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Home » Monthly Archive » April 2012

April 29, 2012

Red Red Lines

I kept on thinking that the Red Sox were playing the Phillies or Nationals, but the White Sox were in genuine throwbacks from the 1970s. In 2012 Paul Konerko wasn’t juggling balls in the dugout with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth but rather watching Gavin Floyd flirt with a perfect game until the fifth and a no-hitter up to the seventh.

Cody Ross, balaclava free, broke up the perfecto after Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz harmlessly grounded out to the middle infielders. Ross worked a base on balls on seven pitches and refrained from flipping his bat when he took first.

Dustin Pedroia, who wore one of the four shared balaclavas, broke up the no-hitter with a sharp grounder past his diving counterpart, Eduardo Escobar. David Ortiz powered Pedroia to third with a line drive double to right.

With runners in scoring position Ross came through again and drove in Boston’s only run with a single past shortstop Alexei Ramirez to plate Pedroia. Getting a closer look at Pedroia he wasn’t wearing an accessory on his head — that was his facial hair.

Josh Beckett didn’t pitch badly but merely was out-played by Floyd, a hurler who has the Red Sox’s number. Rookie manager Robin Ventura anticipated a low-scoring struggle in the first, calling for a sacrifice bunt by Brent Lillibridge after Alejandro De Aza reached on a single. Alex Rios singled with a ground ball past Nick Punto at third to plate De Aza and Adam Dunn proved Earl Weaver right with a two-run blast to right.

Game 21: April 29, 2012
Boston Red Sox
10-11
1
L: Josh Beckett (2-3)
2B: David Ortiz (9)
WinChicago White Sox
11-11
4
W: Gavin Floyd (2-3)
HR: Adam Dunn (5)

Things Not Thought Possible One Week Ago

  1. Being on the brink of a winning record.
  2. A six-game winning streak.
  3. Daniel Bard having two wins, one in relief and another as a starter.
  4. Winning.
  5. Winning blowouts.
  6. Winning one-run games.
  7. Jon Lester winning a game.
  8. Ryan Sweeney the second-best hitter after David Ortiz (batting average .391, on-base percentage .412, slugging pecentage .594, and the hitter who scored the only run of the game).
  9. The bullpen only allowing one earned run in the past seven days (Scott Atchison on April 25 against the Twins).
  10. Alfredo Aceves pitching lights out.

Mark Twain memorably stated “one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.” The same can be said for this year’s edition of the Red Sox.

Game 20: April 28, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
10-10
1
W: Jon Lester (1-2)
H: Franklin Morales (5)
H: Vicente Padilla (2)
S: Alfredo Aceves (5)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (11)
Chicago White Sox
10-11
0
L: Jake Peavy (3-1)
2B: Paul Konerko – 2 (9)

April 28, 2012

Arctic Expedition

Cody Ross and Darnell McDonald both donned balaclavas last night, looking more like Robert Peary trekking northwards than ballplayers. Dominican-born David Ortiz eschewed such frippery. The cold did nothing to Ortiz’s bat; the designated hitter launched the ball into the stands in the second to give his team a 2-1 lead.

The Southsiders tied the game in the bottom of third thanks to the opposition’s miscues. Alexei Ramirez reached on a throwing error by Kevin Youkilis. McDonald made a run at Paul Konerko’s wind-affected fly ball to shallow left but it dropped for a single. Ramirez advanced on A.J. Pierzynski’s fielder’s choice to Adrian Gonzalez and then scored when Kelly Shoppach couldn’t come up with a pitch to Alex Rios that deflected off his mitt.

Konerko broke the 2-2 tie in the fifth with his 401st career home run, but the Red Sox notched five runs in the following frame. Setting the stage, Gonzalez and Youkilis walked and Ortiz singled to load the bases.

Ross, still looking like James Clark Ross, singled to knot the game 3-3. Fellow explorer McDonald lined a shot down the left field line that reached the wall and was deadened by a ricochet off the padded wall. Dayan Viciedo thought the ball was going to bounce right back to him, so the extra time it took pursue the ball allowed three runs to score. Marlon Byrd capped off the scoring binge with an RBI single to center.

With the Red Sox on the road Fenway Park played host to an auction of Ted Williams memorabilia. Drew Brees counts Williams as one of his heroes and participated via phone, winning log books and other World War II items that he will donate to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Game 19: April 27, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
9-10
10
W: Daniel Bard (2-2)
2B: Darnell McDonald (3)
HR: David Ortiz (4), McDonald (1)
Chicago White Sox
10-10
3
L: John Danks (2-3)
2B: Alejandro De Aza (6), A.J. Pierzynski (2)
HR: Paul Konerko (5)

April 27, 2012

Tom Brady’s Sister’s Husband

Kevin Youkilis powered his team’s first grand slam of the season with a shot carved to the opposite field, but that wasn’t the most life-changing event of the week for him. The man at the hot corner didn’t have cold feet when it came to getting legally hitched this time around. By marrying Tom Brady’s sister Julie he became the second-best athlete in the family. Should Youkilis’s new wife change her surname? Julie Youkilis has a pleasing sound, like the crack of the bat on a soundly clouted ball.

