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Home » Category Listing » September 2011 Game Comments

October 12, 2011

Toppling of the Theocracy

Dear Chicago Cubs Fans,

You are in for a treat with Theo Epstein signing a five-year deal with your club. One of the most outstanding general managers in the sport will be haunting the halls of 1060 West Addison soon, and I daresay that the ghosts of past doomed seasons will be dispelled soon.

The Curse of the Billy Goat might be broken by Boston’s scapegoat.

Not to entirely absolve Epstein of his accountability in the Red Sox historic September collapse. He shopped for the groceries and for most of the season constructed scrumptious dinners. He wasn’t completely his fault that John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester opted for beer and fried chicken instead. For every free agent flop (Lackey, Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria) there was draft day domination (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz). Sadly, it has been said that Buchholz was on the fringes of the slacker starting pitcher clique.

Don’t be too alarmed if he drafts an undersized infielder or a fringey outfielder. They might end up producing MVP-caliber numbers. Perhaps he’ll turn around his free agent acquisition record.

I envy you the baseball mind that will lead your North Siders, but I am sure you covet the world championships the Red Sox won under Epstein’s auspices.

Kind regards,
Joanna

September 29, 2011

It Is Designed to Break Your Heart

There’s nothing I could say here that hasn’t been stated in a manner infinitely more analytical, anguished, and eloquent elsewhere.

Nate Silver neatly dissects the Red Sox’s epic collapse in September. He also concisely computes the dual, dueling improbabilities of the Yankees blowing a seven-run lead and the Red Sox losing last night’s game when they were one strike away from victory: one chance in 278 million.

Jay Caspian Kang eschews calculating probabilities in favor of reveling in the reborn despair over the Olde Towne Team. Kang rhapsodizes, “We get to go back to our favorite pastime: complaining about this shitty team and its shitty GM and what the fuck is wrong with Crawford and did you hear what this guy told me about what John Lackey did when he was at that bar in the Back Bay?”

Finally, Chad Finn performs an autopsy on the deceased team in a measured manner. Finn usually doesn’t call for heads but appeals to a rabid fan base to adopt cooler ones. However, in this column Finn urges John Lackey to “pack up the sneer and the sacks of unearned cash and just go away.” That surly starter was Finn’s only call for dismissal. He believes that Theo Epstein, despite the poor performances by two big ticket free agents, should remain with the club. Ditto with Terry Francona, who some blame for being too soft on players. Finn maintains there is the public Francona and the manager behind closed doors.

The play of Marco Scutaro in this game was a microcosm of this team’s season. At times he was brilliant and lucky, like when he rifled a double to left with one out in the fourth, advanced on a ground out off Carl Crawford’s bat, and scored on a balk by Alfredo Aceves to tie the game 2-2. Scutaro also sparked an outstanding double play in the sixth. After Jon Lester gave up consecutive walks the shortstop scooped Vladimir Guerrero’s grounder and flipped it to Dustin Pedroia’s glove. Pedroia completed the circuit to Adrian Gonzalez’s waiting glove and the visitors got out of frame unscathed.

Later in the contest Scutaro was obtuse and ill-fated. The infielder muscled a single to right with one out in the eighth and took off when he saw Carl Crawford’s line drive wing towards the left-center gap. After he passed second base Scutaro paused because he thought Nolan Reimold had a chance to catch the ball. That momentary stop was the difference between Scutaro scoring an insurance run and being thrown out at home. Tim Bogar had a hand in the disaster. An entire waving arm, in fact.

Other arms that failed in the race? Jonathan Papelbon’s, as he notched two outs in the ninth but surrendered three consecutive hits to blow his third save of the season. Crawford’s, as it flailed in an attempt to snare Robert Andino’s single.

Game 162: September 28, 2011
Boston Red Sox
90-72
3
H: Alfredo Aceves (11)
H: Daniel Bard (34)
BS, L: Jonathan Papelbon (3, 4-1)
2B: Marco Scutaro (26), Carl Crawford (29)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (21)
WinBaltimore Orioles
69-93
4
W: Jim Johnson (6-5)
2B: J.J. Hardy (27), Mark Reynolds (27), Chris Davis (12), Nolan Reimold (10)
HR: Hardy (30)

September 28, 2011

Lavarnway and Shirley

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Schlemiel! Schlimazel!
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!
We’re gonna do it
Give us any chance we’ll take it
Give us any rule we’ll break it
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
Doin’ it our way
—“Making Our Dreams Come True,” Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

For once Robert Andino was the schlemiel, the awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right. The second baseman bungled Darnell McDonald’s fourth-inning fly ball by over-pursuing it into right, allowing it to drop between him, Nick Markakis, and Mark Reynolds. His bat as cooled as well; he went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.

The schlimazels were all the hitters victimized by Wally Bell’s lopsided strike zone.

The man with the chutzpah was Ryan Lavarnway, the rookie catcher pressed into service because of Jason Varitek’s and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s maladies. He added to the Red Sox’s lead in the fourth with a three-run shot to right. A greenhorn’s first four-bagger would be memorable regardless of the circumstances, but Lavarnway’s came with his team’s playoff hopes in the balance.

Lavarnway’s heroics didn’t stop once behind the plate. The backstop halted Adam Jones’s attempted theft of third in the second inning. After a tense moment of hesitation he jumped on Matt Wieter’s tapper that died in front of the plate and fired to first for the second out of the ninth inning. Although a run scored on the play, the out was key with yet another runner in scoring position.

In the top of the eighth Lavarnway launched his second home run of the game and his career, increasing the lead to 8-4. With Daniel Bard’s shaky eighth and Wieters’s RBI ground out in the ninth, Lavarnway’s second homer proved the difference between victory and futility.

Lux et veritas.

