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Home » Monthly Archive » May 2012

May 31, 2012

Triple Doubles

Miguel Cabrera had three doubles but didn’t help his team win. Rajon Rondo missed a triple double by two rebounds and very nearly led the Celtics to victory.

Jon Lester almost brought his personal win-loss record to .500 but left Matt Albers a runner at second with two out in the seventh. Albers surrendered a single to pinch hitter Andy Dirks and then Cabrera’s third two-bagger of the night brought Gerald Laird home to tie the game 4-4.

Adrian Gonzalez countered in the home half of the frame with an RBI ground-rule double to right field that proved that Brennan Boesch played this particular batter too shallow. In the eighth Boesch shaded Will Middlebrooks too deep and the third baseman singled to right.

No one could have played Middlebrooks’s home run in the bottom of the fourth, a line drive shot that came in so fast not even eager souvenir seekers could contain it. According to Steve Berthiaume it was <a href="https://twitter.com/SBerthiaumeESPN/status/207997137668149250" target="_blank">the fastest home run from bat to seats, covering the distance in just 2.84 seconds</a>. The two-run homer plated Kevin Youkilis; odd to think that Youkilis helped pad the stats of batter that might render him expendable. Youkilis tacked on an insurance circuit clout in the eighth, a hit that may have ticked up his trade value a tad.

The most impressive home run of the evening belonged to David Ortiz. The designated hitter powered a home run in the fourth that cleared the wall in dead center and plated fellow southpaw Gonzalez. Before his mammoth swing Ortiz suffered from something in his eye. After the homer Jerry Remy uttered what could be the call of the season: “Something was in his eye — the eye of the tiger.”

Game 50: May 30, 2012
Detroit Tigers
L: Octavio Dotel (1-2)
2B: Miguel Cabrera – 3 (13), Gerald Laird (3)
3B: Quintin Berry (1)
WinBoston Red Sox
BS, W: Matt Albers (2, 1-0)
H: Andrew Miller (6)
S: Alfredo Aceves (13)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez – 2 (18), Daniel Nava (7)
HR: David Ortiz (12), Will Middlebrooks (6), Kevin Youkilis (4)

May 30, 2012

Papi Palooza

Unlike Lollapalooza, Papi Palooza features current hits.

Sit back in your La-Z-Boy and soak in the rhythms of a leadoff double in the second: the swift pitter patter of David Ortiz’s distinctive running style punctuated by the clang of the ball off the left field wall. Jarrod Saltalamacchia contributed a verse with a ground ball single to left and Mike Aviles joined in at the chorus with a run-scoring fielder’s choice.

Then the sonic landscape expands with Ortiz’s double to the left-center gap in the fifth. The joyful staccato of the ball skipping to the wall is countered by Adrian Gonzalez’s lumbering bass beat. Again we have Ortiz’s signature cadence but it is abruptly, unexpectedly halted by his attempt to take third on the throw.

But Ortiz doesn’t leave eager ears unsatisfied. With gaudy fanfare he blasts a home run into the Monster seats, playing to a part of the field that he doesn’t usually indulge.

Even the fans in Bobby Valentine fake mustaches must have been swaying to the beat and holding lighters aloft. Play “Freebird”!

Game 49: May 29, 2012
Detroit Tigers
L: Justin Verlander (5-3)
2B: Miguel Cabrera (10), Alex Avila (7)
HR: Jhonny Peralta (4), Prince Fielder (8)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daniel Bard (5-5)
H: Rich Hill (5), Scott Atchison (2), Andrew Miller (5), Vicente Padilla (12)
S: Alfredo Aceves (12)
2B: David Ortiz – 2 (18), Daniel Nava (6), Scott Podsednik (1)
HR: Ortiz (11)

May 29, 2012

Officious Officials

Jim Leyland and Doc Rivers should start a support group for managers and coaches aggrieved by incompetence by game officials. Mark Cuban would be president, Bill Simmons vice president, and Dennis Eckersley sergeant-at-arms.

Leyland watched with growing anger as his team slipped further below .500, a defining loss that could be attributed to a blown call by the officials in the second inning. Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson maintained that Mike Aviles swung and missed Doug Fister’s 0-2 pitch and that Gerald Laird caught the ball for the final strike and therefore the final out of the frame. Nelson was overruled by first base umpire Bill Welke, however, who thought that Aviles fouled off the pitch and Laird didn’t catch it.

After the call it seemed like each batted ball was fueled by Leyland’s rage. Aviles proceeded to line a single to center to plate the go-ahead run. Daniel Nava doubled over Quintin Berry’s head to the base of the wall in center field, deep enough to score Aviles from first. Dustin Pedroia scorched a grounder to Prince Fielder that the rotund first baseman couldn’t glove, allowing Nava to score and Pedroia to reach second.

All told the Red Sox scored three runs as a result of Welke’s gaffe, which was the exact differential that Detroit lost by. If the Tigers miss the playoffs by one game, they will be the victims of yet another historic blunder by an umpire.

Would it be worse to miss the postseason due to umpires or to be in the playoffs and fall prey to the whims of erratic referees? I would ask Coach Rivers but he would be fined by the NBA a.k.a. the Association’s office party fund established by Mark Cuban.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals the referees were handing out technical fouls to Celtics like beads on Mardi Gras. Danny Crawford teed up Ray Allen when the shooting guard protested a call he didn’t agree with by saying, “No.” A few minutes later Kevin Garnett batted the ball after a basket and Crawford called a technical foul for delay of game. Rivers was the recipient of the third call when he urged Ed Malloy to call a foul against a Heat player when one fouled Rajon Rondo, a call the coach called “the worst [he’s] ever had.” Rondo also had a technical foul after he pushed Shane Battier, but that was completely justifiable because Battier went to Duke.

The officiating wasn’t the sole reason for the Celtics’ defeat. They were 11-21 from the foul line, Rondo didn’t come anywhere near a triple-double, and Paul Pierce didn’t score as much as he could have.

It was wonderful to see Trot Nixon back at Fenway. He was just a touch too late to spell Adrian Gonzalez in right as Ryan Sweeney made his return in this very game. Before the game the former right fielder and one of The Twenty-Five received a number 7 from the scoreboard and a pine tar-smeared helmet after a highlight package set to “Outlaws Like Us.” He tossed the first pitch to David Ortiz and made the requisite visit to the booth. Since he retired from baseball he has been heavily involved with his kids’ sports activities, and he talked to Don and Jerry like a person starved for adult conversation.

Game 48: May 28, 2012
Detroit Tigers
L: Doug Fister (0-3)
2B: Prince Fielder (11)
HR: Delmon Young (3), Gerald Laird (2), Jhonny Peralta (3)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Felix Doubront (5-2)
2B: David Ortiz (16), Ryan Sweeney (15), Daniel Nava (5), Mike Aviles (14)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (9)

May 28, 2012


Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.

Law III: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions

Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Sir Isaac Newton

To Newton’s great mathematical and philosophical opus I add a necessary component based on my observation of the Red Sox, its ownership and management, and the Boston media.