Whose kids will be more athletically gifted Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm’s tots or the Youkilis’s offspring?

Philip Humber was a touted prospect whose star faded and was subsequently shuttled from team to team — four teams in six years. His first team, the Mets, selected him as the third pick in the first round of the 2004 draft right after the Tigers picked Justin Verlander. Verlander has All-Star appearances, a Cy Young award, an MVP, and even two no-hitters, but no perfect game.

Humber seemed to finally hit his groove in the big leagues by throwing the 21st perfect game on April 21. They counted it even though it was against the Seattle Mariners. He found himself on “Late Show with David Letterman” to present the Top Ten and received congratulations from President Obama, an avowed White Sox fan. Humber is a registered Republican but didn’t refuse the President’s call unlike someone I could name who gave up the series-ending goal during overtime in Game 7.

Humber will soon become a father, but he won’t name his child after his daddy, the Red Sox. Instead the infant will be named “John Gregory.”

Game 18: April 26, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
8-10
10
W: Felix Doubront (1-0)
S: Junichi Tazawa (1)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (5), Ryan Sweeney (10), Mike Aviles (6)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (2), Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 2 (4)
Chicago White Sox
10-9
3
L: Philip Humber (1-1)
2B: Paul Konerko (7), Alejandro De Aza (5)
HR: Dayan Viciedo (3)

Hand Jive

Bobby Valentine constructed the lineup for the game thinking that Liam Hendriks was a left-handed pitcher, putting in righties Darnell McDonald and Kelly Shoppach. Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught the error that caused Jerry Remy to have to grumpily correct his scorecard.

Just because Hendriks is from Down Under doesn’t mean he’s a southpaw. Perhaps someone should show Bobby a map and explain to him how the Nile doesn’t flow uphill.

Clay Buchholz pitched solidly until he got into a jam in the sixth. The stanza started out promisingly enough with a strikeout of Sean Burroughs but then bottom of the order batters Ben Revere (who bunted) and Alexi Casilla (who grounded a single up the middle) got on base. Dernard Span smoked a double to right to plate Revere and Jamey Carroll walked on five pitches to load the bases.

Scott Atchison induced a sharp grounder off the bat of Joe Mauer that ricocheted off his leg at just the right angle to elude Mike Aviles. Two runs crossed the plate on the double by deflection and Valentine opted to pull Atchison in favor of Justin Thomas. Thomas did no better as Justin Morneau doubled to center to drive in another run and then hit Chris Parmelee in the head with a pitch. Thomas looked almost as ill as Parmelee at the sickening thud, but thankfully the Twins first baseman left the field under his own power.

The quartet of Matt Albers, Vicente Padilla, Franklin Morales, and Alfredo Aceves shut out the Twins for the remainder of the game. They should reunite the bullpen band, although something makes me think Padilla wouldn’t join in.

Alfredo Aceves’s save should be split with Lance Barksdale like how defenders in football can share a sack. With two men on and one out Revere tapped the ball down the first base line. It looked foul to everyone but Barsdale. Aceves hit Casilla to load the bases but roared back to strike out Span on four pitches. That ain’t no jive.

Game 17: April 25, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
7-10
7
W: Clay Buchholz (2-1)
H: Matt Albers (1)
H: Vicente Padilla (1)
H: Franklin Morales (4)
S: Alfredo Aceves (3)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (5)
3B: Pedroia (1)
Minnesota Twins
5-14
6
L: Liam Hendriks (0-1)
2B: Ben Revere (1), Dernard Span (5), Justin Morneau (4)

April 25, 2012

Feeling Minnesota

Now that the Red Sox aren’t playing the best teams of the American League they actually don’t seem like the catastrophic club that was so maligned since the beginning of the season. They outshined the local nine, “so now you know who gets mystified / show me the power child.”

David Ortiz dispelled doubts about his value to the team by continuing his torrid start. The practically svelte designated hitter is .444 in batting average, .486 for on-base percentage, and .714 in slugging percentage. His third-inning circuit clout flew up and over the limestone walls of Target Field; he didn’t need the protruding porch in right to render the score 5-1.

Mike Aviles has been spectacular in the leadoff spot. Where some players shy from that spotlight, Aviles has rocketed from a utility role in a mediocre team to the the starting shortstop on a perennial contender. I would have never guessed that someone who never played in Boston’s unceasing media glare would not just play competently but blossom.

Home plate umpire Adrian Johnson exchanged words with Josh Beckett in the first inning, many of which would be grounds for FCC fines. Beckett walked three batters consecutively which led to Minnesota plating its first run of the game in that most ignoble manner, the bases-loaded base on balls. Johnson was in the right, however, upon inspection of the strike zone plot: the umpire called a consistent and fair zone for Beckett.

Now to sweat bullets while switching between the Red Sox and the Bruins.

