about them. When the pressure was highest they delivered. In the 122nd minute Megan Rapinoe made a flawless pass to Abby Wambach, who headed in the equalizer with Brazilian goalie Andreia flailing ineffectually at the ball. Thankfully Melksham didn’t find some way to erase the tying goal, the latest goal scored in Women’s World Cup history.

The US women hit the back of the net on every one of their penalty kicks while Solo stopped Daiane, Brazil’s third shooter. To bring the plot full circle, it was Daiane who gave the US the early lead with an own goal.

Foster’s failures weren’t as glaring as Melksham’s, but they showed an overall lack of feel for the game. In the bottom of the fourth with two men on and the score tied 6-6 Foster warned the benches when Jeremy Guthrie hit Kevin Youkilis with a change-up. If Buck Showalter wanted vengeance he wouldn’t have told his pitcher to use his off-speed arsenal, and he definitely wouldn’t pull the trigger in a winnable game with a man in scoring position.

The tone-deafness continued in the next inning. The Red Sox held a one-run lead and Kyle Weiland, who was making his first start in the bigs, had just allowed Adam Jones triple to center. Weiland came in on Vladimir Guerrero because even a rookie knows that the slugger will swing at pitches two feet off the plate but you might have a chance of getting him out by sawing him off. The fastball came too far inside and hit Guerrero on the hands, prompting Foster to eject Weiland. By rule Terry Francona was ejected as well.

Weiland’s removal turned out to be a tactical benefit for the local nine. Alfredo Aceves took the mound and struck out the next two batters. Blake Davis lined out to Josh Reddick for the last out of the inning, stranding two Orioles. Aceves would pitch three perfect innings with four strikeouts.

Perhaps the only correct ejection was of Michael Gonzalez in the sixth. He got swinging strikeouts of the first two batters he faced and threw behind David Ortiz after the designated hitter fouled off one of his fastballs. Ortiz was at the center of the conflict and Gonzalez probably felt that John Lackey’s plunking of Derrek Lee was a debt that had to be repaid. But like Kevin Gregg and Wile E. Coyote before him, Gonzalez couldn’t even exact revenge correctly.

Game 90: July 10, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jeremy Guthrie (3-12)
2B: Mark Reynolds (16)
3B: Adam Jones (2)
HR: Derrek Lee (9)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Alfredo Aceves (4-1)
H: Daniel Bard (21)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (20)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (29), Jason Varitek – 2 (9), Dustin Pedroia (19)
HR: Marco Scutaro (4), Pedroia (11), Kevin Youkilis (13)

Lackey Attack

And you don’t want that! He’s got the power!

The Red Sox demurely scored a mere four runs lest they incur the wrath the Orioles, arbiters of baseball propriety. As Baltimore has deemed scoring too many runs unseemly, they abode by their own precepts and didn’t tally a single run.

Not only did Jacoby Ellsbury have a chance at hitting for the cycle he also knocked the hits in natural order. The last Red Sox player to hit for the cycle in natural order was Bob Watson on September 15, 1979; he is also the last American League player to do so. Coincidentally that game was against the Orioles. Since the Red Sox were visitors Watson had another at bat in the ninth; he homered with one on and one out and the final score was 10-2.

Jim Palmer pitched the next game and the Orioles won 13-3. Palmer, the epitome of Orioles baseball, didn’t hit a single batter. Apparently the timeless tenets that the current Orioles maintain didn’t apply in Hall of Famer Palmer’s era.

John Lackey pitched one of his best games of the season: 6⅔ innings pitched, 3 hits, 0 earned runs, 1 base on balls, 7 strikeouts, and 1 hit by pitch. Lackey plunked Derrek Lee in the leg with two down in the seventh. The retaliatory act nearly backfired on him as Mark Reynolds struck out swinging but reached first on the same wild pitch. Daniel Bard took the mound to clean up the situation and induced a pop-out off the bat of Nolan Reimold for the last out of the inning.

In the same inning Lee sent his bat careening into the stands. A young man in a cheese-patterned baseball cap recovered it and turned it over to security at their behest. Even though he had to give up the bat he wasn’t concerned about the loss; instead he was seen comforting a little girl who got hit by it. Eventually the fan did get a bat as well as a bag full of Red Sox goods from Fenway workers. He gave the little girl some of knickknacks from the sack.

As rare as hitting for the cycle and a good outing by Lackey is a floral pattern on Don Orsillo’s tie. Orsillo’s olive green concoction was reminiscent of Japanese kimono to some and grandmother’s drapes to others.