Game 161: September 27, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
90-71
8
W: Alfredo Aceves (10-2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (31)
2B: Marco Scutaro (25), Darnell McDonald (6)
3B: Carl Crawford (7)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (32), Ryan Lavarnway – 2 (2), Scutaro (7)
Baltimore Orioles
68-93
7
L: Zach Britton (11-11)
2B: Vladimir Guerrero (30), Adam Jones (26), Nick Markakis (31)
3B: Nolan Reimold (3)
HR: Matt Wieters (22), Jones (25)

September 27, 2011

Go and Catch a Falling Star

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil's foot;
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.
Song by John Donne

I quote Donne because it feels like the Red Sox are done.

Been there, done that. Well, not exactly that. Because baseball is the sort of game you can see something new every game. Consequently, a team that was playoff-bound can lose in novel and excruciating ways every time they take the field.

For example, an MVP-caliber player could chase down a well-struck ball to deep center field and snag it perfectly with two men on and two down. That same player, who just 24 hours before had hallelujahs and hosannas praising his name, could hit the center field fence with such force that the ball dropped to the ground.

That dropped ball could be recovered and relayed back to home plate but then missed by a catcher, precipitating an three-run inside-the-park home run.

What a crazy way to lose the lead that would be.

Game 160: September 26, 2011
Boston Red Sox
89-71
3
L: Josh Beckett (13-7)
2B: David Ortiz (40), Jacoby Ellsbury (46)
HR: Jed Lowrie (6)
WinBaltimore Orioles
68-92
6
W: Troy Patton (2-1)
2B: Chris Davis (11), Nick Markakis (30)
HR: Matt Wieters (21), Robert Andino (5)

September 26, 2011

Jacobean Era

It’s Jacoby Ellsbury’s world; we just live in it.

A few hours after becoming the first Red Sox 30/30 man Ellsbury was one of the few offensive forces on either team in the 14-inning long game. Not only is the season a marathon but these last few games determining the American League wild card have proven prolix contests of endurance.

Terry Francona had to call upon J.D. Drew, who had not seen action since July 19. The curious call paid off when Drew singled in Jed Lowrie in the fifth for the visitors’ first score of the game. Francona’s decision to pinch run Lars Anderson for Adrian Gonzalez in the ninth, leaving his team without one of its best hitters for five innings, didn’t turn out as well. Anderson went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a stranded runner.

For 22 outs the Red Sox relievers held the Yankees scoreless. Granted, the lineup was more Scranton/Wilkes-Barre than Bronx, but Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon, Franklin Morales, and Felix Doubront still kept a mix of all-stars and young players hungry to prove themselves at bay in hostile territory.

I was surprised to see Scott Proctor make an appearance because Joe Torre had no compunction sending out Proctor until his joints were dust. The reliever took the mound with one down in the fourteenth and allowed a single to Darnell McDonald and permitted Marco Scutaro to reach on a walk.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the ball a ride to deep center, far enough advance McDonald to third base. The platoon outfielder wouldn’t need that extra base as his fellow ballhawk Ellsbury sent his 31st circuit clout into the Yankees bullpen.

No word on how Alec Baldwin’s kidneys took the news.

This might be the least inspirational big win of the season. The night was tainted with John Lackey’s surliness, but for once the starter had reason to be churlish. A reporter had texted Lackey with a question about his personal life 30 minutes before the game.

As historically bad as Lackey has been, I sympathize with him as a person. But as a pitcher, his name needs to be expunged from any and all playoff roster permutations.

Game 159: September 25, 2011 ∙ 14 innings
WinBoston Red Sox
89-70
7
BS: Alfredo Aceves (3)
W: Franklin Morales (1-2)
S: Felix Doubront (1)
2B: Jed Lowrie (14), Marco Scutaro (24)
3B: Lowrie (4)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury (31)
New York Yankees
97-61
4
L: Scott Proctor (2-5)
2B: Mark Teixeira (25), Jesus Montero (4)

September 25, 2011

30/30

Jacoby Ellsbury became the first Red Sox player to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, joining 36 others in an elite list that includes all-time greats like Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Barry Larkin, and Willie Mays. The list also has surprises such as Dante Bichette, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Walker.

In the past few seasons there have been a smattering of players achieving the feat: Hanley Ramirez, Grady Sizemore, and Ian Kinsler. Ellsbury joined National League outfielders Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun this season. In this new wave of power/speed stars, who will go the way of the Hall of Famers and who will fade away?

Such a question is a more comforting conjecture to turn in the mind when your favorite team’s playoff hopes wane along with the length of the day.

Game 158: September 25, 2011
Boston Red Sox
88-70
2
L: Tim Wakefield (7-9)
2B: Marco Scutaro (23)
HR: Jacoby Ellsbury – 2 (30)
WinNew York Yankees
97-61
6
W: A.J. Burnett (11-11)
2B: Derek Jeter (24)
HR: Jorge Posada (14)

Wake Me Up When September Ends

As annoying as the sound clip after the home team scores at Yankee Stadium is, it agitated me more that I didn’t know the origin of the song. I finally gloogled (Google + slog) enough permutations of the words yankee, score, run, and song without putting in the expletives I so dearly wanted to include.

It turns out the tune is the Westminster Quarters, so named after the time-telling chimes of Houses of Parliament at Westminster. The sound booth at Stades Fascistes old and new didn’t use an actual recording of the bells but rather sampled 2 Unlimited’s song “Workaholic.”

That maddening melody played in the second, third, and sixth innings. Any hopes of southpaw ace Jon Lester staunching the September exsanguination ended in the third inning when Derek Jeter poked a three-run homer to right to render the score 6-0.

Jeter’s sixth home run of the season of course prompted Tim McCarver to mock the shortstop’s detractors. Never mind that Jeter is in the midst of his third-worst season in terms of OPS+ with a paltry 96, including his 1995 debut that featured only 48 at bats.