Game 16: April 24, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
6-10
11
W: Josh Beckett (2-2)
2B: Mike Aviles – 2 (5), Kelly Shoppach (5), Ryan Sweeney (9), Dustin Pedroia (4), Adrian Gonzalez (4)
HR: David Ortiz (3), Aviles (3), Gonzalez (4)
Minnesota Twins
5-13
2
L: Nick Blackburn (0-2)
2B: Josh Willingham – 2 (6), Dernard Span (5), Sean Burroughs (1)

April 24, 2012

Oh Danny Boy

In his first season as a major league starter Daniel Bard notched his first win — but it was as a reliever. I suppose this shouldn’t be too shocking in this topsy-turvy season. Bard toed the rubber in the eighth like he used and his team broke its five-game losing streak.

The score was 5-5 going into the ninth, which is unusually high-scoring on the Twins’ part. Minnesota is 11th in the American League in runs and 12th in slugging percentage. Ryan Doumit smacked his first double of the season in the fourth to plate two runs and Danny Valencia launched his first homer of the year immediately afterwards to give his team the lead.

The Twins added to their lead in the fifth in a fashion more typical of their brand of baseball: leadoff base on balls by Trevor Plouffe, Denard Span single on which Plouffe advanced to third, and a run scored on Jamey Carroll’s 6-4-3 double play.

Not only did Carroll ground into a scoring double play but he was part of a dazzling twin killing in the sixth. Plouffe tumbled after David Ortiz’s sharp grounder up the middle and flipped to Carroll. Carroll niftily handled the relay and twisted quickly to throw to Justin Morneau.

That move showed more grace and aplomb than Bobby Valentine in the ninth. With one down and a runner on first Plouffe hit a towering fly ball to left that sounded like a home run off the bat. Valentine trotted out of the dugout to visit Alfredo Aceves like a chaperone at a high school dance trying to keep slow dancing teens from being too close to one another. It’s no use mollycoddling hormonal teenyboppers or major league closers

In sum: Cody Ross is boss.

Game 15: April 23, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
5-10
6
W: Daniel Bard (1-2)
S: Alfredo Aceves (3)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (8)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2), Cody Ross – 2 (5)
Minnesota Twins
5-12
5
L: Matt Capps (0-1)
2B: Ryan Doumit (1)
HR: Danny Valencia (1)

April 22, 2012

Abomination

I thought I’d miss Jonathan Papelbon eventually but not this soon.

The win probability graph of this game looked like dot-com stock circa 2000-2001. If only Bobby Valentine could log into Kozmo.com and order up a decent bullpen, something that Ben Cherington failed to deliver.


Source: FanGraphs

Due to the meltdown of the relief corps on Saturday the Red Sox have begun to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. Daniel Bard is going back into the bullpen to resume his role as set-up man temporarily. A deal was struck with the Cubs for the services of Marlon Byrd, who will shore up the injury-ridden outfield. Boston will send Michael Bowden and a player to be named later but the Cubs will pay for much of Byrd’s contract.

Game 14: April 21, 2012
WinNew York Yankees
9-6
15
W: Rafael Soriano (2-0)
2B: Robinson Cano (7), Nick Swisher (6), Mark Teixeira (4), Russell Martin (1)
HR: Teixeira – 2 (3), Swisher (4)
Boston Red Sox
4-10
9
H: Franklin Morales (3)
BS, L: Alfredo Aceves (2, 0-1)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (7), Adrian Gonzalez (3), David Ortiz (8), Darnell McDonald (2), Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 2 (3)
HR: Cody Ross (3)

April 21, 2012

Centenary

Thanks to Jere at “A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory” I attended yesterday’s game celebrating Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary. I finally got to meet Jere’s mother Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, author of Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery and is finishing up a novel set in the Civil War.

The latest skirmish in the century-long battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox saw a humiliating retreat on the home team’s own territory. Five blasts, two by Eric Chavez (the eight-hitter) and one each by Alex Rodriguez (advancing past Ken Griffey, Jr. in career home runs, which is sickening), Nick Swisher, and Russell Martin (from the bottom of the order), rode the wind to breach the field’s perimeter.

Just being at Fenway on this historic day lessened the sting. As part of the ceremony players from all eras emerged from the outfield doors and the dugout as ghosts from the cornfields did in Field of Dreams. Players of more recent vintage received louder applause: Dwight Evans, Bill Lee, Oil Can Boyd, Louis Tiant, Nomar Garciaparra, Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar, and even Lou Merloni. Living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice also were loudly feted. Of those players cream-colored uniforms Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr had the loudest cheers. There was only one African-American man in the oldest uniform.

Pumpsie Green hobbled from the center field door to take his rightful spot in the infield. Although his body was bent with time I could sense his indomitable spirit. Others of his age needed walkers or wheelchairs, but not Green. In a recent interview Green said, “If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing the same way.” If Red Sox management were more open-minded, maybe Green would have been backing up Jackie Robinson.

As the last bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played the World War II-era P-51 Mustang propellers roared overhead accompanied by the barely perceptible hiss of a F-16 Fighting Falcon. I thought to myself, “That alone was worth the price of admission.” From my standing room spot on the Green Monster I had a perfect view of those fantastic flying machines.