Action: Dustin Pedroia attempts to stretch a single to a double in the first inning and seems to avoid Will Rhymes’s tag.
Reaction: Mark Carlson calls Pedroia out and gets into an argument with Pedroia.
Overreaction: Bobby Valentine comes out to argue with Carlson, too. Dan Shaughnessy scribes 10,000-word column on Valentine’s war against umpires.

Action: In the fourth inning Adrian Gonzalez plays Matt Joyce’s double to the right field corner well but misses the cutoff man.
Reaction: Joyce advances to third and scores on Ben Zobrist’s ground out to first.
Overreaction: Trade for Manny Ramirez to play rover when Gonzalez is in the outfield or re-sign J.D. Drew to a $10M one-year deal to shore up the outfield. Sabermetrician Tom Tango compiles decades of defensive metrics proving that playing right field and first base are essentially the same. Voros McCracken counters with statistics that demonstrate the positions are only 1.61803399% similar. No one understands what either of them wrote but everyone pretends that they do.

Action: Rhymes lines a single to left to score Sean Rodriguez in the seventh.
Reaction: I learn that Rodriguez still has a job in the major leagues.
Overreaction: I hum “Touch It” for the rest of the game. Ben Cherington puts Rhymes on his short list of players to acquire.

Action: In the bottom of the seventh Gonzalez knocks a three-run homer into the first row of the Monster seats for a 3-2 lead.
Reaction: Gonzalez chest bumps and yells in Ortiz’s face upon reaching home.
Overreaction: I imagine the three-man rotations for the playoffs: Beckett, Buchholz, Lester? Doubront is actually pitching better than Lester right now, but what about in September? What if Daisuke comes back and is effective? Pete Abraham interviews the family that caught the ball and how they felt being a part of the team’s turnaround.

Action: Rodriguez homers off Alfredo Aceves with Zobrist on base in the ninth.
Reaction: Salty is up in the bottom of the ninth, maybe he can recreate the magic.
Overreaction: How are the Patriots’ OTAs going?

Game 47: May 27, 2012
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: Jake McGee (2-1)
S: Fernando Rodney (16)
2B: Matt Joyce (5), Sean Rodriguez (5)
HR: Rodriguez (5)
Boston Red Sox
H: Franklin Morales (8), Vicente Padilla (11)
BS, L: Alfredo Aceves (3, 0-2)
HR: Adrian Gonzalez (4)

The Perm Faces the Shredder

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the first Red Sox pinch hitter to win the game with a walk-off home run since Wes Chamberlain’s solo shot off Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco on May 9, 1995. The triumphant circuit clout represented a number of firsts. It was Saltalamacchia’s first walk-off homer and it was also the first time a player went into “the shredder” and came out with his hair looking better than when he went in.

Nick Punto’s nickname is “The Shredder” but obviously not because of his hitting. While he was on the Cardinals he led home plate celebrations but rending his teammates’ garments. The Red Sox hardly needed tips on how to revel in a win but Punto’s presence has seemed to elevate the energetic festivities. I think the pummeling of Saltalamacchia was more violent than Friday’s donnybrook. Saltalamacchia nearly lost his gold chain but it was retrieved by Kevin Youkilis.

Looking over the box score from that 19995 game had me comparing this team to Kevin Kennedy’s club. It was his first season as Red Sox manager. With Kennedy at the helm his squad outperformed Pythagorean (80-64 with an actual record of 86-58), won the AL East, and made the postseason for the first time since 1990. After this inspiring victory it seemed possible that Bobby Valentine could replicate Kennedy’s accomplishment.

But the inconsistency of the 2012 edition of the Red Sox makes me doubt how they could sustain a viable playoff run. If the Red Sox made the playoffs I think that they would suffer an early exit like the 1995 team did.

The same evening the Red Sox came from behind the Celtics finally put away the 76ers. Paul Pierce fouled out but Rajon Rondo persevered for his second triple-double of the series. The Celtics battled for an ugly 85-75 win in Game 7. But like so many recent New England area sports disappointments in the playoffs, the Celtics will most likely wither against the Miami Heat.

Game 46: May 26, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays
H: Joel Peralta (13)
BS, L: Fernando Rodney (1, 2-1)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Rich Hill (1-0)
2B: Kelly Shoppach (6)
HR: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8)

May 27, 2012

Bowties and Brouhahas

Joe Maddon took a cue from grade school teachers and motivational speakers the world over and has his team dress according to a theme for every road trip. For the current journey the accessory of choice is the bow tie.

There are a number of bow tie devotees that make me an admirer of the accent: Bill Nye, Charlie Chaplin, John Paul Stevens, Les Nessman, Mr. Hooper, and several Doctors Who (the second, third, and eleventh embodiments). Other wearers make it less appealing to me, notably Tucker Carlson, George Will, Sigmund Freud, Louis Farrakhan, and Murray Rothbard.

I think Maddon had his team dress like persecuted nerds to give them a physical manifestation of their paranoia. In the recent series in St. Petersburg Adrian Gonzalez was frustrated by Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone and as part of his rant “guaranteed” that he would hit a home run. When Gonzalez said, “I’ll start hitting home runs. I’ll hit a home run tomorrow,” he obviously meant this as a general statement about how droughts can be turned around quickly.

Maddon twisted the quote into a smear against his pitching staff. Matt Moore hit Gonzalez with a pitch in the next game in his first at bat, but not even Maddon’s motivational mumbo jumbo could inspire a player to plunk a player to load the bases, right. The score seemed settled when Felix Doubront hit Luke Scott in the same game.

But in this game with the score 7-4 Burke Badenhop plunked Dustin Pedroia in the sixth inning. In the ninth Franklin Morales threw behind, inside, and finally at Scott. The benches and bullpens cleared, but rather than players throwing punches coaches hurled contumelies.

Like all cowards, Maddon retaliated from the safety of his keyboard. “Very proud of our effort 2nite. What occurred in the 9th reeked of intent. Was ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, incompetent, cowardly behavior,” he tweeted. Maddon may not win a World Series, but he wins the internet.

Game 45: May 25, 2012
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: Alex Cobb (2-0)
H: Jake McGee (5), Joel Peralta (12)
S: Fernando Rodney (15)
HR: Matt Joyce (9), Elliot Johnson (3), Carlos Pena (7)
Boston Red Sox
L: Jon Lester (3-4)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (16)

May 25, 2012

Why is Six Afraid of Seven?

Because seven-eight-nine hit home runs. The unlikely trio of Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, and Kelly Shoppach all managed to square up on Oriole pitchers’ offerings and knock them over the fences.

Nava’s was from the left-handed side. The no-doubter found the right field seats near the scoreboard, but didn’t go over the scoreboard like a Papi shot. The respectable clout rendered the score 3-2 in the sixth.

Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair gave Jake Arrieta a visit after Nava’s four-bagger but stayed with the starter. Podsednik singled with a scorching ground ball to right, a hit that prompted Buck Showalter to pull Arrieta in favor of Luis Ayala. Ayala tried to get Shoppach to bite on a slider but the backstop waited for a fastball. When Shoppach got the pitch he wanted he powered it over the W.B. Mason sign in left field to give his team a 5-2 lead and a lucky fan a souvenir. How fortunate is that person: a day game in the middle of the week with gorgeous weather and an official baseball.