Game 89: July 9, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
L: Alfredo Simon (1-2)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
W: John Lackey (6-8)
H: Daniel Bard (20)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (26), Kevin Youkilis – 2 (26), Josh Reddick (5), Dustin Pedroia (18)
3B: Ellsbury (3)

July 9, 2011

Of Routs and Rhubarbs

When asked about his part in last night’s melee, Kevin Gregg said, “We’re not backing down. We’re not scared of them. Them and their $180 million payroll, we don’t care. We’re here to play the game and we have just as much right to play the game, and we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

Failing to hit David Ortiz on three pitches Gregg resorted to the old standby excuse that he was trying to pitch the designated hitter inside because that is the way to get him out.

Nick Markakis’s comments were even more idiotic than Gregg’s, quite a difficult accomplishment. “It’s a 3-0 pitch, two outs and you have a guy tagging up and a guy swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a [seven-run] game. It doesn’t make sense. [Ortiz] knows the game better than that. Put them on our side and us on their side. It’s a little bush league. Like I said, I’m sure he’s going to look back and realize that he made a mistake, especially charging our pitcher, regardless of what was said.”

The Orioles’ philosophy seems to be that one must back down when the pitcher attempts to plunk you when a team has scored too much or if the team you’re throwing at makes more money than your team. The Markakis Corollary is when trailing by many runs the other team should lie down for you and that any aggression that you visit upon them is merely their just deserts.

Heavily edited, Josh Beckett responded, “We’re a good hitting team. You can’t just be hitting our [expletive] guys because we’re scoring a lot of runs. That’s how the game is played. Maybe they saw something different. Maybe they saw something they didn’t like or whatever. But if it’s just because we scored eight runs in the first inning and they start throwing at our [expletive] guys, it’s going to be a long year.”

Baseball brawls are not showcases of brilliant fighting technique. When Gregg and Ortiz came within swinging distance all of their blows failed to connect. Four players were ejected: Gregg, Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jim Johnson. Saltalamacchia was ejected but replays of the fisticuffs don’t show him doing anything particularly untoward. Johnson was penalized for aggressive behavior.

The Orioles need to work out their aggressions on the ball, like the Red Sox did in the first inning. Ortiz powered a three-run shot to the right field grandstand to put his team ahead 4-0. Darnell McDonald lined a double to left that Felix Pie dove for but failed to glove, plating two more runs. Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Adrian Gonzalez all notched RBI singles to put the game completely out of reach before Beckett toed the mound to face his fifth batter.

Game 88: July 8, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
L: Zach Britton (6-7)
2B: Derrek Lee (11), Matt Wieters (15)
HR: Lee (8)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (8-3)
2B: Darnell McDonald (2)
3B: Josh Reddick (3)
HR: David Ortiz (19), Dustin Pedroia (10)

July 7, 2011

Playing the World’s Saddest Song on the World’s Smallest Viola

David Ortiz, Josh Reddick, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit Pedro Viola to the tune of three straight home runs in the seventh inning. J.D. Drew had a chance to be part of a home run quartet for the second time in his career but worked a walk instead. Retrosheet doesn’t have to worry about updating their page chronicling the rare quadruple quadrangular.

The circuit clout trio were not the only Red Sox players who cleared the fences. Dustin Pedroia made his case to be reinserted into the clean-up spot with a three-run bomb in the third that went completely over the Monster. When it landed on Lansdowne the Red Sox took the lead.

Adrian Gonzalez launched a remarkable moonshot in the fourth that was caught not by a fan but the netting next to the camera shack. Jacoby Ellsbury’s home run to right wasn’t as far but was incredibly high, so lofty that it was difficult to judge if the ball want around Pesky’s pole or over it.

Ellsbury swipes bags when he’s on the basepaths and extra base hits when he’s patrolling the outfield. Tonight a running grab by the center fielder in full stride to the left field wall counted because home plate umpire Bill Welke didn’t call time out. Vladimir Guerrero slumped back to the dugout after the remarkable catch, converted from leadoff double to out in a flash.

Andrew Miller on the mound acted like Bambi learning how to walk, as is his wont. After a rough first inning the gangly-legged one somehow got his awkward angles coordinated and managed to keep the Orioles scoreless three of the five innings he pitched. He had four walks and no strikeouts, a ratio that works against the NL and the dross of the AL East but won’t against the Yankees and the Rays.

There were many great broadcast booth moments. Jerry Remy recalled his memories of the late Dick Williams, the Hall of Famer who was both Remy’s and Terry Francona’s first manager. The one that stood out in my mind is how Williams was ribbing an umpire all game. At his wit’s end the umpire bellowed, “The next time you open your mouth I’m throwing you out!” Williams opened his mouth without uttering a word and was promptly ejected.