I have never been a huge fan of “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth. There were vacant seats in the left field grandstand that Jere noted so we made the pilgrimage to the blue chairs for the last two innings. We happened to sit behind a quartet of older women. I didn’t expect them to countenance such newfangled shenanigans, but they all stood up to sing, dance, point fingers, and hold hands to Neil Diamond. They enjoyed it so much it, I was an admirer of the practice, at least for one day.

On my way to see the additions to the park because of its new historical standing there was a trio of women who wanted to take a picture by the logo that was introduced in 1912 and was in effect until 1930. I had always feel badly for the person who gets stuck taking the picture of their group while everyone else gets to smile for the camera and I understand how awkward it can be to flag down a hopefully sympathetic Samaritan, so I volunteered to take a picture for them.

After checking out the new plaques in Fenway and somehow making sense of the Souvenir Store’s new labyrinthine layout I made my way back to my car. A man and his son, who happened to be wheelchair-bound, waited with me. I saw some Yankee-related accessories on the wheelchair but the father had a polo shirt with a Red Sox logo. A few more disappointed Red Sox fans shuffled in and the father broke the ice by saying, “At least one guy in here had a good day!” We proceeded to rib the sole Yankee fan good-naturedly.

It was a good day in other ways for us.

Game 13: April 20, 2012
WinNew York Yankees
8-6
6
W: Ivan Nova (3-0)
2B: Nick Swisher (5)
HR: Swisher (3), Eric Chavez – 2 (2), Alex Rodriguez (2), Russell Martin (1)
Boston Red Sox
4-9
2
L: Clay Buchholz (1-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (2), Ryan Sweeney (6), Cody Ross (3), Mike Aviles (3)
HR: David Ortiz (2)

April 19, 2012

Pulcinella Cetrulo

Texas catcher Mike Napoli’s last name is of course the Italian way of saying Naples, the third largest city in Italy and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. Napoli the slugger has continually inhabited Fenway’s basepaths this series. After slamming two home runs in the series opener Napoli added another to his tally in the fourth inning. The two-run longball put the Rangers ahead 3-2.

Napoli added to the lead in the eighth, knocking the ball off the left field wall with the bases loaded. One of Napoli’s nicknames, the Chef, is certainly apt given the meal he made of Red Sox pitching. The other, Turkey Sandwich, is about what you would expect from a team with the traditions of Antlers and the Claw.

A nickname of city of Naples is Pulcinella’s City. Pulcinella is a stock character of Commedia dell’Arte whose tactic was to pretend to be too stupid to know what was going on. According to this site Pulcinella embodied Naples because “his melancholic approach to life” entails the avoidance of problems and somehow “getting out of everything, in the same simple manner as how he got involved.” The pot-bellied (a trait shared by Napoli) character proved so popular that it evolved into Neapolitan puppetry. From there the trickster character captured the minds of people across Europe, even crossing the continent and the channel to become “Punch and Judy.”

Time for the Red Sox to stop being Judy.

Game 12: April 18, 2012
WinTexas Rangers
10-2
6
W: Derek Holland (2-0)
2B: Mike Napoli (1)
HR: Napoli (4)
Boston Red Sox
4-8
3
L: Josh Beckett (1-2)
2B: David Ortiz (7), Kelly Shoppach (4)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (1)

April 18, 2012

Just Turned Legal

The Texas Rangers and Justin Bieber both just turned 18. This is the last time I will write about Bieber and this game.

Game 11: April 17, 2012
WinTexas Rangers
9-2
18
W: Colby Lewis (2-0)
2B: Nelson Cruz (3), Ian Kinsler (4), Elvis Andrus (2)
HR: Mike Napoli – 2 (3), Michael Young (2), Josh Hamilton (5), Adrian Beltre (2)
Boston Red Sox
4-7
3
L: Jon Lester (0-2)
2B: Mike Sweeney – 2 (5)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (3), Adrian Gonzalez (2)

April 16, 2012

Patriots’ Dismay

The 38,108 fans at Fenway knew it. People who took the day off to watch the game knew it. Even those who couldn’t get the day off knew it. The only one who didn’t know it was the only one who mattered.

Bobby Valentine kept Daniel Bard on the mound as he walked in what would be the winning run with two down in the seventh.

The frame started out promisingly enough. Jeff Keppinger tapped out to Nick Punto and Jose Molina struck out looking. But then Sean Rodriguez walked on six pitches, the last of which was a pitch in the dirt.

Allowing Bard to face Desmond Jennings was defensible. The emergent outfielder lined a single into center after working the count 2-2. Carlos Pena, he of the 171 strikeouts a season average over the last dozen years, walked on four pitches.

Instead of Valentine emerging from the dugout to pull Bard Bob McClure came out to check in with the newly installed starter. Bard did the same thing to Evan Longoria as he did with Pena, a four-pitch base on balls.

Perhaps Valentine was emotionally and physically not into the game due to the recent controversy between he and Youkilis. If Grady Little accepts his invitation to celebrate Fenway’s 100th anniversary, Valentine should arrange to spend a few minutes with his predecessor and ask Little what Red Sox management does to managers who leave pitchers in too long.