Perhaps not as fortunate as Podsednik, who saw past Darren O’Day’s sidearm delivery and got a hold of a hanging slider. The ball just cleared the right field wall above the bullpen to make the score 6-4 in the visitors’ half of the eighth.

Podsednik’s homer proved crucial when the Orioles mounted a threat in bottom of the frame. Vicente Padilla had replaced Rich Hill for the final out of the seventh but didn’t carry his momentum forward. He allowed a leadoff walk to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones knocked a double into left. Padilla struck out Chris Davis but given the batter it was more that Davis struck himself out yet again.

Bobby Valentine thought that Padilla had one more batter in him so Padilla squared off against Wilson Betemit. Betemit slashed a fly ball to shallow right-center that Che-Hsuan Lin caught with a dive and a cap-removing flourish. Markakis tagged up on the play, but the 6-5 score stood. Valentine’s seventh-inning decision to take Adrian Gonzalez out of right field and replace him with Lin proved to be correct.

The Red Sox’s record is .500 again, but when will they creep into winning territory again and how long will they stay there?

Game 44: May 23, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daniel Bard (4-5)
H: Andrew Miller (4), Rich Hill (4), Vicente Padilla (10)
S: Alfredo Aceves (11)
2B: Will Middlebrooks (7)
HR: Daniel Nava (2), Kelly Shoppach (2), Scott Podsednik (1)
Baltimore Orioles
L: Jake Arrieta (2-5)
2B: Xavier Avery (4), Adam Jones (9)
HR: Nick Johnson – 2 (4)

May 24, 2012


With seven out of twelve outfielders on the 15- or 60-day disabled list Bobby Valentine placed Adrian Gonzalez in right field. While Gonzalez borrowed Carl Crawford’s glove Kevin Youkilis returned and took over at first. Across the diamond from Youkilis was the seemingly ensconced Will Middlebrooks.

If the Red Sox are indeed exploring the possibility of trading Youkilis the infielder proved he was sound with his fourth-inning circuit clout. Gonzalez was the only other Boston batter to tally a hit, but his leadoff single in the second proved fruitless.

This game neatly summarized why Baltimore leads the American League East while the Red Sox are hovering around the .500 mark. Brian Matusz only surrendered a solo shot while Felix Doubront allowed a home run to Steve Tolleson with a runner on base due to a leadoff walk. Buck Showalter’s relievers immobilized the Red Sox lineup while Valentine’s allowed a two-run insurance blast by Betemit in the bottom of the eighth.

Game 43: May 22, 2012
Boston Red Sox
L: Felix Doubront (4-2)
HR: Kevin Youkilis (3)
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Brian Matusz (4-4)
HR: Steve Tolleson (1), Wilson Betemit (7)

May 22, 2012

Beasts of the East

When spotted a two-run lead Clay Buchholz seemed to seize up with insecurity rather than face his opposition with fortitude. In the bottom of the third Buchholz walked two batters with the bases loaded for half the runs scored in the second half of the frame.

The two other runs were scored on weak ground balls. J.J. Hardy smacked an infield single up the middle that exposed miscommunication between Mike Aviles and Dustin Pedroia. Aviles thought he would flip the ball to his double play partner but Pedroia assumed Aviles would tag second himself and then fire to first. By the time the runners advanced to the next station Hardy was safe at first and the game was tied 2-2.

Aviles and Pedroia were in perfect coordination for Adam Jones’s batted ball. The 6-4-3 double play plated Xavier Avery to give the Orioles a two-run advantage, but the additional run was worth the two outs. Matt Wieters ended the stanza with a ground out to second.

Rather than knuckle under when the pitching went sour the batters stepped up. David Ortiz led the charge in the sixth with a massive blast that bounced about Eutaw Street. The Orioles haven’t updated their Eutaw Street Home Run Tracker page yet, but Hit Tracker says Ortiz’s shot had a true distance of 442 feet.

Adrian Gonzalez followed with a ringing double to the opposite field and Will Middlebrooks ran out an infield single. The baserunners advanced on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s ground out and tagged up on Daniel Nava’s sacrifice fly to center. With Middlebrooks feinting a charge at home plate Tommy Hunter got a case of happy feet which allowed Middlebrooks home on a balk. But that trick never works! This time for sure!

Kevin Gregg added accelerant to the fire in the seventh. Aviles and Pedroia extended their defensive partnership to the offense with a single-double combination punch with one out. Gregg intentionally walked Ortiz to load the bases, which much have been difficult for the reliever as his first instinct would be to plunk this particular batter. Gonzalez arced a fly ball to left to score Aviles. With a sharp grounder up the middle Middlebrooks plated Pedroia.

Rookie Che-Hsuan Lin got in on the action in the eighth and tallied his first major league run. With two down Lin singled to left field. He advanced to second when Troy Patton struck out Aviles but Wieters couldn’t gather the ball to get the out at first. Pedroia found fair territory in left to score Lin.

Thanks to the vagaries of the hold definition Rich Hill got one despite allowing more hits than outs. Fortunately for him they were all singles and Vicente Padilla was locating with his fastball. Alfredo Aceves had an uneventful ninth and the Red Sox could feel a modicum of solace that their humiliating extra-innings debacle at Fenway was partially avenged.

Game 42: May 21, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Andrew Miller (1-0)
H: Rich Hill (3), Vicente Padilla (9)
S: Alfredo Aceves (10)
2B: Marlon Byrd (2), Adrian Gonzalez (15), Dustin Pedroia (14)
HR: David Ortiz (10)
Baltimore Orioles
L: Kevin Gregg (2-2)
HR: Chris Davis

May 21, 2012

Cliff’s Edge

Two disappointing teams that were supposed to be at or near the top of their respective divisions wrapped up their three-game series. Two aces who have underperformed along with their clubs faced off in what most assumed would be a pitchers’ duel.

Mike Aviles had other ideas. The shortstop took Cliff Lee’s third pitch of the game, a cut fastball, high over Juan Pierre’s reach into the left field stands.

The Red Sox had a prototypical National League scoring scenario play out in the second. With one man down Daniel Nava patiently (and amazingly, given the pitcher he was facing) drew a walk. Marlon Byrd sneaked a single through the left side of the infield and Nava got into scoring position. Neither the bunting and hitting practice Bobby Valentine required nor Josh Beckett’s years in the senior circuit helped the hurler get down a proper bunt. Nava was erased from the equation when Beckett’s bunt went right back to Lee. Beckett ran hard to first and beat out what could have been an inning-ending double play. Aviles swatted a turf-scorching ground ball to left field and Byrd scored.

Presenting the argument for the Earl Weaver School of Management in the third was Adrian Gonzalez, Will Middlebrooks, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Gonzalez took a pitch outside to the opposite field and Middlebrooks doubled to center. Saltalamacchia smashed what Hit Tracker says is the third-longest home run in true distance this season. When the 466-foot bomb landed the visitors boasted a 5-0 lead.