Past Yankees may on occasion have those flashes of production upon which their reputation is built, but it is the 21-year old Venezuelan Jesus Montero who is a threat now and for years to come. The catcher launched his fourth home run this season in the sixth inning (just two less than Jeter but in 484 fewer at bats). Brian Cashman does have huge budgetary advantages over every other team in the league, but I give him credit for never sending Montero away in a trade.

Game 157: September 24, 2011
Boston Red Sox
88-69
1
L: Jon Lester (15-9)
2B: Carl Crawford (28)
WinNew York Yankees
96-61
9
W: Freddy Garcia (12-8)
2B: Jesus Montero (3)
HR: Derek Jeter (6), Montero (4)

September 22, 2011

Reynolds Rapped

When Mark Reynolds isn’t striking out he’s clearing the fences with circuit clouts. Reynolds drove in half of Baltimore’s runs last night but amazingly didn’t strike out once. Only Drew Stubbs’s 200 strikeouts outpaces Reynolds’s 183 whiffs.

The Red Sox are 4-13 since September 5, the day that began their string of games against AL East teams. While the last-place Orioles mounted a late-inning comeback the Yankees celebrated clinching a spot in the playoffs. At least wins but the Yankees kept the Rays trailing Boston in the wild card race.

These Hair-itage shirts are fun, unlike watching the Red Sox in September.


2-for-4, 1 run, 2 strikeouts


1-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 LOB


0-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 LOB


Did not play

Don Orsillo’s tie was a black grid suitable for charting the late season decline of a team many thought would win the World Series.

Game 156: September 21, 2011
WinBaltimore Orioles
65-90
6
W: Clay Rapada (2-0)
H: Willie Eyre (3)
S: Jim Johnson (9)
2B: Nick Markakis (28)
HR: Mark Reynolds – 2 (36)
Boston Red Sox
88-68
4
L: Josh Beckett (13-6)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (37), Carl Crawford (27)
3B: Crawford (6)

September 21, 2011

Annoying Andino

The bullpen band’s mojo helped to break the 4-4 tie in the fourth, but the usually sound duo of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon struck a sour note in the eighth. Bard allowed singles to Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds but whiffed Adam Jones. Papelbon relieved Bard and struck out Chris Davis looking but allowed a bleeder off Nolan Reimold’s bat that loaded the bases.

With his bases-clearing double with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth, Robert Andino gave his team a two-run advantage and his name was added to the list of bit players who dominate the Red Sox. Andino’s name is uttered with strings of expletives, much like all-time great Frank Catalanotto.

Ric Flair’s visit, while exciting for Josh Reddick and Dustin Pedroia, didn’t infuse the team with the winning spirit. But it did inspire Jerry Remy to emit a number of “woos.”

Don Orsillo’s tie reminded me of a pattern on some manhole covers. Sorry, personhole covers.

Game 155: September 20, 2011
WinBaltimore Orioles
64-90
7
W: Willie Eyre (2-1)
H: Pedro Strop (3)
S: Jim Johnson (8)
2B: Nick Markakis (27), Robert Andino (22)
Boston Red Sox
88-67
5
H: Matt Albers (10)
H, L: Daniel Bard (33, 2-9)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
2B: Dustin Pedroia – 2 (36), Adrian Gonzalez (45), Mike Aviles (17)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (27)

September 20, 2011

Straight Pimping

The Magic Snuggie didn’t work. That narrows it down to Red Sox Pimp Dude and his crimson-wigged companion.

“I thought it was real,” Don Orsillo said of the scarlet postiche. This from the man who thought a solar eclipse meant the sun positioned itself between the earth and the moon.

In a night of offensive brilliance Conor Jackson had a particularly notable evening. He capped off the seventh inning with a grand slam into the second row of the Monster seats. He also had a stunning circus catch in the top of the fourth inning. Jackson dashed from his spot in left in front of the scoreboard all the way to the warning track to make a diving grab of Nick Markakis’s fly ball for the second out of the inning.

In my mind John Lackey’s response wasn’t gratitude but rather, “Nice catch now, but why didn’t you come up with it when you dove into the stands in the first inning?” In reality Lackey’s response was to load the bases and allow two runs to score, bringing the Orioles within a run.

The Red Sox responded with five runs in the bottom frame of the fourth but Lackey couldn’t last five innings for the win. A line of 11 hits, 8 earned runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts rarely results in a win, but the combination of poor Baltimore pitching and ravenous Red Sox bats resulted in a victory for the local nine.

As part of the seven-run onslaught in the seventh Jacoby Ellsbury led off with his first inside-the-park home run. His fly ball glanced off the padding on the short side of the bullpen wall and into deep center field. Matt Angle took a bad angle on the ricochet and Ellsbury touched them all without a slide at home.

As amazing as the feat was, it is more astounding that someone with his speed hasn’t done this earlier.

Game 154: September 19, 2011
Baltimore Orioles
63-90
9
L: Brian Matusz (1-8)
2B: Chris Davis (10), Vladimir Guerrero (28)
3B: Nick Markakis (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
88-66
18
W: Scott Atchison (1-0)
H: Franklin Morales (10)
H: Matt Albers (9)
2B: David Ortiz (39), Marco Scutaro (22), Jacoby Ellsbury (45)
HR: Jed Lowrie (5), Ellsbury (28), Conor Jackson (5)

September 19, 2011

Fight or Flight

The Red Sox choose the wrong sort of flight, fleeing the field with their collective tail between their legs with a loss against the cellar-dwelling Orioles.

To be fair the local nine put up a bit of a fight in the fifth with Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI double and Dustin Pedroia’s triple to plate Gonzalez. Terry Francona fought tooth and nail for David Ortiz, whose fly ball to right field was wrongly ruled foul.