Game 10: April 16, 2012
WinTampa Bay Rays
5-5
1
W: James Shields (2-0)
S: Fernando Rodney (4)
2B: Desmond Jennings (2)
Boston Red Sox
4-6
0
L: Daniel Bard (0-2)
No extra base hits

Popping the Clutch

Two peculiarly NESN things made their debut on Sunday: Red Sox Small Talk and Dontourage.

If Bobby Valentine is wondering why Kevin Youkilis isn’t emotionally and physically into the game it’s because he’s still recovering from being grilled by the Small Talk troop. I didn’t want to like this segment but who can resist wee moppets prying into Red Sox players’ personal lives? One tyke got Youkilis to admit that “The Humpty Dance” is his favorite song, and even more charmingly Youkilis wasn’t ashamed of his musical taste. Another cherub showed his left-handed swing and imitated the third baseman’s stance, but also in a southpaw fashion.

Youkilis wouldn’t commit to a single answer about who the funniest player on the team was, but stated that David Ortiz, Nick Punto, and Dustin Pedroia were amongst the funniest. Punto will have time to hone his act with Pedroia entrenched at the keystone sack and Mike Aviles ripping it up in the leadoff spot. Ortiz is too busy carrying the team on his shoulders to work on his comedy routine.

Carlos Pena couldn’t handle Ortiz’s line shot in the fourth and the designated hitter scored on Cody Ross’s double off the wall. In the sixth Ortiz broke the 4-4 tie with a double that recoiled off the center field wall. Papi’s clutch has returned.

Don Orsillo talked about his “Dontourage” and Heidi Watney’s replacement Jenny Dell asked if she was in this exclusive group. Orsillo replied that of course she was. The crew in the truck offered some suggestions about how to get in the Dontourage but tactfully Orsillo didn’t share the gang’s ideas.

Game 9: April 15, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays
4-5
4
L: Matt Moore (0-1)
2B: Desmond Jennings (1), Jeff Keppinger (2), Carlos Pena (4)
HR: Luke Scott (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
4-5
6
W: Vicente Padilla (1-0)
H: Franklin Morales (2)
S: Alfredo Aceves (2)
2B: David Ortiz – 2 (6), Kelly Shoppach (3)
HR: Cody Ross (2), Mike Aviles (2)

April 15, 2012

A Salt and Battery

Kelly Shoppach isn’t the only catcher whose surname can be contorted into puns. Shoppach, perpetrator of the most comical slide into second in history, selected “The Stop, Shop, and Roll” as the name of his historic tumble towards the keystone sack.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia avoided any potential indignity the basepaths by depositing Jeremy Hellickson’s 3-1 change-up into the batter’s eye. The second inning two-run shot, Saltalamacchia’s first home run of the season, brought the Red Sox within two runs of the Rays.

Clay Buchholz was roughed up in the first inning for four runs but settled down for most of the rest of his seven innings. Luke Scott, who was lustily booed whenever he appeared, doubled off the wall to plate Matt Joyce in the third, but Buchholz along with relievers Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves stifled the Tampa Bay lineup. Morales and Aceves had breathing room from late inning scoring barrages.

Mike Aviles has all but erased Jed Lowrie from the memory of fans with his timely hitting and versatility but can he replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the one spot? Bobby Valentine was in need of a leadoff hitter with Ellsbury on the disabled list due to a subluxation of the right shoulder and in his first game leading off Aviles returned with mixed results.

While across town the Bruins struggled into overtime to break their 1-1 tie with Capitals, Aviles led off the seventh with a go-ahead home run off the Green Monster’s ledge. Aviles’s first circuit clout of the season atoned for him getting picked off in the first and for lining out to right with the bases loaded in the fourth.

Right around the time Niklas Backstrom scored in the second overtime period to tie the Capitals with the Bruins in their series 1-1, Cody Ross added two runs with double off the top of the scoreboard.

In the eighth David Ortiz cleared the bases with a double off the wall. The designated hitter scored on Ross’s no-doubter over the left field wall. Ross’s home run ball ended up in the parking lot on Lansdowne Street. It was retrieved by an African-American man in a grey hoodie. Fortunately for that fan, this isn’t Sanford, Florida. April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, and even though progress has been made in 65 years since integration in the major leagues, there are still tragedies like Trayvon Martin. Unsurprisingly, Robinson was run out of Sanford in 1946 by a racist mob. In response the Dodger organization moved their spring training out of Sanford to Daytona Beach.

Robinson was key to making baseball a truly international and for the most part tolerant sport. As an example, Che-Hsuan Lin made his major league debut in the ninth as a defensive replacement.

Game 8: April 14, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays
4-4
5
L: Burke Badenhop (0-1)
2B: Carlos Pena (3), Luke Scott (2)
HR: Scott (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
3-5
13
W: Clay Buchholz (1-0)
H: Franklin Morales (1)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (3), Adrian Gonzalez (2), Cody Ross (2), Mike Aviles (2), David Ortiz (4)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1), Dustin Pedroia (2), Ortiz (1), Aviles (1), Ross (1)

April 14, 2012

Brick by Brick

The Red Sox attempted to rebuild their championship franchise with a successful home opener. Josh Beckett contributed by not grooving fastballs down Broadway and every batter but Cody Ross had at least one hit. The lineup batted around in the eight-run eighth inning, only the second time Boston has done so this season.