Both pitchers had their “pitchers are athletes, too” moments. Beckett dashed from the mound to glove Brian Schneider’s foul pop-up when Saltalamacchia lost it in the sun and the swirling winds. The out proved essential when Lee, the next batter, drove a double to left. In the sixth Beckett knocked the ball off the top of the left-center wall. But it probably would have been a double for a real athlete.

Game 41: May 20, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (4-4)
H: Vicente Padilla (8)
2B: Will Middlebrooks (6)
HR: Aviles (8), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7)
Philadelphia Phillies
L: Cliff Lee (0-2)
2B: Lee (1), Pete Orr (4)

May 20, 2012

Flying Ryan

John Mayberry was on second and Shane Victorino on first. Vicente Padilla had notched two outs and tried to fool Carlos Ruiz with a 59-mile an hour Eephus pitch. Ruiz was not beguiled by the gentle toss and powered the ball to the right-center gap. The only thing that kept the ball in the park was that this particular species of pitch is not thrown with high velocity. Padilla, if he deigned to drop his surliness with a teammate from time to time, owed Ryan Sweeney a hug or a hand pound. Sweeney laid out to snatch Ruiz’s batted ball before it touched turf, ending the inning and the scoring threat.

Adrian Gonzalez was an eyewitness to the defensive gem because Bobby Valentine started him in right field. Knowing that an inexperienced player was to his left probably made Sweeney run farther and harder than he usually would.

Gonzalez fielded two outs in the game, one of which forced him to go into a slide near the foul line and the outfield wall. It had all the makings of one of those freak injuries that occur when a player is forced to play outside of his typical spot. But Gonzalez avoided the wall, spiking himself, an awkward slide, and missiles hurled by Philly fans. Knowing such fans, they may have thrown batteries at anyone in right field due to their immortal enmity of J.D. Drew.

Game 40: May 19, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (3-3)
H: Vicente Padilla (7), Rich Hill (2)
S: Alfredo Aceves (9)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (14), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (10)
HR: Aviles (7), Will Middlebrooks (5), Saltalamacchia (6), David Ortiz (9)
Cody Ross (8), Adrian Gonzalez (3)
Philadelphia Phillies
L: Joe Blanton (4-4)
2B: Shane Victorino (6)
HR: Freddy Galvis (3)

May 19, 2012

Baby New York

Unfortunately the Red Sox’s visit didn’t coincide with Cole Hamels’s five-game suspension. Suspensions of five games or less are farcical for starting pitchers, but Bud Selig has rarely been about what is actually good for the game but instead supports that which looks good for the game. Hamels the southpaw wasn’t his usual sharp self: Mike Aviles and Cody Ross both managed circuit clouts in the third and sixth innings respectively.

Aviles has six home runs and Ross eight. Both have more homers in 2012 than Adrian Gonzalez, who incremented his home run count to three with a solo four-bagger in the eighth. Perhaps the first baseman needs a friendly cuff on the face like Matt Albers received from Bobby Valentine in the seventh.

Jonathan Papelbon toed the rubber to his replacement song “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica and tallied his 12th save. That the song conjures the parallel that pitchers ring up their quarry seems something too clever for Papelbon to have figured out by himself. I wonder if he realizes that the song was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same title? Or that it is about the brutality of real wars, not the merely allegorical battles between baseball teams? And that Hemingway killed himself?

To erase the image of Papelbon pitching for the Phillies from my mind I tuned into the Celtics game. Perhaps they would be the Boston squad to prevail over a team from the Cradle of Liberty. Instead of watching a Hub club triumph I watched the Celtics’ 18-point advantage melt like David Ortiz’s body fat, which allowed the 76ers to tie the series 2-2.

Motownphilly’s back again
Doin’ a little east coast fling

Game 39: May 18, 2012
Boston Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (3-5)
2B: Mike Aviles (13), Cody Ross (9)
HR: Aviles (6), Cody Ross (8), Adrian Gonzalez (3)
WinPhiladelphia Phillies
W: Cole Hamels (6-1)
H: Chad Qualls (8), Antonio Bastardo (9)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (12)
2B: John Mayberry (6)
HR: Hunter Pence (10), Freddy Galvis (2)

May 18, 2012

Angry Aviles

Mike Aviles was ejected for the first time in his major league career in last night’s game. The shortstop argued with home plate umpire Dan Bellino’s strike that ended Aviles’s at bat and the top half of the seventh inning. I found myself agreeing with Aviles: the pitch seemed to be a shade too far outside. According to the strikezone plot at Brooks Baseball, however, Aviles did let a strike go by; it seems he was fooled because the balls he took were very close to the final strike. Nothing like a painstakingly accurate chart to cool one’s righteous indignation.

I don’t think I was the only one who got a little misty when Don Orsillo recounted an anecdote featuring former manager Terry Francona. The Tropicana clubhouse is known for a wall of headshots of major league managers that would be updated with frightening efficiency. Francona said he would check if he still had a job by checking out the photos to see if his shiny pate was still present. That prompted Jerry Remy to recall how he told Francona that his meetings were boring. From that point forward Francona had a magazine waiting for Remy.

Orsillo and Remy didn’t have a story about Bobby Valentine, but perhaps there hasn’t been enough time for a rapport to be established. Valentine backed his team unequivocally. “A lot of guys had complaints tonight, and I was with them,” he said. “We have to fight through it, that’s for sure.” Before NESN cut away for commercial Orsillo asked exasperatedly “Is this the World Series?” I think it might have been directed at Valentine’s hair-trigger switching of pitchers. If keeping on players’ good sides and swapping relievers as if he were still in the senior circuit support job security then Valentine’s picture will hang amongst the other managers’ headshots in the Tropicana clubhouse for a bit longer. Valentine stated that he “was going after this game” and he managed it as if it were the postseason, but the larger question is does he and his team have the mettle to even make it there.

Game 38: May 17, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Felix Doubront (4-1)
H: Rich Hill (1), Scott Atchison (1), Andrew Miller (3), Vicente Padilla (6)
S: Alfredo Aceves (8)
HR: Marlon Byrd (1), Cody Ross (7)
Tampa Bay Rays
L: Matt Moore (1-4)
2B: B.J. Upton (5), Matt Joyce (4)

May 17, 2012

Busted Rhymes

Clay Buchholz has had a topsy-turvy run this season thus far: when he pitches terribly the offense assaults the pitcher and he wins but when he lasts five innings while striking out five and allowing only two bases on balls he loses. The first run scored off of him was the result of a balk in the second inning with Carlos Pena on third. Buchholz had just gotten out a jam by inducing a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Sean Rodriguez but a minute move gave the local nine the advantage.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia supported his battery mate with a two-out double to right in the fourth. Cody Ross joined the backstop on the basepaths with a four-pitch walk. Nursing his second cup of coffee as long as he can while still trying to woo Erin Andrews, Nava looped the ball into left field. Matt Joyce seemed in on Nava’s ploy with his failed dive for the bloop RBI single. B.J. Upton’s feckless throw allowed Nava to take second — or maybe everyone wants Nava to have a chance with the ESPN personality.