Coming back from commercial a NESN cameraman focused on a pair of couples that looked like Jersey Shore rejects. One of the guys reached over and squeezed his female companion’s breast, sending Don Orsillo into barely contained giggles for the next few batters.

This is just the second red tie Orsillo has worn this season. The other crimson accessory was on display on July 4, appropriately enough.

Game 87: July 7, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jake Arrieta (9-6)
2B: Vladimir Guerrero (12)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Andrew Miller (3-0)
H: Alfredo Aceves (7)
2B: David Ortiz (23), Kevin Youkilis (24)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (9), Adrian Gonzalez (17), Jacoby Ellsbury (11), Ortiz (18), Josh Reddick (2), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (6)

Ricky Don’t Lose That Number

We hear you’re leaving, that’s okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart
“Ricky Don’t Lose That Number,” Steely Dan

The Red Sox have Ricky Romero’s number and when it’s called the Blue Jays inevitably lose. The splits show that Romero is a very good pitcher that has problems when facing Boston and Detroit. Tim Wakefield is two wins closer to 200, something that could be in jeopardy if Jarrod Saltalamacchia keeps allowing passed balls (three total last night).

Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis both had three hits against the lefty. Ellsbury led off the home half of the first with a longball that cleared the visitors’ bullpen to tie the game. Youkilis broke the tie in the next inning by firing a homer into the Monster seats that had such velocity that a fan sidestepped the ball rather than risk bruised or broken fingers for a souvenir.

Toronto briefly took the lead in the top of the third but the local nine roared back in the fourth with four runs. With two down Romero allowed J.D. Drew to double off the grill in center field and Darnell McDonald to single off the left field wall to tie the game.

As Terry Francona did with John Lackey in the season opener John Farrell stayed with his starter one too many batters. Saltalamacchia blooped a single to center to advance McDonald to third. Nine-hole hitter and rookie Yamaico Navarro clanged a double off the scoreboard. In his earnest Navarro nearly slid past the keystone sack but recovered by clinging to the base with his left hand, allowing McDonald to cross home for the go-ahead run. Ellsbury iced the cake by doubling to the deepest part of the left field wall, just missing the vertical line that demarcates ball in play from home run. The two runs Ellsbury drove in proved to be the difference in the game.

Ellsbury was part of an outstanding defensive play that wasn’t part of the official record. Eric Thames lofted the ball to deep left center and Ellsbury snared it on the run, a perfect intersection of trajectory and stride. Tim McClelland had verbally called time out before Wakefield had thrown the pitch, however, so the spectacular grab wasn’t an out. Why anyone can call time in a game with no clocks has always eluded me.

Game 86: July 6, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
L: Ricky Romero (7-8)
2B: Yunel Escobar (13), Travis Snider (8)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Tim Wakefield (5-3)
H: Daniel Bard (19)
H: Dan Wheeler (3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (19)
2B: J.D. Drew (5), Yamaico Navarro (1), Jacoby Ellsbury – 2 (25), Kevin Youkilis – 2 (23)
HR: Ellsbury (10), Youkilis (13)

July 6, 2011

Lester’s Left Latissimus

If you say that three times in a row while clicking your heels together perhaps the southpaw will avoid the disabled list.

The Red Sox roster seemed subject to some sort of perverse algebra. Just as Carl Crawford is poised to return to action Jon Lester was forced from last night’s game in the midst of a no-hitter. Since he only pitched four innings he wasn’t in line for the win; he left with one base on balls and five strikeouts to his name.

Offensive support came early and from an unlikely source. Darnell McDonald’s second-inning check swing ground out advanced David Ortiz from second to third and Jason Varitek’s clanger off the scoreboard plated the designated hitter. Ice-cold J.D. Drew scorched a grounder past second baseman Aaron Hill to plate Varitek.

Dustin Pedroia clouted a home run in the third inning from the clean-up spot. Ortiz looked on from the on-deck circle and seemed to question his selections for his “Bomb Squad:” Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, and Robinson Cano.

Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, and Daniel Bard kept the scoreless stranglehold on the game, allowing just two hits and two walks between them. But against Jonathan Papelbon the heart of the Blue Jays’ order was resurrected.

Corey Patterson led off with a gutshot single and Bautista followed with a home run off the stanchion. Auditions are over, Bautista, no need to impress Papi any further.

Papelbon allowed two more on base: Edwin Encarnacion with a single to right and J.P. Arencibia walked. With two on and two down John McDonald dropped a single in left to his namesake.