Kelly Shoppach stole a base for the first time in his career in the sixth inning with the score 4-2 in favor of the Red Sox, Mike Aviles at third, two out, and Ryan Sweeney (who is batting .429 and has an OBP of .478). I forgive Bobby Valentine for sending Shoppach in this situation because it resulted in the most hilarious slide ever. I thought I was watching a trailer for the upcoming Three Stooges movie rather than a baseball play.

As the Bruins are busy defending their Stanley Cup championship other luminaries participated in this historic Opening Day ceremony. Recently retired Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek emerged from behind the left field wall-sized American flag to throw the first pitch out to Dwight Evans and Jim Rice. Johnny Pesky, who had to be assisted onto the field, opened the game with the customary shout of “play ball” and, unlike in September 2011, they did.

I received notification from the Red Sox about the placement of my brick. As you can see in the brick finder, each section is named after prestigious (for the most part) Red Sox personages.

Gate BGate C
1 – David Ortiz
2 – Bob Stanley
3 – Carlton Fisk
4 – Jerry Remy
5 – Dennis Eckersley
6 – Bill Lee
7 – Jason Varitek
8 – Luis Tiant
9 – Wally the Green Monster
10 – Larry Lucchino

11 – Mo Vaughn
12 – Dave Roberts
13 – Jim Lonborg
14 – John Harrington
15 – John Henry
16 – Johnny Pesky
17 – Wade Boggs
18 – Rick Burleson
19 – Tom Werner
20 – Bobby Doerr
1 – Pedro Martinez
2 – Frank Malzone
3 – Nomar Garciaparra
4 – Rico Petrocelli
5 – Bill Monbouquette
6 – Dwight Evena
7 – Jim Rice
8 – Tom Brunansky
9 – Tim Wakefield
10 – Carl Yastrzemski

11 – Mike Greenwell
12 – Kevin Millar
13 – Joe Castiglione
14 – Joe Morgan
15 – Don Orsillo

An odd collection of folks thus far, isn’t it? How do they miss matching up section numbers with the numbers they are most associated with? Where is the Ted Williams section? There’s a Kevin Millar spot but no Curt Schilling? It is heartening to see that Tom Yawkey, Eddie Collins, and Joe Cronin, the three Red Sox officials in the stands who failed to sign Jackie Robinson and one of whom yelled a racial epithet, do not have a section. I hope it stays that way.

Game 7: April 13, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays
4-3
2
L: David Price (1-1)
S: Sergio Santos(1)
2B: Carlos Pena (2), Jeff Keppinger (1)
HR: Ben Zobrist (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
2-5
12
W: Josh Beckett (1-1)
2B: Jacoby Ellsbury (2), Kelly Shoppach – 2 (2), Darnell McDonald (1), David Ortiz (3)

April 12, 2012

Babalú-Ayé

Ricky Romero makes me think of Ricky Ricardo. Desi Arnaz and his orchestra popularized “Babalu,” a Cuban song about the Santería diety Babalú-Ayé. “I Love Lucy” fans bopping along with the tune probably didn’t realize that they were enjoying a song about a being from an exotic, syncretic religion as they didn’t have the Google.

Not only is Babalú-Ayé from a belief system that mainstream Americans from the 1940s would find alien but the spirit (orisha, in Santerian vocabulary) is associated with epidemics and disease. Oddly enough, Babalú-Ayé also heals maladies. In this particular orisha yin and yang is commingled in one being.

Romero had two selves battling in him, one that didn’t last five innings against the Red Sox twice last season and the other who allowed Boston four runs in the game but held on for seven more innings two times. Yesterday a third emerged: 8⅓ innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

Jon Lester gave the ailing bullpen a rest but couldn’t prevail against Romero’s stifling stuff. He had the best start of any Red Sox starter so far this season: 8 innings, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 bases on balls, and 6 whiffs.

Terry Francona won’t go to Fenway for the festivities celebrating a century of baseball, but perhaps he’ll head north to Lowell’s New England Quilt Museum for the Fenway Park Centennial quilt exhibition.

Game 6: April 11, 2012
Boston Red Sox
1-5
1
L: Jon Lester (0-1)
No extra base hits
WinToronto Blue Jays
4-2
3
W: Ricky Romero (1-0)
S: Sergio Santos(1)
3B: Rajai Davis (1)

Clouds In My Eyes

This year Daniel Bard is the spokesplayer for the Jimmy Fund’s Rally Against Cancer. Past representatives have all been starting pitchers and position players, so Bard’s insertion into rotation has given him the profile needed to be the frontman for such a significant charity. But does he have the stuff to start?