The tie lasted until the sixth. Luke Scott’s sacrifice fly to right, which allowed Joyce to tag up and score what would be the winning run. Ross got twisted around attempting the play the ball, similarly to how Scott twists around the truth about Barack Obama’s citizenship.

Something as frightening as Scott’s political views unfolded in the eighth. After being hit in the elbow by Franklin Morales’s heater Will Rhymes took his base but then motioned to be taken out of the game. He collapsed and seemed on the brink of losing consciousness. He was carted off but x-rays were negative. Morales and Rhymes worked it out like all celebrities do these days: via Twitter. Although Morales doesn’t have his own presence and used Providence Journal reporter Brian MacPherson’s account. Morales also texted Rhymes to smooth things over.

When I step up in the place
Ay yo I step correct
Got you all in check
I got that head nod shit
Make you break your neck
I got you all in check

Game 37: May 16, 2012
Boston Red Sox
L: Clay Buchholz (4-2)
2B: Mike Aviles (12), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (9)
WinTampa Bay Rays
W: Jeremy Hellickson (4-0)
No extra base hits

May 15, 2012

Finer Forty-Niner

Josh Beckett didn’t spoil his own birthday nor “Thanks, Wake Day” with his outstanding outing: 7 innings, 4 hits, no earned runs, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts. Even New England weather was forgiving on Tim Wakefield’s day of tribute, providing a mostly clear day of baseball. The gentle showers were like the fans’ eyes misting over at the sight of people pouring out of the center field door, all beneficiaries of Wakefield’s charities.

It was a touch of Steinbergian genius to have Doug Mirabelli enter the field in a police car, reenacting his 2006 return to the Red Sox as Wakefield’s personal catcher. Before his ceremonial first pitch Wakefield swung his arm back and forth to shake off the rust. He looked as if he could don the spikes in a minute and step in if Beckett failed. Mirabelli — not so much. Hopefully after his speech David Ortiz spent a few minutes with Mirabelli for some fitness tips.

Ortiz broke the scoreless tie in the third with a blast into the visitors’ bullpen. How must that make a reliever feel to be assailed by a harbinger of their impending doom? If a rookie reliever were posed with the quandary ”would you rather wear this backpack 24-7 or face Ortiz,” I think he would choose the former.

Game 36: May 15, 2012
Seattle Mariners
L: Blake Beavan (1-4)
No extra base hits
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Josh Beckett (3-4)
2B: Mike Aviles – 2 (11), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8)
HR: David Ortiz (8)

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

As if giving instructions to a cadre of tykes for a Red Sox Small Talk segment Bobby Valentine said in the postgame press conference, “Just for you younger reporters out there that was called a complete game. The starter starts it and…” Jon Lester pitched a complete game loss in Toronto a little over a month ago on April 11, so this time the innings invested paid off. It does help that the Seattle Mariners are a bunch of lambs (in Dennis Eckersley jargon).

Lester chatted up a perfect game until fourth inning. With two down Ichiro Suzuki interrupted Lester’s flow with a comebacker that the hurler couldn’t get a handle on and Lester couldn’t seal the deal. He should post in Craigslist: “To the perfect game I carried into the 4th. Meet me in Chicago the weekend of June 15. I have an old friend to impress.”

Unlike they did in Lester’s April effort the Red Sox lineup provided adequate run support. Even the bottom third of the order experienced a power surge in the fourth inning. Seven-hole hitter Daniel Nava dropped the ball in the front row of the Monster seats with Cody Ross on the basepaths. Sadly for the outfielder Erin Andrews wasn’t in attendance. One batter later Kelly Shoppach blasted his first home run in a Red Sox uniform over the left field wall. The no-doubter didn’t make it into the parking lot, but surely such a historic shot would have caused a ruckus amongst the Landsdowne loiterers and attendants.

Lester’s return to form reminded me of the folksong that shares a title with this column. The ditty seems to have been borrowed from an Irish song called “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” by Boston band leader Patrick Gilmore. Coincidentally, Gilmore immigrated from Ireland in 1848. But do not hold his appropriation against him as no less a personage than John Philip Sousa called Gilmore “the Father of the American Band.”

Gilmore was charged with training bands in Massachusetts and deploying them for the Union. When the Civil War ended President Abraham Lincoln requested that Gilmore organize a music festival in New Orleans to celebrate the peace. Spurred by this accomplishment Gilmore doubled the participants (from 500 to 1,000 band members and 5,000 to 10,000 singers) for his next endeavor: the National Peace Jubilee and Music Festival of 1869 in Cooley Square.

Perhaps like Gilmore the Red Sox can build upon this streak of success.

Game 35: May 14, 2012
Seattle Mariners
L: Jason Vargas (4-3)
2B: Justin Smoak (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Jon Lester (2-3)
2B: David Ortiz (15), Adrian Gonzalez (14), Cody Ross (8)
HR: Daniel Nava (1)

May 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bobby

Bobby Valentine turned 62 yesterday and the team presented him with the fourth series win of the season. Not to be ungrateful, but he really could have done with more of these gifts. The team is in the American League East cellar and trails the Baltimore Orioles by 6½ games.

The Onion’s horoscope for Taureans said, “Despite your efforts to be a modern-day hero, you will slowly develop into a postmodern-era Internet meme.” This suits Valentine better than any current manager in the majors.

There’s the fake mustache incident, of course.

A music video of Deen’s song “Diamond” that heavily features Valentine.

And who could pass up the Bobby burger garnished with pineapple? It’s Magic! It’s American! Just like Bobby V himself.

Game 34: May 13, 2012
Cleveland Indians
L: Justin Masterson (1-3)
2B: Michael Brantley – 2 (12)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Daniel Bard (3-4)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez – 2 (13), Daniel Nava – 2 (4), Dustin Pedroia (13)
HR: Will Middlebrooks (4), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5)

May 13, 2012

Hot Puhdayda

The Red Sox, Jerry Remy, and Don Orsillo were at the top of their game today.

Orsillo and Remy proved they could do play-by-play of sports with more action in the aftermath of Cody Ross’s sixth inning home run. The ball soared over the left field wall into the parking lot. One pursuer fell on the ramp (“took a diggah” in Remy’s Somerset parlance) and it appeared that one attendant had solitary claim to the ball. That attendant got caught up in laughing at his fallen competition and was out-hustled by the man with “Staff” emblazoned on his back.

With all the hubbub around Orsillo’s catch of the monstrous hammerhead shark the duo continued the theme yesterday by characterizing themselves as sea creatures. With very little hesitation Remy said “hermit crab,” a perfect fit. He fessed up that this was a suggestion from the truck. Orsillo said he was a sea turtle because of how he awoke the amorous feelings such a creature on a Red Sox cruise scuba dive.

Fourth starter Felix Doubront pitched like starters one through three should be: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The sole run Cleveland scored came in the sixth when Doubront’s pitch count went above 100 and his effectiveness wavered. Lou Marson led off the frame with a sinking line drive to right that Ross dove after and missed.