Darnell McDonald fired a seed to Varitek, who guarded home with his impenetrable legs. Encarnacion spun around Varitek’s leg like the drawing point of a drafting compass. The batting performance of the Red Sox’s McDonald may not be memorable, but his game-saving assist to end this game will rightfully be recalled as a highlight of this season.

Game 85: July 5, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
L: Brett Cecil (1-4)
HR: Jose Bautista (28)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Matt Albers (3-3)
H: Franklin Morales (4)
H: Daniel Bard (18)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (18)
2B: David Ortiz (22), Jason Varitek (7)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (8)

July 4, 2011


lack·lus·ter /ˈlækˌlʌstər/
1. lacking brilliance or radiance; dull: lackluster eyes.
2. lacking liveliness, vitality, spirit, or enthusiasm: a lackluster performance.

3. a lack of brilliance or vitality.

Had Terry Francona pulled John Lackey after three consecutive singles and a run scored in the third the Red Sox may have won the series opener. Instead the Red Sox skipper divined that Edwin Encarnacion’s near double off the center field wall converted into a lucky out was a sign of providence rather than portent.

After that out Aaron Hill singled to drive in a run. Travis Snider knocked in his second double of the game and plated two more runs. Snider had been sent to AAA and made a statement in his return to the majors with three doubles, two RBIs, and the cheesiest mustache seen at Fenway since John Smoltz. When the visitors’ lead reached the lucky number seven Francona finally pulled Lackey. Late in the game Alfredo Aceves surrendered two more runs.

The home team put together two rallies, a four-run outburst the fifth and a three-run barrage the eighth. Frank Francisco flirted with trouble in the ninth by allowing a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury, but the closer threw strikes instead of chairs and tallied his tenth save of the season.

Don Orsillo’s red tie with minute white dots echoed the patriotic theme of the day. The Red Sox wore red caps accented by a white front panel. The “B” featured embroidered stars and stripes.

Game 84: July 4, 2011
WinToronto Blue Jays
W: Brandon Morrow (5-4)
H: Luis Perez (2)
S: Frank Francisco (10)
2B: Rajai Davis – 2 (15), Travis Snider – 3 (7)
HR: Aaron Hill (4)
Boston Red Sox
L: John Lackey (5-9)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (28), David Ortiz (21)
3B: Jacoby Elllsbury (1), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2)

Houston Homecoming

While there was much consternation about Adrian Gonzalez playing in the outfield to get David Ortiz at bats during interleague, the thing I find far more troubling is a pitcher on the basepaths. Josh Beckett reached on a bunt in the third inning and proceeded from first to third with Jacoby Ellsbury’s single to center. I held my breath expecting a ruptured hamstring or pulled groin.

Dustin Pedroia walked to load the bases and Gonzalez flied out to center to end both the scoring threat and the risk to Beckett’s body. It is amusing to watch Fausto Carmona lumber down the first base line and trip over the sack, but such a scene could easily be recast with any American League pitcher unused to baserunning. Carmona will miss at least one start because of the mishap.

The first score of the game came in the fourth inning. Kevin Youkilis led off with a rope to center. J.D. Drew followed up with a base on balls. Josh Reddick sported the Trot Nixon pine tar helmet look and also echoed the former outfielder’s proclivity for chasing offspeed pitches to strike out.

Yamaico Navarro’s bloop single to shallow to right loaded the bases. Jason Varitek fought off the 2-2 pitch and nubbed a grounder to Brett Wallace, who tried to stop Youkilis from scoring. Wallace’s high throw forced backstop Carlos Corporan to leap off the plate and land on Youkilis’s right ankle. The Red Sox third baseman seems to attract two things: abuse on his gimpy ankles and pitches to the head from Yankee relievers. The Red Sox took a one-run lead into the bottom half of the fourth frame but missed multiple chances to break the game open.

Sophomore hitter Brett Wallace led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to center and was plated by pinch hitter Angel Sanchez to tie the game. The Red Sox squandered scoring opportunities in each of the next three innings but came through in the top of the ninth.

Drew Sutton earned a one-out free pass and advanced to second on Ellsbury’s single. Pedroia grounded into a fielder’s choice and Brad Mills opted for the textbook tactic of intentionally walking the batter to get a force at every base.

Mark Melancon apparently doesn’t study the book religiously. Rather than inducing an inning-inning ground out or pop-out he walked Youkilis on five pitches to push the winning run across home plate. Beckett was the pitcher of record and went on to notch a win with his family and friends in attendance.

Today’s polo may look like a repeat of the July 1 shirt, but this is one of the two similar blues that Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy discussed at great length in a previous game. I think this is sky blue while the previous hue was robin egg blue.