While Francona had Ortiz’s back the same couldn’t be said for the designated hitter. The slugger told reporters that Alfredo Aceves should be starting. “To be honest with you, the way things are going, he should be starting. It’s as simple as that. I think at one point, he might be a starter. It all depends what the front office decides, but he’s got good stuff, and we definitely need a guy that can come in and give us six or seven good innings.” Perhaps Ortiz’s frustration is with baseball operations.

Three Orioles took flight: Robert Andino, Nolan Reimold, and J.J. Hardy all homered off greenhorn Kyle Weiland.

Game 153: September 19, 2011
WinBaltimore Orioles
63-89
6
W: Jeremy Guthrie (9-17)
H: Troy Patton (2)
H: Willie Eyre (2)
H: Clay Rapada (5)
H: Pedro Strop (2)
S: Jim Johnson (7)
2B: Matt Angle (4), Matt Wieters (28)
HR: Robert Andino (4), Nolan Reimold (12), J.J. Hardy (28)
Boston Red Sox
87-66
5
L: Kyle Weiland (0-3)
2B: Josh Reddick (18), Adrian Gonzalez (44), Marco Scutaro (21)
3B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3), Dustin Pedroia (3)
HR: Darnell McDonald (6)

Winning Came at a Price

Mike Aviles has been one of the few players making any impact in the lineup of late. His home run in the second game of the series proved to be the game-winning run, and he kept his team in the game today (and in the series) with a three-run bomb in the seventh inning. He went above and beyond the call of duty by knocking out David Price in the third inning with a screaming comebacker that struck Price in the chest before bounding to Evan Longoria for the second out of the inning.

That’s how good it’s going for Tampa Bay: their southpaw ace seems to suffer a severe injury but won’t miss time, the relief corps banded together to maintain the lead against one of the top offenses in the league, and they are within two games of the wild card.

Don Orsillo’s tie looked like the sort of abstract pattern Patrick Nagel would occasionally incorporate in his prints. The 1980s weren’t the best decade for the Red Sox, so anything invoking nostalgia about that era must be avoided.

Game 152: September 18, 2011
WinTampa Bay Rays
85-67
8
W: Jake McGee (3-1)
H: Brandon Gomes (3)
S: Joel Peralta (5)
2B: Johnny Damon (28), Matt Joyce (31)
Boston Red Sox
87-65
5
L: Tim Wakefield (7-7)
2B: Mike Aviles (16), Darnell McDonald (5), Carl Crawford (26), Jacoby Ellsbury (44)
HR: Aviles (7)

September 18, 2011

Niemann Marked Us

I guess Norman Chad, Lon McEachern, and Ali Nejad wrapped up all the plumb poker commentator jobs so Fox audiences were stuck with Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver for this game.

Vasgersian is the most generic sport commentator on the planet. When broadcast companies want to start manufacturing play by play announcers like they do Japanese pop singers they can use Vasgersian as a template. Good-looking but not devastatingly so, a mid-range voice neither too dull nor too excitable, and pedestrian, predictable ways of describing the game. Vasgersian is Wonder white bread to Vin Scully’s baguette.

McCarver was his usual befuddled self. He must wait for fly ball plays to right field so he can bring up Lou Piniella’s play in right field on October 2, 1978. Any home run that soars towards the left field wall makes McCarver shiver in anticipation so that he can invoke the name of Bucky Dent.

With 2004 and 2007 under their belts the Red Sox and their fans are not so easily frightened by tales of failures past. McCarver summoning memories of the Boston Massacre to dishearten Boston fans is like parents trying to scare their tweener-age kids monsters under the bed. Little do parents know that their children have bittorrented all the Saw movies.

The real, current fear takes the shape of Elvis Costello hipster spectacles. The mind behind those glasses manages a team of sub-30 year-old stars that spit out talent like Carl Crawford only to replace him with Desmond Jennings. Jeff Niemann seems in line to replace Matt Garza.

Game 151: September 17, 2011
WinTampa Bay Rays
84-67
4
W: Jeff Niemann (11-7)
H: Matt Moore (1)
S: Joel Peralta (4)
2B: Desmond Jennings (9)
HR: Ben Zobrist (16)
Boston Red Sox
87-64
3
L: Jon Lester (15-8)
2B: Mike Aviles (15)

September 17, 2011

Hole in O

Mike Aviles’s fourth-inning home run with two out broke the 3-3 tie and the Sports Authority sign. Of all the batters that have taken the box the utility infielder was not at the top of the list of people that could rip a hole in one of the signs over the Green Monster.

In every game at Fenway all I can picture is Dustin Pedroia trying to whack the cover off the ball to duplicate the feat.

Daniel Bard came through in the eighth with his first hold in his last three attempts. The relief showed his ace abilities by striking out the side while only allowing Ben Zobrist to reach on a base on base on balls.

Joe Maddon was ejected by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the sixth for disputing balls and strikes. The strike zone map of last night’s contest shows that Bard and other Boston hurlers did indeed benefit from Wendelstedt’s judgment.

I couldn’t help but pass judgment on Johnny Damon’s comments in his interview with Heidi Watney about how this current Rays team reminds him of the 2004 Red Sox. Damon can say that when his eyes are stinging with champion champagne and no sooner.

Game 150: September 16, 2011
Tampa Bay Rays
83-67
3
L: James Shields (15-11)
HR: Evan Longoria (28)
WinBoston Red Sox
87-63
4
W: Josh Beckett (13-5)
H: Alfredo Aceves (10)
H: Daniel Bard (32)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (30)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (43), David Ortiz (38)
HR: Mike Aviles (6)

September 16, 2011

Casey Has Not Struck Out

Don Orsillo observed in this game or perhaps during a game in the previous series in St. Petersburg that Casey Kotchman seems to have been around forever. The first baseman was drafted with high expectations in the first round of the 2001 draft. But in the majors Kotchman has struggled to live up to the hype and was merely pedestrian until this season.