It wasn’t Ryan Sweeney backing up the play but Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman ran like a hellion from the infield to gather the ball and relay it to the keystone sack for at least a chance to get Marson out.

Marson advanced to third on Michael Brantley’s ground out. Adrian Gonzalez flipped to Doubront, who dutifully covered first. On the next play, however, Doubront spectated when Jason Kipnis’s grounder skipped to Gonzalez. Doubront’s delay allowed Marson to score.

Marson’s run at least erased his part in Daniel Nava’s fourth inning score. Nava led off with a liner to left and took third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s ground-rule double to right. Mike Aviles arced a low fly ball to left and Nava was inching up the line. When Nava saw that the ball was going to be caught he returned to third to tag up. Shelley Duncan’s throw to Marson was in time and on target but Nava got his foot on the plate. The Cleveland catcher simply lacked Variteknique.

For the second out of the ninth Alfredo Aceves fielded Asdrubal Cabrera’s tapper and threw a seed to Gonzalez, nearly taking the first baseman’s mitt off. Gonzalez must have been happy the game of hot potato (“puhdayda” for those in New Bedford and surrounding towns) was over and Aceves struck out Carlos Santana for the final out.

Game 33: May 12, 2012
Cleveland Indians
L: Zach McAllister (1-1)
2B: Lou Marson (2)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Felix Doubront (3-1)
H: Andrew Miller (1)
H: Vicente Padilla (5)
S: Alfredo Aceves (7)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (12), David Ortiz (14), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7)
HR: Cody Ross (6)

May 12, 2012

Lucky Buchholz

Unsurprisingly Clay Buchholz has the highest ERA (8.31) of any pitcher with four or more wins. What is surprising is that the lanky right-hander even has four wins.

Buchholz benefited from run support and defense last night. The visitors threatened when Jack Hannahan doubled with one out. Hannahan remained at second when Johnny Damon popped out to Dustin Pedroia. Boston’s razor-thin 2-1 lead was in jeopardy when Jason Kipnis’s liner evaded Nick Punto’s glove. Daniel Nava fielded the ball on one hop and quickly fired to home plate while Steve Smith sent Hannahan home a nanosecond too late. With Variteknique Jarrod Saltalamacchia blocked the plate to prevent Hannahan from scoring the tying run.

Derryl Cousins’s call resulted in Cleveland’s third base coach Smith’s ejection. Funny that Smith’s delayed decision gave him the night off. Perhaps that was his plan.

In the top of the third NESN played “At Fenway” by Brian “the Croonerman”Evans. To damn with faint praise at least it's better than “Gyro Ball.” It’s just not as evocative as the “Tessie” remake by the Dropkick Murphys or as spirited as “Dirty Water.” Perhaps it’s me, but Fenway doesn’t call to mind the big band era. I’m holding out hope that someday State Radio will come out with a Red Sox or Fenway tune. Until then there’s “Knights of Bostonia.”

See all the fun Chad Urmston and crew are having? That is the fun that has been missing from watching the 2012 version of the Red Sox. Every lead seems in peril and every deficit unconquerable. Will they, can they turn it around?

Restless nights, the innocent street
A fist to fight, a summer to keep
We are the knights of junkyard raid
The trusty steed and a summer to save

Game 32: May 11, 2012
Cleveland Indians
L: Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3)
2B: Jack Hannahan (6), Shin-Soo Choo (7)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (4-1)
H: Andrew Miller (1)
H: Franklin Morales (7)
H: Vicente Padilla (4)
S: Alfredo Aceves (6)
2B: Will Middlebrooks (5), Dustin Pedroia (11), Daniel Nava (2), Adrian Gonzalez – 2 (11), Cody Ross (7)

May 11, 2012

Derek and the Domino Effect

In honor of Carl Beane’s passing there was no public address announcer for this game. Sadly the team didn’t play well enough to honor Carl’s memory.

Josh Beckett probably wished it were as silent during his departure in the third inning. He was serenaded by a chorus of jeers. Even if he hadn’t made the news recently for golfing two days before his scratched start he still deserved the taunting given his line: 2⅓ innings pitched, 7 hits, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, and 2 home runs.

Meanwhile Derek Lowe induced 12 ground outs and posted a quality start: 6 innings pitched, 9 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 base on balls, and 3 strikeouts. So far this season Lowe has a ERA+ of 157. It made me think that perhaps Lowe would have been a better option than John Lackey, but comparing the two pitchers across 2010-11 there wasn’t a significant improvement. Lowe’s WAR was 2.7 and 2.5 while Lackey started promisingly at 4.1 but plummeted to 1.5. But in September, as we well remember, all the Red Sox needed was one more win.

Game 31: May 10, 2012
WinCleveland Indians
W: Derek Lowe (5-1)
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera (11), Michael Brantley – 2 (10), Shin-Soo Choo (6)
HR: Jack Hannahan (3), Jason Kipnis (6)
Boston Red Sox
L: Josh Beckett (2-4)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (9), Daniel Nava (1)
HR: Dustin Pedroia (5)

May 10, 2012

Josh Beckett Departs in the Third

Early, but not early enough for a tee time. He could make his way to a driving range, however.

Broxton’s Britches

Journey man starter Bruce Chen notched his first win against the Red Sox. That’s all you really need to know about this game.

That, and the fact that Jonathan Broxton’s legs are the size of giant sequoias.

Dennis Eckersley came through with a few great sound bites, as usual.

  • On umpires: They are shy with strike three. [wimpy noise]
  • On Broxton: No slide steps involved with this guy.
  • On Carl Beane: Everybody’s waiting for the voice that isn’t going to be there.
Game 30: May 9, 2012
Boston Red Sox
L: Jon Lester (1-3)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (8), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (6)
WinKansas City Royals
W: Bruce Chen (1-4)
H: Aaron Crow (6)
S: Jonathan Broxton (7)
2B: Brayan Pena (6), Irving Falu (1), Alcides Escobar (10), Alex Gordon (8), Chris Getz (5)

May 9, 2012

Carl Beane, 1952-2012

Fenway Park is empty tonight, and not just because the Red Sox are on the road. Its public address announcer, Carl Beane, died in a car accident this afternoon when he went into cardiac arrest behind the wheel.

I will always remember how he announced the seventh inning “streeeeeetch,” his drawn out enunciation of “Derek… Jeter” so that we could get in our boos, and the rolling of his Rs in Latino players’ names. NESN used to have Beane’s voice open each game broadcast; the deep intoning of “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park” was my cue to get ready for the game. Ever the custodian of the park’s history, he used that phrase to honor Sherm Feller. Perhaps the station will revive this now to memorialize both these Fenway family members, as they should have done for the park’s 100th anniversary.

His voice and delivery was the perfect for Fenway, a balance of gravitas and jocularity. He will be missed.

Game 29: May 8, 2012
Boston Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (2-4)
BS: Matt Albers (1)
2B: David Ortiz (13), Will Middlebrooks (4), Mike Aviles (9), Adrian Gonzalez (7)
WinKansas City Royals
W: Jose Mijares (2-1)
S: Jonathan Broxton (6)
HR: Billy Butler (6)

May 8, 2012

Will to Power

Not the band from the 1980s that feloniously combined “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” but rather “der Wille zur Macht,” the Nietzschean concept of striving to attain the highest position. From “The Will to Power” comes this excerpt: “My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (--its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension.”

