Keeping the Faith
The Red Sox completed their three game series against Steinbrenner's Spawn with a win, their fifth in six games against their rivals so far this season and the seventh out of the last nine meetings. To say that Yankeeland is not happy is an understatement, if today's game day thread on the Yankees' MLB message board is any indication. One of the many signs they're coming unhinged is the propensity to refer to Matsuzaka as "Dice-gay," such tolerant folks that they are.
But back to the game, which I confess I didn't have much hope for, what with Julian Tavarez starting for the Sox. My fervent hope was that our bats could match each run Tavarez allowed with one of their own, and they did that plus one. When Hideki Okajima relieved Tavarez in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Red Sox led 5-4 and there was one Yankee on base with nobody out. Okajima got out of the inning unscathed, and pitched a perfect seventh, as naturally he would. This guy has been almost as automatic as Jonathan Papelbon, who incidentally earned in eighth save and preserved his 0.00 ERA. The only fly in the bullpen ointment was Mike Timlin, who allowed a solo home run to Derek Jeter and a Bobby Abreu single before a double play ended the inning.
The offensive hero for the Sox was Alex Cora, who hit 2-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBI. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez also homered for another three runs, and Julio Lugo batted in the other run on a sacrifice fly. Cora, now batting .360, seems intent on making a case for more playing time at second base.
It's the defense that continues to worry me about this team. Sure, we're all spoiled after last year, but with another fielding error today (Lugo on an errant throw to first), the Sox are averaging almost an error per 9 innings. Jason Varitek had his third passed ball, and he doesn't even have to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.
Not that I'm complaining about the overall results, of course. With a day off tomorrow, the Red Sox finish April with a record of 16-8, in first place, four games ahead of Toronto. And the MFY are in last place. Call it a very good month.
Interesting non-Red Sox tidbit of the day: As I prepare to hit "Publish," the only game still underway is in the 14th inning, Dodgers and Padres locked in a 4-4 tie. Nomar Garciaparra is 3-for-7 for Los Angeles.
Dice-gay is only a little better than Papsmear...but the way ballplayers can tell they're really making an impact on the league is when opposing fans start commenting on their looks, or lack thereof. Just ask David Ortiz!
Papsmear? Are you serious? What a bunch of tools.
St. Louis Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock died this morning in a car accident at the age of 29.
Hancock was first drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1996 but didn't sign. Two years later, he began his professional career with the Red Sox, who drafted him in the fifth round and signed him two weeks later. He came up through Boston's farm system and pitched in three games for the big club in 2002 before being traded to the Phillies that off-season for Jeremy Giambi. After playing for Philadelphia and Cincinnati, he signed with the Cardinals before the 2006 season, winning a World Series ring last year. This season, he pitched in eight games before his untimely death.
It was in Hancock's last season with the Red Sox organization that the Cardinals lost another player, pitcher Darryl Kile, to a heart attack. Hancock's death is the first of an active major leaguer since last year's death of the Yankees' Cory Lidle in a plane crash.
The Triumphant Red Sox Fan sends her condolences to the Hancock family, as well as Josh's friends and teammates.
The advantage of going to a minor league baseball game a mere 40 miles from the major league affiliate is that you get updates on the big game. Red Sox Chick and I watched last night's Pawtucket Red Sox game in person, but thanks to the nice scoreboard operator at McCoy Stadium (not to mention ESPN updates on RSC's cell phone), we followed the BoSox too.
First, the minor league game. Lefty Jon Lester, whose post-cancer treatment scans on Thursday came back clean as a whistle, pitched a terrific five innings, throwing one pitch shy of his 85-pitch limit and allowing no runs on only three hits with six strikeouts. He got a no-decision, as the PawSox did all their scoring in the bottom of the eighth and won 5-1.
While all that was going on, the Big Sox were busy continuing to put the smackdown on their bit—er, their opponents, the New York Yankees, who were even more pathetic in the first game of this weekend's series than they were last weekend at Fenway. There were so many highlights for Sox fans that it's hard to pick just a few, but my votes go to MFY starter Andy Pettitte's anemic performance that included five walks in less than five innings, Julio Lugo's 3-for-4 night with a home run off reliever Scott Proctor, and of course, the happy moment when Sox batters knocked the an embarrassed and demoralized Mariano Rivera from the game in the ninth.
Daisuke Matsuzaka had another of what have become his typical games, keeping his team in the game despite a bad inning. Last night's bad inning was the fourth, when he allowed four runs after walking the bases loaded with nobody out. A Bobby Abreu fly out ended the inning after which the Sox trailed 4-2. From then on, though, it was all Boston. After Pettitte left the game with two out in the top of the fifth, the Yankees trotted out five more pitchers, the last being "lefty specialist" Mike Myers to pick up the pieces in Rivera's wake.