When he was on the Red Sox in 2009 he was a mediocre .218 batting average, .284 on-base percentage, and .287 slugging in 87 at bats. Like Carlos Pena before him, a stopgap at first base foundered in Boston but bloomed in Tampa Bay.

Matthew Pouliot’s series on redoing the 2001 draft had Kotchman dropping from his actual slot at 13 to the 29th pick after all-stars such as Dan Haren (redo at 2nd, actual 72nd), Ryan Howard (4th, 140th), and Kevin Youkilis (6th, 243rd)

A number one pick in his draft, Drew Bledsoe, visited the booth. The first pick of the 1993 draft was in town to be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Jeff Howe evaluated Bledsoe in light of quarterbacks of his era and made a compelling case for his inclusion in the Football Hall of Fame. Pro Football Reference doesn’t have metrics like Bill James’s black and gray ink, but like baseball defensive statistics a true measure of a quarterback’s contributions is difficult to quantify, no matter the hype around ESPN’s proprietary QBR statistic.

Game 149: September 15, 2011
WinTampa Bay Rays
84-66
9
W: Jeremy Hellickson (13-10)
2B: John Jaso
HR: Evan Longoria (27), Casey Kotchman (10), B.J. Upton (21)
Boston Red Sox
86-63
2
L: Kyle Weiland (0-2)
No extra base hits

September 14, 2011

And Your Bard Can’t Sting

You tell me that he’s got ev’ry pitch you want
And your Bard can sting
But he’s blown the last three
He’s blown the last three

You say you’ve seen triple digits
And that Bard’s got speed
But the ball’s on a tee
The ball’s on a tee

When your prized reliever
Starts to weigh you down
Look for some strong liquor
I’ll buy a round, I’ll buy a round

When your Bard is broken
Will he make you moan
You may be awoken
Use the phone, use the phone

You tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is
And your Bard can sting
But you can’t hear me
You can’t hear me

Don Orsillo’s tie looked like mildew or an oil spill.

Game 148: September 14, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
75-74
5
W: Ricky Romero (15-10)
S: Frank Francisco (15)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
86-62
4
H: Franklin Morales (9)
H: Alfredo Aceves (9)
BS, L: Daniel Bard (5, 2-8)
2B: Marco Scutaro (20)
3B: Jacoby Ellsbury (5)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (26)

Vortices and Ovations

Tim Wakefield won his 200th game, at last. It was his 186th win in a Red Sox uniform. He is just six wins shy of Cy Young and Roger Clemens’s shared franchise record of 192 victories. Given Wakefield’s struggles to attain his career milestone and the threat of the Rays in the wild card race the knuckleballer may not have a chance to surpass the current record holders, but he would be the first to disavow the importance of this individual accomplishment.

Wakefield’s specialty, the knuckleball, flits erratically because there is no spin on the ball. If the ball were to rotate on its way the plate the motion would cut through the air to fly a truer path. When Wakefield pitches the ball vortices form around the stitches. The variances in drag causes the sphere to flutter on its way to home plate.

Wakefield’s presence in Boston is like the baseball he throws. He doesn’t spin, gyro, or, blaze. He is steady while the forces around him react. He survived the vortices of ownership change, front office upheaval, and field manager shifts. Skippers shuttled him between bullpen and rotation with the predictability of one of his pitches.

And yet he endured and excelled.

Congratulations, Tim Wakefield.

Game 147: September 13, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
74-74
6
L: Brandon Morrow (9-11)
2B: David Cooper – 2 (5), Eric Thames (22)
HR: J.P. Arencibia (23), Jose Bautista (42)
WinBoston Red Sox
86-61
18
W: Tim Wakefield (7-6)
2B: Dustin Pedroia – 2 (34), Jacoby Ellsbury (42), Carl Crawford (25), Marco Scutaro (19), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (23)
HR: Ellsbury (27), Pedroia – 2 (20)

September 12, 2011

A Time to Sweep, a Time to Quaff

The Magic Snuggie was summoned but proved powerless to suppress the wave that the Rays rode to carry them within 3½ games of the wild card. What follows are random thoughts I used to distract myself from the horror of this game in particular and the series in general.

Marco Scutaro has been on fire for the last two weeks: .400 batting average, .440 on-base percentage, and .578 slugging percentage. He was the only Boston batter to score last night; his third-inning home run brought the Red Sox within two runs of the home team.

The Rays catcher’s surname sounds like name of an Autobot. “Lobaton, transform!”

Turning and turning in the widening Guyer
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are Fuld of passionate intensity.

The Red Sox are 9-7 when Don and Jerry wear polo shirts.

Game 146: September 11, 2011
Boston Red Sox
85-61
1
L: Jon Lester (15-7)
HR: Marco Scutaro (6)
WinTampa Bay Rays
81-64
9
W: James Shields (15-10)
2B: Sean Rodriguez (20), B.J. Upton (21), Johnny Damon (27)
3B: Damon (7)
HR: Upton (20)

September 11, 2011

What a Joke

Jerry Remy could barely contain his contempt for the Rays’ stadium as yet another foul ball got trapped in one of Tropicana Field’s catwalks. “What a joke,” he commented as B.J. Upton’s went up but failed to come down in the sixth inning. Upton would eventually strike out, but had this been a normal baseball stadium the batter would have been out a few pitches earlier.

The catwalks are arrayed like human bones in the Kostnice Ossuary but deserve none of the reverence. The skeletal protuberances exist to provide light for a team that plays in a state that is nicknamed the Sunshine State.

One redeeming site in Florida is the new Red Sox spring training facility. JetBlue Park in Fort Myers will have features that echo Fenway Park, including a Green Monster in left field. It is outstanding that the Red Sox organization makes sure that the parks in its system are structured such that minor leaguers can familiarize themselves with hitting, fielding, and pitching in places like Fenway before they ever make it to the show.