Will Middlebrooks mastered space, time, and Royals pitchers last night. With elegant intervals Middlebrooks home runs have landed thus: a grand slam in Sunday’s debacle, a three-run shot to right in the first inning, and a two-run circuit clout in the eighth that dinged the left field foul pole. If Middlebrooks’s ambition is to render Kevin Youkilis redundant he seems to have the bat to do so. The rookie’s defense is still raw, however, as witnessed by his throwing error in the third that allowed Jarrod Dyson to score and Alex Gordon to advance to third. The Royals inched to within a run of the visitors in that inning but never gained the advantage.

Felix Doubront lasted 6⅓ innings and had to be relieved by Vicente Padilla. The canny reliever almost earned the save by the three-innings rule, but his relief outing wasn’t only impressive because of its duration. Padilla toed the rubber with the bases loaded and one out. He faced the Royals’ best hitter Billy Butler and induced a nifty double play with a tempting sinker.

As awful as the Red Sox have been playing at Fenway the Royals are worse at Kauffman. They have now lost 13 out of 15 home games, not the way to whet the appetite for the All-Star Game come July. If Middlebrooks keeps it up, he might be visiting Kansas City in a couple of months. Lately Padilla has pitched well enough to be similarly honored, but it is doubtful any players would vote for him.

David Ortiz would make the All-Star roster either on his own merits or by his personality. His newly slimmed physique has paid off enormous dividends. The slugger led off the third with a home run off southpaw Jonathan Sanchez, a rare occurrence for Ortiz in past seasons. In the eighth, as Dyson fumbled Cody Ross’s fly ball to center Ortiz nearly lapped Dustin Pedroia on the basepaths. The gigantic gold chain Ortiz wore didn’t slow him down at all.

Ortiz used to look like what Kelly Shoppach does now. The catcher led off the fourth with the first triple in his career and luckily for him he got a breather when Ned Yost swapped Sanchez for Nick Adcock right after his momentous hit.

Game 28: May 7, 2012
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Felix Doubront (2-1)
S: Vicente Padilla (1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (10), Will Middlebrooks (3), Cody Ross (6)
3B: Kelly Shoppach (1)
HR: Middlebrooks – 2 (3), David Ortiz (7), Pedroia (4)
Kansas City Royals
L: Jonathan Sanchez (1-2)
2B: Mike Moustakas (11)

May 6, 2012

Edge of Seventeen

Seventeen innings requires seventeen haiku, each of which has seventeen syllables.

Early home run by
Former Milwaukee player
Many beers needed

Chris Davis strikes out
Rain rapping on a tin roof
Repetitive sounds

Is this a repeat
Of the first inning? Solo
home run by Hardy

Reynolds walks, home run
By Andino.The world is
Coming to an end

Miller strikes out side
Can the Red Sox come back?
Middlebrooks grand slam

Valentine should have
Let Miller keep on pitching
Second guessing’s fun

Gonzalez grounded
Into the shift with two on
Eight men left stranded

Dropped foul pop error
By Saltalamacchia
Then drives in a run

Aviles singles
But is caught stealing after
Sweeney struck out, bah

Kevin Gregg can’t fight
With Ortiz thanks to Bobby
McDonald DH

Gammons quipped, “Chavez
Is designated bunter.”
Franklin catches bunt

Pedroia two-out
Base on balls but Gonzalez
Popped out on first pitch

Davis not only
Whiffs but grounds into double
Plays, neat 3-6-3

Middlebrooks rookie
Throwing error doesn’t cost
A run. Lesson learned.

Instead of ending
An inning Gonzalez just
Grounds out leading off

Mistake and Byrd’s on
Aviles’s double lands
Byrd thrown out at home

McDonald roughed up
Davis pitches better than
He hits. Ballmer wins.

Game 27: May 6, 2012 ∙ 17 innings
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Chris Davis (1-0)
2B: Adam Jones (7), Mark Reynolds (7), Matt Wieters (5), J.J. Hardy (5)
HR: Hardy – 2 (6), Robert Andino (2), Jones (8)
Boston Red Sox
L: Darnell McDonald (0-1)
2B: Mike Aviles – 2 (8), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5), David Ortiz (12)
HR: Will Middlebrooks (1)

Filleted and Cooked

Aaron Cook looked death in the eye eight years ago, so a flesh wound to the leg wouldn’t likely stop him. In 2004 Cook had blood clots that traveled to his lungs. The clots, called pulmonary embolisms when they reach the lungs, caused shortness of breath and dizziness. A year after two surgeries he was the Rockies’ opening day starter.

Since Cook’s return he was a serviceable starter in the hitter-friendly climes of Coors, even earning an All-Star appearance in 2008. His sinker ball style of hurling was thought to translate well between National and American leagues, so it was with high anticipation that the Red Sox welcomed Cook to the mound. Cook plugged right into the slot that Josh Beckett vacated due to latissimus soreness.

In the second inning Cook started off inducing two outs but then allowed consecutive line drive singles to Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit. Most folks know that Cook throws the drop ball but that fact seemed to be lost on his battery mate. Jarrod Saltalamacchia failed to block a pitch to Mark Reynolds and Davis rushed home on the error.

With utter disregard for life and limb Cook slid on both knees to block home while trying to catch Saltalamacchia’s toss from foul territory. In the fray the pitcher was spiked on the leg, or as he described it, “kind of just filleted open a little bit.” Jim Joyce allowed the Red Sox trainers to treat Cook, who returned to the mound and got Reynolds to ground out to third.

ESPN talking heads conjured Curt Schilling when discussing Cook’s return to the mound in the third, but for two glaring differences: it wasn’t postseason baseball and Schilling pitched well. Although he was dauntless in his return that pluck did not translate into his pitching. Between Cook and reliever Clayton Mortensen the Orioles scored seven runs, including home runs by Adam Jones and Reynolds.

So much for home cooking. Time to go on a culinary adventure with Anthony Bourdain.

Game 26: May 5, 2012
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Jason Hammel (4-1)
2B: Matt Wieters (4), Mark Reynolds (6)
HR: Adam Jones (7), Reynolds (2)
Boston Red Sox
L: Aaron Cook (0-1)
2B: Adrian Gonzalez (6), Ryan Sweeney (13), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4), Dustin Pedroia (9)

May 5, 2012

Dennis the Menace

Dennis Eckersley seems to jinx games where he is engaged as a color analyst. Don Orsillo recalled an extra innings contest replete with rain delays that didn’t end until approximately three in the morning. At the top of the third Eckersley marveled at Mark Reynolds’s strikeout rate and noted that slumping slugger had yet to smack a home run this season. Seconds later the ball found the standing room only aisle on the Green Monster, tying the game 1-1.