Game 83: July 3, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (7-3)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (17)
2B: Jason Varitek (6)
Houston Astros
L: Mark Melancon (5-2)
2B: Brett Wallace (20)

July 3, 2011

We Have Liftoff

Yamaico Navarro launched his first major league home run in his seventh-inning pinch-hitting appearance. He acted like he had been there before, if by being there before one means he had hit 366 career homers like David Ortiz. Navarro’s bat flip wasn’t Papiesque by any means and his brief admiration of his home run’s trajectory wasn’t exceptionally egregious. But a rookie should know better. Payback likely won’t come in this series, but somewhere down the line Navarro may face J.A. Happ or one of Happ’s friends. When that happens and if the circumstances are aligned, Navarro might find himself with a pitch in the ribs or dropping into the dirt to duck a high and tight pitch.

In the next inning Darnell McDonald clouted a three-run homer to the train tracks to make the score 9-3, a lead that was Bobby Jenks-proof. McDonald homered off Fernando Abad, whose last name isn’t pronounced in a way that would provide commentary on his pitching ability. Or at least Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy said Abad’s name in such a way so as to save him embarrassment.

Adrian Gonzalez played in right field for the second time this season and the world didn’t end. He has yet to field a put-out, make an assist attempt from right, collide with a teammate, pull a hamstring running down a fly ball, or run into an outfield fence, so the experiment has thus far been successful. Ortiz went 0-for-2 but tallied an RBI when he walked with the bases loaded in the first inning. Gonzalez was 3-for-5, scored three times, and drove in a run.

Ortiz was tapped to be captain of the American League’s Home Run Derby team. He’ll get to choose three other sluggers for his crew, but if he gets to select pitchers for the event he just acquainted himself with quite a few potential candidates in the Astros’ relief corps.

Polo shirt color repeat alert! Orsillo and Remy previously donned red polo shirts on June 16 in St. Petersburg.

Game 82: July 2, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Andrew Miller (2-0)
H: Alfredo Aceves (6)
H: Daniel Bard (17)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (23), Dustin Pedroia (17), Adrian Gonzalez (27)
HR: Yamaico Navarro (1), Darnell McDonald (2)
Houston Astros
L: J.A. Happ (3-10)
3B: Michael Bourn (7)
HR: Hunter Pence (10)

July 2, 2011


Yesterday the Red Sox released something with more impact than a fourth outfielder or middle reliever. Terry Francona, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Varitek took part in a public service announcement for the It Gets Better Project, started by Dan Savage in response to the rash of suicides by LGBT youth who had decided they would rather die than face bullying.

The Red Sox were not alone in the major leagues: the Giants and the Cubs also produced videos for this initiative. When mainstream sports franchises lend their imprimatur upon such a cause my hope that the tide against intolerance will continue to surge over the forces of bigotry and hate, washing them away forever. What’s stopping all of the teams from the MLB and any of the teams from the other major team sports to make a statement against bullying?

The Boston baseball squad added to that off-field win with an on-field victory against hapless Houston. It was difficult to enjoy last night’s win as the Astros bullpen was so execrable. Bud Norris saw his solid start eliminated by Sergio Escalona and Wilton Lopez, a duo as capable at relieving as Laurel and Hardy were at keeping their Model T intact.

J.D. Drew led off the seventh with a single off Norris and closed it by grounding out to first off Lopez. The visitors chipped away at the lead with a single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a double by Josh Reddick. Escalona was a victim of Clint Barmes’s poor fielding of Drew Sutton’s batted ball, but when the reliever uncorked a wild pitch to hit Darnell McDonald in the foot to load the bases it was clear the game was in jeopardy.

Lopez charged the mound from the bullpen at a full sprint; he might have better expended his energy in his pitching. After striking out Marco Scutaro he allowed Dustin Pedroia to shoot an opposite field single. Pedroia was so steamed at home plate umpire Laz Diaz he hollered at the official while running out the hit and continued to jaw once he reached the first base sack. Fortunately the pair of game-tying runs Pedroia plated couldn’t be erased because of hurling insults.

Adrian Gonzalez’s supple swing carried the ball just short of a home run. As the ball caromed off the left-center wall the Red Sox took the lead. Brad Mills must have enjoyed such games much more at Francona’s side rather than opposing him.

Game 81: July 1, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Dan Wheeler (1-1)
H: Matt Albers (7)
H: Franklin Morales (3)
H: Daniel Bard (16)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (16)
2B: Josh Reddick (4), Adrian Gonzalez (26)
HR: Marco Scutaro (3)
Houston Astros
L: Sergio Escalona (1-1)
BS: Wilton Lopez (4)
2B: Clint Barmes – 2 (16), Hunter Pence (23), Carlos Lee (21)

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