The same architect firm that developed iconic parks such as Camden Yards and PNC Park, Populous, developed the Red Sox’s spring training facility. Construction appears to be forging ahead despite a rash of equipment theft in the area. I love how architects write about their buildings, it is a combination of travel brochure and wine review:

The highlight of the ballpark’s exterior is an undulating roof, representing the energy and movement of a grove of cypress trees. Open concourses will help blur the lines between inside and outside, delivering a ballpark experience well beyond the walls of the ballpark itself.

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy wore black polo shirts. The color doesn’t help to beat the heat but it does sum up the state of Red Sox affairs.

Game 145: September 10, 2011 ∙ 11 innings
Boston Red Sox
85-60
5
L: Daniel Bard (2-7)
2B: Carl Crawford (24), Dustin Pedroia (32)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (24), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (16), Jacoby Ellsbury (26)
WinTampa Bay Rays
80-64
6
H: Joel Peralta (18)
H: Jake McGee (4)
H: J.P. Howell (9)
H: Juan Cruz (6)
BS: Kyle Farnsworth (6)
W: Brandon Gomes (2-1)
2B: B.J. Upton (20)
3B: Desmond Jennings (4)
HR: Casey Kotchman (9)

September 10, 2011

Blues, Man. Regroup.

John Lackey would have been better off pitching using the Blue Man Group’s method. They had better command, control, and velocity than Lackey did.

In the third inning Lackey made a late break to cover first base when Johnny Damon slapped the ball to Adrian Gonzalez. The Red Sox first baseman made an outstanding play on the ball but when he looked to flip the ball to first Lackey was already lagging behind Damon in the race for the sack.

As Damon singled Evan Longoria scored from second base to make the score 5-0. Terry Francona should have sent a batboy up to Lackey with a full length mirror so the pitcher could make an exasperated gesture and eye roll at himself.

John Jaso ended the inning by smoking the ball directly off Lackey’s left calf. Unfortunately, Lackey will still be able to make his next start.

Joe Maddon granted NESN an interview and brought along a troupe of emo Smurfs. He also brought along Wade Davis, who Roy Halladayed the Red Sox. It was the fourth time this season a Rays pitcher went the distance against Boston. James Shields (on June 14 he bested Tim Wakefield but lost on August 16 against Jon Lester in the first game of a doubleheader) and Jeff Niemann (the triple play and nightcap on August 16) were the other culprits.

My friend made a good point: what reason do Don and Jerry have to wear polo shirts in a dome?

Game 144: September 9, 2011
Boston Red Sox
85-59
2
L: John Lackey (12-12)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (22)
WinTampa Bay Rays
79-64
7
W: Wade Davis (10-8)
2B: John Jaso (12), Reid Brignac (4), Evan Longoria (24)
HR: Jaso (5)

September 9, 2011

Rehabilitation (No, No, No)

Don Orsillo resurrected a tie of similar style to those he wore on May 4, June 11, and June 30. The retreading of similar styles reminds me of the multiple attempts to rehabilitate Andrew Miller. It seems clear by now that the sixth pick of the 2006 draft did not warrant that honor. Miller surrendered five earned runs and over five innings but surprisingly just walked two batters. It was two home runs early in the game that did him in.

A sampling of players drafted after Miller: Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, and Daniel Bard.

The same has been said about Ricky Romero, who was the sixth pick in the stacked 2005 amateur draft. Instead of Romero the Blue Jays could have had Troy Tulowitzki, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Matt Garza.

The way the Red Sox are playing I’m beginning to wonder if they are contenders or pretenders. They have lost the last three series: Yankees, Rangers, and Blue Jays. Two of those teams will be in the playoffs. The Boston baseball squad will likely be in the postseason as well, but this spate of poor play and injuries gives one pause.

They look as lost as the smattering of fans in the hunt for Jose Bautista’s foul ball to the third deck. The seventh inning hunt ended in one of them triumphantly displaying the ball in his outstretched fist. The Red Sox didn’t find the win they were looking for north of the border.

Game 143: September 8, 2011
Boston Red Sox
85-58
4
L: Andrew Miller (6-3)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury – 2 (41), Josh Reddick (17)
HR: Jason Varitek (11)
WinToronto Blue Jays
72-72
7
W: Ricky Romero (14-10)
H: Casey Janssen (6)
2B: Yunel Escobar (24), David Cooper – 2 (3), Edwin Encarnacion (35), Brett Lawrie (3)
HR: J.P. Arencibia (22), Encarnacion (16), Eric Thames (10)

September 8, 2011

Junk Bard Dog

My friend said it best: Daniel Bard devolved into a Craig Hansenesque arm slot last night. Bard’s erratic eighth inning erased what would have been Tim Wakefield’s 200th win. The vigil continues.

I would have loved to chronicle Boston’s offensive exploits here, but any accomplishments they tallied were in vain because of the late inning meltdown by the usually steady set-up man. One thing to note was David Ortiz’s fifth inning solo shot to the second deck that prompted him to wink at a fan. With the Vancouver riots and Toronto taunting, who knew Canadians could be such a feisty bunch?

Game 142: September 7, 2011
Boston Red Sox
85-57
10
H: Franklin Morales (8)
H: Dan Wheeler (4)
BS, L: Daniel Bard (4, 2-6)
2B: Carl Crawford (23), Josh Reddick (16), Adrian Gonzalez (43), Jacoby Ellsbury (39)
HR: Ellsbury (25), David Ortiz (29), Gonzalez (24)
WinToronto Blue Jays
71-72
11
W: Shawn Camp (4-3)
S: Frank Francisco (13)
2B: Jose Bautista (23), Yunel Escobar (23), Edwin Encarnacion (34)
HR: J.P. Arencibia (21)

September 7, 2011

Lester Hands Toronto Its Lunch

Not only did Jon Lester bully the Toronto Blue Jays for their lunch money, he turned around and used that money to advertise his hot dogs in Rogers Centre.