In his first major league start Bard lasted 5 innings. He tried to get through the sixth but allowed Edwin Encarnacion to walk on six pitches and Brett Lawrie followed up with an infield single to short. Two of the five earned runs scored off Bard were due to Justin Thomas, who took over after Bard couldn’t get an out in the frame.

But before the sixth Bard was better than your typical fifth starter: 3 earned runs, 8 hits (just one extra base hit, a double by Adam Lind), 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. Can he stretch himself to hand the ball off to his replacement at set-up man, Mark Melancon? And if he could, would he want to? He might have to transform himself into the former Blue Jay, Roy Halladay, to secure a win. Or, setting a more realistic goal, a C.J. Wilson or Alexi Ogando. If only Mike Maddux could give Bob McClure some tips.

Off the field, Terry Francona turned down the invitation to participate in the celebration surrounding Fenway’s 100th anniversary. Said Francona, “I just don’t feel comfortable coming back because of what happened and that’s a shame because I do feel awfully strong ties to so many people there.”

It is incredible to think that one of the key figures in the Red Sox’s return to World Series glory wouldn’t take part in this centennial. Years from now people will look at photos and clips from the ceremony and wonder why Francona didn’t attend. We can only hope the rift between the Red Sox and Francona doesn’t last as long as Yogi Berra’s feud with George Steinbrenner.

Game 5: April 10, 2012
Boston Red Sox
1-4
3
L: Daniel Bard (0-1)
2B: Kevin Youkilis (1), Cody Ross (1), Dustin Pedroia (3), Ryan Sweeney (2), Adrian Gonzalez (1)
HR: Pedroia (1)
WinToronto Blue Jays
3-2
7
W: Kyle Drabek (1-0)
H: Jason Frasor (1)
2B: Adam Lind (2)
HR: Edwin Encarnacion (1)

April 9, 2012

¡La Luna!

Enjoy these precious hours of calm before Daniel Bard’s first major league start. A decent showing by a starter, a scoreless bridge between the starter and the ninth by the set-up guy, and a perfect inning by the closer does not erase all the doubts about Red Sox pitching.

Indeed, the Boston baseball club notched its first win because they were up against Sergio Santos, a closer who had blown a save in his previous outing against Cleveland. Santos allowed Dustin Pedroia to lead off the ninth with a double to the left-center gap, a hit that was remarkable because of how high Pedroia swung to get wood on the ball. Of Santos’s 33 pitches only 18 were strikes.

Santos’s wildness made Alfredo Aceves look like Mariano Rivera. Pedroia advanced to third on what the official scorer charitably adjudged to be a passed ball and Adrian Gonzalez tied the game 2-2 with a sacrifice fly to left. David Ortiz and Cody Ross worked walks off Santos.

Bobby Valentine pinch ran Darnell McDonald for Ortiz, a move I thought Valentine would regret if his team didn’t get the lead. Ryan Sweeney knocked a single to Jose Bautista and the pinch runner turned out to be the right move because Bautista’s throw was accurate enough to cut down McDonald at home.

J.P. Arencibia couldn’t hold onto the ball and Boston plated the go-ahead run. Ross later scored when Santos uncorked a wild pitch. To make the moment more amusing I imagined Arencibia recapping his team’s gaffes in Tim Kurkjian’s voice.

But not as entertaining as Don Orsillo’s home run call for Pedroia. ¡La luna!

Game 4: April 9, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
1-3
4
W: Scott Atchison (1-0)
S: Alfredo Aceves (1)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (1), Dustin Pedroia (2)
HR: Pedroia (1)
Toronto Blue Jays
2-2
2
H: Darren Oliver (1)
H: Francisco Cordero (1)
BS, L: Sergio Santos (2, 0-1)
3B: Colby Rasmus (1)

April 8, 2012

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears

I knew that I would miss Jonathan Papelbon but I didn’t know it would be this hard and this soon. How I’ll miss hearing “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” The way the pitchers tapped to replace Andrew Bailey have been pitching Ken Casey probably won’t let them use his song. My suggestions? Alfredo Aceves’s entry song should be Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” and Mark Melancon’s “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by the Smashing Pumpkins.

Things are falling apart; the center is not holding. Around the pitcher’s mound swirls a maelstrom of uncertainty. Clay Buchholz didn’t give up the longball like Josh Beckett did but in the four innings Buchholz pitched he allowed 8 hits and 7 runs. The best relief arm on the Red Sox roster, Daniel Bard, is starting this Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

As disappointing as the pitching has been, the Red Sox offense finally came to life. Mike Aviles knocked in key hits in the second and third innings to chip away at the Tigers’ lead, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to add to his team’s lead in the ninth, and singled and scored in the eleventh. Adrian Gonzalez swatted his first home run of the season, a two-run clout in the sixth that granted Boston its second lead of the game.

Utility man Nick Punto also swung his bat in an annoyingly timely way as he did when he played against the Red Sox. He tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the third, tapped an infield single to short for an insurance run in the ninth, and blooped a single into shallow left for the go-ahead run in the eleventh.

The Red Sox will just have to win games by scoring a dozen or more runs. The ownership group will be happy with all the extra base hits that can be sponsored by advertisers. And how about signing up an official leaf blower whose brand can be announced for each blown save?