In the bottom half of the third Adrian Gonzalez led the return volley with a long line drive single to left. Dustin Pedroia doubled but Gonzalez could only advance to third. Both runners advanced on David Ortiz’s ground out and Pedroia tagged scored on Cody Ross’s sacrifice fly. But for every advantage the local nine gained the Orioles had an answer.

The next frame commenced with Jon Lester walking Adam Jones on four pitches, which annoyed Eckersley almost as much as Baltimore’s defensive gaffes. The second least likely player on the field to triple did so — Matt Wieters’s fly ball glanced off the ideal spot on the right field padding to elude Ross. Wilson Betemit may be awkward in the outfield but at the dish he fired a line drive to center to knot the game 3-3.

Betemit’s play in left contributed to Will Middlebrooks being able to double in the fifth. The rookie, who Bobby Valentine slotted in the two-hole in his second game, tagged up on Gonzalez’s fly ball to left and scored his first major league run on Pedroia’s single. That single run lead did not hold, but at least the Red Sox bullpen wasn’t atrocious. Boston’s relievers just couldn’t match up against Charm City’s exceptional relief staff.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a channel that had salty Hall of Famers and crusty old-timers commenting on a game uncensored? Eckersley’s commentary is not only entertaining but incredibly informative, but he obviously holds back. I would drop some big iron for such a program.

Game 25: May 4, 2012 ∙ 13 innings
WinBaltimore Orioles
W: Troy Patton (1-0)
S: Jim Johnson (8)
2B: Mark Reynolds (5)
3B: Matt Wieters (1)
HR: Reynolds (1)
Boston Red Sox
BS: Vicente Padilla (1)
L: Franklin Morales (0-1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (8), Will Middlebrooks (2)
3B: Cody Ross (1)

May 4, 2012

Throwing it Back

Both teams took the field in retro uniforms from 1936 in honor of Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, who spent the better part of his career between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Red Sox. The Athletics’ road greys resembled the Yankees’ visitors uniforms but with no stripes on the sleeves and no hateful NY logo; instead a tasteful calligraphic “A” embellished the left breast. There is little difference between Boston’s regimentals of yore and today’s version save the striped stirrups.

Jimmie Foxx’s spirit infused the first franchise he played for rather than the team whose hat he wears in on his plaque in Cooperstown. The Athletics took the lead in the fourth on Seth Smith’s single to drive in Yoenis Cespedes and added three more runs in the sixth.

One of the few highlights was Will Middlebrooks’s major league debut. The hot-hitting prospect took over at the hot corner for the ailing Kevin Youkilis and knocked a single to his station in the fifth inning for the first hit of his career. The 23-year old is just six years older than Foxx was for his major league debut. Foxx’s first game was on May 1, 1925 against the Senators at Griffith Stadium. Foxx pinch hit in the nine-hole for the pitcher and singled.

The umpire waiting for Foxx at first? Bill Dinneen, a former Red Sox player immortalized in the lyrics of “Tessie.”

After Middlebrooks singled Youkilis pretended to give the ball away to the hoards of greedy hands behind the dugout. He didn’t throw it back, but instead tucked the keepsake in his pocket. As long as Youkilis didn’t Papelbon it, the newest addition to Boston’s lineup will have a tangible reminder of his first game in the bigs at Fenway.

Game 24: May 2, 2012
WinOakland Athletics
W: Brandon McCarthy (2-3)
H: Ryan Cook (7)
S: Brian Fuentes (1)
2B: Yoenis Cespedes (5), Seth Smith (1), Kila Ka‘aihue (4), Brandon Inge (2)
Boston Red Sox
L: Daniel Bard (2-3)
2B: Ryan Sweeney (12), David Ortiz – 2 (11), Will Middlebrooks (1), Dustin Pedroia (7)

May 2, 2012

He Went to Jarrod

The panoply of Oakland’s youthful talent was on display last night. Rookie hurler Jarrod Parker notched his first win in the majors with a respectable 6⅔ innings: 4 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts.

Jordan Noberto, who debuted last year, entered the ninth after Grant Balfour surrendered a two-run single to Mike Aviles. With one down and two on Noberto struck out Lars Anderson on four pitches but more impressively induced a weak ground out off Dustin Pedroia’s bat to end the game.

Center field standout Yoenis Cespedes only went 1-for-4 but set the stage with his RBI single to center. He drove in Jemile Weeks, a player in his sophomore season.

All the Oakland players I named except Balfour are 26 years old or younger. Their combined ages is just a touch older than Peter Gammons.

In the cold, raw evening home plate umpire Greg Gibson’s strike zone expanded as it is uncomfortable to exercise such precise judgment in chilly conditions. Jarrod (when did we stop spelling this name “Jared”?) Saltalamacchia was called out on strikes twice and Mike Aviles once; both had issues with Gibson’s calls. Since when does a rookie pitcher get the benefit of the doubt?

Game 23: May 1, 2012
WinOakland Athletics
W: Jarrod Parker (1-0)
H: Brian Fuentes (2)
S: Jordan Noberto (1)
2B: Kila Ka‘aihue (3), Cliff Pennington (6), Josh Reddick (8)
Boston Red Sox
L: Felix Doubront (1-1)
2B: Cody Ross – 2 (5)

May 1, 2012


At the end of the game the Red Sox’s record was 11-11.

They scored 11 runs. Both teams had 11 hits each.

The winning pitchers’s number? Eleven.

It’s John W. Henry’s favorite number as evidenced by the posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka — $51,111,111. During the 2002 bidding for the franchise he was only known as “Investor 11.” In recognition of this proclivity and his donation the founders of Mini Fenway Park gave Henry license plate number 11.

David Ortiz had two home runs, both solo shots. He led off the second with a game-tying shot into the Athletics’ bullpen. He dinged another in the fifth that had Josh Reddick flipping over the bullpen wall and into enemy territory. The circuit clout made the score 7-1, seemingly gilding the lily but for another erratic outing by Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz surrendered five runs in the seventh. Three of the runs were credited on former Red Sox outfielder Reddick, who launched the ball into the visitors’ bullpen with two men on and two out. Junichi Tazawa couldn’t notch an out in the three batters he faced but was bailed out by Vicente Padilla.

Scott Atchison relieved Padilla in the top of eighth and proved a bit more effective than Tazawa. After Atchison loaded the bases he at least struck out Coco Crisp before turning the ball over to Franklin Morales. In this at bat Reddick didn’t exact revenge on his former team but rather grounded into a highlight reel-quality double play turned by Dustin Pedroia. If hitters could earn holds, Boston’s keystone fielder most assuredly earned one.

The game eerily echoed the collapse against the Yankees, but the Athletics don’t have the firepower of other American League East teams. Thankfully.

Game 22: April 30, 2012
Oakland Athletics
L: Tommy Milone (2-3)
2B: Anthony Recker (1)
HR: Josh Reddick (4)
WinBoston Red Sox
W: Clay Buchholz (3-1)
H: Vicente Padilla (3)
H: Franklin Morales (6)
2B: Darnell McDonald (4), Marlon Byrd (1), Dustin Pedroia (6)
HR: David Ortiz – 2 (6), McDonald (2), Mike Aviles (5)

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