Thanks to Lester’s dazzling seven innings of shutout ball no Blue Jays hotdogged it around the basepaths last night. Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie would have to wait another day to stick his tongue out while rounding the bases as if he were Michael Jordan dunking on Alonzo Mourning. Someone needs to take the rookie aside and remind him that greenhorns don’t have signature moves. And if, not when, he earns the right to one, pick something better than a facial expression that goes along with “nanny nanny boo boo.”

The Red Sox scored in every inning but the sixth, seventh, and ninth. While Marco Scutaro’s trio of doubles were delightful and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s and Josh Reddick’s circuit clouts were riveting, I most enjoyed Kevin Youkilis’s leadoff single in the fourth. The Red Sox third baseman sharply rapped the ball to his counterpart. The ball took an unanticipated hop on the Astroturf that had Lawrie swiveling his head around like a weather vane in a windstorm.

Were I Youkilis I’d be tempted to pull a Michael Jordan as I rounded the hot corner on David Ortiz’s double to the right field wall.

Repeat tie alert! I do believe Don Orsillo wore this tie on May 19 in a game against the Tigers. Boston won that game as well. Orsillo should keep that in mind in case checkered grey tie mojo is needed to reverse a losing streak.

Game 141: September 6, 2011
WinBoston Red Sox
85-56
14
W: Jon Lester (15-6)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (38), Adrian Gonzalez (42), Carl Crawford (22), Kevin Youkilis (32), Marco Scutaro – 3 (18), David Ortiz – 2 (37)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (15), Josh Reddick (7)
Toronto Blue Jays
70-72
0
L: Luis Perez (3-3)
No extra base hits

September 5, 2011

Please Don’t Be Long

Well it only goes to show
And I told them where to go
Ask a policeman on the street
There’s so many there to meet
Please don’t be long, please don’t you be very long
Please don’t be long or I may be asleep
“Blue Jay Way” — The Beatles

Pitchers’ duels are like a dining experience at a Michelin four-star restaurant where they don’t monitor ingredients that patrons have severe allergic reactions to. Most people can revel in the glory of skilled professionals plying their trade, but a number of the participants may find themselves writhing in potentially lethal agony due to anaphylactic shock.

Such was the case for Red Sox fans who through nearly four hours of baseball on their Labor Day holiday only to have their hope for victory fly away with Brett Lawrie’s two-out home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The emerging third baseman has all the makings of a Red Sox killer: dazzling, rally-killing defensive plays, smart, aggressive baserunning, and a knack for a timely hit.

Marco Scutaro played like an embedded Blue Jay. In the fifth the shortstop doubled to center field with one down. He tripped while trying to advance to third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s tapper to Henderson Alvarez. Scutaro couldn’t even draw out the rundown to help Ellsbury get to second base safely.

In the seventh Scutaro grounded out to his counterpart with runners on second and third. He also flied out to left with Josh Reddick at second and two down, ending the ninth inning.

The United States Postal Service may go out of service this winter but at least it previewed a stamp honoring Ted Williams before its potential hiatus. Ian Crouch wrote about the stamp and its subject in the New Yorker’s sports blog and of course quoted John Updike’s immortal account of Williams’s last game.

Don Orsillo’s tie went well with blues of Rogers Centre and Boston’s recent blues. Josh Beckett departed the mound in the fourth inning with two outs due to a sprained right ankle. As George Harrison sang, please don’t be long.

Game 140: September 5, 2011 ∙ 11 innings
Boston Red Sox
84-56
0
L: Dan Wheeler (2-2)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (37), Marco Scutaro (15), Adrian Gonzalez (41), Josh Reddick (15)
WinToronto Blue Jays
70-71
1
W: Shawn Camp (3-3)
HR: Brett Lawrie (8)

Can’t You Read the Signs?

Don Orsillo has worn seven different grey ties with stripes: April 24, May 29 doubleheader, June 10, June 17, August 9, September 1, and yesterday’s nifty nickel, pewter, and pearl piece. With yesterday’s loss the team’s record is 5-3 with such ties.

It was difficult to say which was worse, John Lackey’s pitching or the endless stream of sycophantic signs. The winning sign wasn’t terribly bootlicking although it was busy.

The only inside joke missing was the praying mantis. Fittingly it was Connecticut Day at Fenway Park. The state insect of Connecticut is the European or praying mantis, according to the state’s official website. Gawker’s recent ranking of the 50 state had the Nutmeg State at number 31. The description of Connecticut can be applied to the series finale:

Connecticut is mostly just America’s suburb, a string of medium-sized towns rolling into medium-sized towns, only to be briefly interrupted by decaying heaps like Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. Connecticut has some of the least character or local flavor in the country, unless you count the WASPs of Westport, and we really shouldn’t count them.
Game 139: September 4, 2011
WinTexas Rangers
80-61
11
W: Matt Harrison (11-9)
2B: Endy Chavez (11)
3B: David Murphy (2), Ian Kinsler (4), Josh Hamilton (5)
HR: Mike Napoli (23), Kinsler (25)
Boston Red Sox
84-55
4
L: John Lackey (12-11)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (36), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (21), Kevin Youkilis (31)

September 4, 2011

Deranged

Canada, which some liken to a quasi-American state that thinks it’s a country, defeated Texas, an actual American state that entertains the same delusion. Ontario-born Erik Bedard notched his first victory in a Red Sox uniform and it came against one of the more formidable offenses in the league. The southpaw pitched for six innings for a quality start: 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

Yoshinori Tateyama’s name can be broken down to:

義 yoshi: righteousness, justice, morality, honor, loyalty, meaning
紀 nori: chronicle, account, narrative, history, annals, geologic period
建 tate: build
山 yama: mountain

My hackneyed translation is “Righteous Chronicle of Mountain Building,” with the mountain being Red Sox runs. Tateyama took over from Colby Lewis in the fourth with the score tied 3-3, Dustin Pedroia on first base, and one down. The reliever missed the zone and his backstop’s glove, allowing Pedroia to take second on a passed ball. With first base open Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked to get to Kevin Youkilis, whose commercial is driving NESN viewers insane.