Game 3: April 8, 2012 ∙ 11 innings
Boston Red Sox
0-3
12
BS: Alfredo Aceves (1)
BS, L: Mark Melancon (1, 0-2)
2B: Mike Aviles (1), David Ortiz (2), Jacoby Ellsbury (1), Nick Punto (1)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (1)
WinDetroit Tigers
3-0
13
W: Duane Below (2-0)
2B: Austin Jackson (2), Jhonny Peralta (2)
HR: Miguel Cabrera (3), Alex Avila (2)

Detroit Jock City

Detroit showcased its prodigious offense, a slugging lineup that was bolstered by Prince Fielder when Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending injury this past January. Fielder joined Miguel Cabrera in swatting two homers in yesterday’s rout of the visiting Red Sox. The Tigers duo of Fielder and Cabrera not only torment ace pitchers with their bats, their combined appetites could easily revitalize Detroit’s restaurant scene.

Josh Beckett did nothing to allay doubts about his commitment to the game after the end of the season fiasco of which he is considered a primary author. He had thumb discomfort that had him seeking the advice of physicians but Beckett’s atrociousness was not due to injury. His command of the strike zone wasn’t a match for Cabrera and Fielder’s power strokes. Even Alex Avila, a catcher with moderate power, got to Boston’s right-handed starter.

Beckett’s shakiness was not the only sign of playing off the offseason rust. In the bottom of the sixth Jacoby Ellsbury ran down Jhonny Peralta’s liner to shallow center, displaying his typical speed but failing to hold onto the ball once it was in his glove. With the bases loaded and one out in seventh Peralta grounded out to third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia deftly handled Kevin Youkilis’s throw but the catcher’s toss to first was too low, allowing a run to score instead of the turning of a 5-2-3 double play.

Doug Fister departed the game in the fourth inning after wrenching his back in an at bat against Ryan Sweeney. While Fister’s spell on the disabled list with a left costochondral strain may relieve the Tigers’ rivals in the AL Central, the Boston batters had no better luck against Duane Below. Adrian Gonzalez mustered a two-out single off Below in the sixth, but he was the only batter to reach in Below’s 2⅓ innings of relief.

The game was broadcast on Fox, quite early in the season to have to endure Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Perhaps this exposure will work like a vaccination for future games with the pair.

Game 2: April 7, 2012
Boston Red Sox
0-2
0
L: Josh Beckett (0-1)
2B: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1)
WinDetroit Tigers
2-0
10
W: Duane Below (1-0)
2B: Austin Jackson (1)
HR: Miguel Cabrera – 2 (2), Prince Fielder – 2 (2), Alex Avila (1)

April 5, 2012

Action Jackson

After this team’s calamitous crash in September I found I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, bear witness to the organization’s offseason paroxysms. Like sending a loved one to rehab, I said goodbye and good luck to the Red Sox in October. Better to leave the team’s recovery from complacency and entitlement in the hands of professionals and keep my hand-wringing at a minimum.

Here and there I’d hear about this injury or that trade. One season-erasing injury that heartened me was John Lackey’s Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately it didn’t undo his past two seasons nor clear his massive contract from the ledger.

When the Blue Jays changed their employment policies to bar John Farrell from joining the Red Sox in the role of field manager, the inevitability of Bobby Valentine’s hiring surged. Unlike Terry Francona, Valentine was not laden with loyalty towards players whose contributions were mostly in highlight reels rather than on the field.

Two such players, luminaries of the 2004 and 2007 squads, retired. As hard as it is to see a team without Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, it was even more difficult to observe their decline.

Baseball has returned, but this year it is not a harbinger of spring because of the weak winter. Instead it is a tentative toe into unknown waters. Can Valentine rally the remainders from 2011 with the newcomers into a cohesive unit, as he did when he invented the wrap? How will the pitching, with shifts between the rotation and the bullpen and early injury woes, pan out? Who will get more endorsement deals, Valentine or Jerry Remy?

Today in the season opener the Red Sox batters were anemic at the plate, but what lineup wouldn’t be when facing off against Justin Verlander? Blow-in Ryan Sweeney misplayed Austin Jackson’s fly ball in the eighth, which led to a triple and then to the Tigers’ second run of the game.

Sweeney tied the game with a game-tying triple of his own in the top of the ninth, but Jackson knocked in the game-winning run down the third base line in the bottom of the frame. Would the outcome have been different with Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in the pen? I think this will be the crux of the Red Sox’s problems this season but the blame will be at Valentine’s doorstep instead.

He’ll just have to be careful when he makes his way to his bicycle in the morning.

Game 1: April 5, 2012
Boston Red Sox
0-1
2
L: Mark Melancon (0-1)
2B: David Ortiz (1), Dustin Pedroia (1)
3B: Ryan Sweeney (1)
WinDetroit Tigers
1-0
3
BS, W: Jose Valverde (1, 1-0)
2B: Jhonny Peralta (1), Alex Avila (1)
3B: Austin Jackson (1)

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