Youkilis popped a ball into the stands that hit an empty tray atop a vendor’s head. A fan in a tie-dyed t-shirt caught the ball on the rebound. The vendor strolled along as if nothing happened. Youkilis flied out to left for the second out, but getting two-thirds of the way through the inning didn’t give Tateyama much more confidence.

Pedroia and Gonzalez advanced on a wild pitch to David Ortiz and again with first base open Ron Washington called for an intentional walk. Mike Aviles, substituting for Jed “Ted” Lowrie due to Lowrie’s tight shoulder, lined a go-ahead single into center.

The Red Sox put so many runners on base in the fourth that Dick Stockton, play by play man for Fox, got confused and said that Carl Crawford was at third when the left fielder was batting with the bases loaded. Crawford launched the ball into Boston’s bullpen for a game-shattering grand slam.

Tim McCaver’s most egregious mistake of the game? Stating that Eduardo German’s last name was pronounced with a silent “g,” but it is pronounced with a “h.”

Ken Rosenthal violated HIPAA in fourth when he talked about Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s Adderall prescription. It was the Red Sox catcher’s two-run homer that tied the game.

Game 138: September 3, 2011
Texas Rangers
79-61
7
L: Colby Lewis (11-10)
2B: Yorvit Torrealba (27), Elvis Andrus (20)
HR: Esteban German (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
84-54
12
W: Erik Bedard (5-9)
2B: Josh Reddick (14), Carl Crawford (21), Dustin Pedroia (31), Mike Aviles (14)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (14), Crawford (11)

September 3, 2011

Holland Daze Toss

The Red Sox offense was stymied by Derek Holland, who lasted seven innings, didn’t give up a single base on balls, surrendered two singles, and struck out six. Holland reminds me of Jeff Francis. He baffled Boston batters in a regular season game on June 14, 2007 but was chased off the mound in the World Series.

The Rangers have a myriad of players with amusing names.

In the eighth inning Merkin Valdez made an appearance. The reliever’s name calls to mind pubic wigs and devastating oil tanker spills simultaneously.

Valdez’s bullpen mate Mark Hamburger didn’t pitch in last night’s game. He could be paired with Colby Lewis for a tantalizing cheeseburger.

Holland could unite with Mike Napoli and Esteban German to form an informal European Union.

Unfortunately for punning announcers across the league Elvis Andrus doesn’t hit for power. He has only left the building four times this season, inclusive of his four-bagger in the fifth inning off Matt Albers last night.

Game 137: September 2, 2011
WinTexas Rangers
79-60
10
W: Derek Holland (13-6)
HR: Ian Kinsler (24), David Murphy (8), Elvis Andrus (4)
Boston Red Sox
83-54
0
L: Andrew Miller (6-2)
No extra base hits

September 2, 2011

Jan Kaas

After a tortuous first inning that almost took an hour the game sped up to encompass a mere four hours and 21 minutes. For other match-ups such a long game would mean extravagant scores in the double digits. But for a Yankees-Red Sox game, it meant a taut contest of just a half-dozen runs combined.

The local nine seemed to have the game won in the fourth inning with Dustin Pedroia’s circuit clout to dead center. But in the sixth and seventh innings Alfredo Aceves showed the shakiness that prompted the Yankees to jettison him from their staff.

Aceves allowed Russell Martin to start the sixth with a single to left but induced a double play from Eduardo Nunez. With two down Derek Jeter smacked a single off the wall, Curtis Granderson walked, and Mark Teixeira was hit with a pitch to load the bases. Teixeira took the curveball to the knee with all the toughness of an inbred thoroughbred racehorse, collapsing to the ground on contact.

In the seventh Aceves’s inconsistency continued. Andruw Jones earned a base after a 14-pitch showdown and Jesus Montero, who was making his major league debut, was grazed by a pitch.

“Jan Kaas,” pronounced yan-key, is “John Cheese” in Dutch and is the supposed origin of the word “yankee.” According to H.L. Mencken Dutch settlers were called John Cheese because they were famous for the dairy product. Daniel Bard is famous for his easy cheese but instead of blowing away the opposition in the seventh Bard’s offerings melted on contact with hot Yankee bats.

Martin arced a two-RBI gapper to the Red Sox bullpen wall to plate the tying and go-ahead runs. The catcher made it to third and seemed to be getting into it with a fan. Reclamation project Eric Chavez sent a ground ball between first and second for an insurance run. All the Yankees needed to win the game was Mariano Rivera with his doubly lethal combination of cutter and reputation.

The closing game of the series was like a reunion. Spotted in the press boxes and stands were Hazel Mae, Kevin Millar, and Eric Frede. Millar has taken to calling Terry Francona “Benjamin Franklin” because of the skipper’s spectacles. Coincidentally, Francona would give Millar $100 if he would just shut up.

Game 136: September 1, 2011
WinNew York Yankees
82-53
4
W: Cory Wade (3-0)
H: Rafael Soriano (17)
H: David Robertson (30)
S: Mariano Rivera (36)
2B: Robinson Cano 2 (39), Russell Martin (15)
Boston Red Sox
83-53
2
H, L: Alfredo Aceves (8, 9-2)
BS: Daniel Bard (3)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (40)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (18)

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