Make it six wins in a row against the last place striped ones.
After the Pawtucket game, I drove RSC to Boston. Less than six hours after I left her at taxi stand in front of Faneuil Hall, she was to leave for a trip to the Den of Darkness to watch today's game. Alas, she didn't see anything remotely close to what our boys put up last night.
This afternoon's game was odd in several ways, beginning with the very first itch of the game, which Lugo lined off New York starter Jeff Karstens. Karstens faced one more batter on what turned out to be a broken leg before being lifted for Kei Igawa. That looked like a good omen for the Sox, as Igawa hasn't shone so far this season. Unfortunately, he picked today to snap out of his funk, however temporarily. His six strong innings, combined with yet another we-don't-hit-for-Tim-Wakefield demonstration by Sox hitters, resulted in a 3-1 loss, the first against the Yanks in '07.
Only Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell had more than one hit, but Lowell also had two more errors, thereby exceeding his 2006 error total by 33% and it isn't yet May. I'm not sure what to make of it, except that it appears every ball that goes Lowell's way take some crazy bounce right in front of him. Or maybe I'm just looking for excuses.
Wakefield, meanwhile, didn't help his own cause much, walking six. All Yankees runs were charged to him. Wake was followed by Brendan Donnelly, J.C. Romero, and Kyle Snyder, who prevented any more runs. The only Red Sox scoring was one run in the eighth inning on a Lowell RBI single with two out. Rivera, so inept last night as well as last weekend, got the first save of the season for both himself and h is team, and that's all she wrote. Hey, you can't win them all.
The series concludes tomorrow afternoon when Julian Tavarez, God help us, faces Chien-Ming Wang. A MFY win and a Devil Rays loss will lift New York out of the AL East cellar, but the Red Sox are guaranteed to remain in first place, which they now hold by a comfortable four games pending the completion of tonight's Baltimore vs. Cleveland game.
A friend of mine, a local radio personality who also works for the American Red Cross Blood Services, e-mailed the following message to me this morning:
Paint on the sock?
Break out a DNA kit :)
Let's just say that was the wrong thing to say to me this morning. I fired back this reply:
As you people in the blood business know, blood turns brown when it dries. Paint doesn't. The question is... what color do Gary Thorne's brain cells turn when they die? What a tool he is.
Perhaps I was too hard on my good friend, because he replied thus:
He's not the kind of guy to make something like that up. If he says Mirabelli said it, even he was joking, he probably said it. Doug should just clear the air that we said it in jest or whatever. If anything, it's fun to talk about on the radio and write in the papers, especially with a series at the Stadium this weekend.
Well, now you've got me going!
Many years ago, my grandmother fell and broke her hip. When the ER doctor asked her what happened, she said with a perfectly straight face, "[My daugher-in-law] pushed me." He had the good sense to delve into it to determine whether or not she was being serious.
Thorne may not be the kind of guy to make something up, but he evidently isn't the kind of guy to think before he talks either. The mistake he made was in not considering whether whatever Mirabelli supposedly said was credible, if it actually made any sense. If you watched the game, you noticed (it was hard not to, with the constant camera close-ups) that the stain got bigger as the game went on, and the edges started turning that reddish-brown color of dried blood. Incidentally, the second bloody sock, worn in the World Series with a significantly smaller blood stain, is in the Hall of Fame and looks like this:
I've never seen red paint that ended up looking like that.
If Thorne had actually thought before he mouthed off, he might have concluded that the inconsistency between what he claims Mirabelli said and what everybody saw warranted getting a little more information. Like, maybe, talking to the doctor or the team trainer. Or do what a TV producer mentioned in a column in the NY Daily News:
"Why do you think we have production meetings (before every game)? If a broadcaster is going to present a story as big as this, everyone (involved in the production) should be on the same page," the producer said. "You have to go to the other side and, at the least, you would like to have video of Schilling and the (bloody) sock ready to roll."
Now Curt had laid down the gauntlet:
"If the blood on the sock is fake, I'll donate a million dollars to that person's charity, if not they donate that amount to (Schilling's charities for ALS research)," he wrote. "Any takers?"
Venture a guess how many people will take his bet. I'm guessing none, including Gary Thorne.
Your honor, I rest my case :)
My friend subsequently sent me an Associated Press article about Schilling's offer. I replied:
You just know the Curly Haired Boyfriend is going to get at least two columns out of this.
I think we're good now.
We fans are hoping the Yankee smackdown will continue this weekend at the Den of Darkness. After being swept last weekend at Fenway, the bad guys are a bit less banged up (Hideki Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang are back from the DL) and no doubt looking to exact some measure of revenge.
The weather forecast for tonight in Bronx, New York, calls for a 40% chance of thunder showers throughout the evening. Presuming the game doesn't get rained out, we'll see Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-2, 4.95) facing Andy Pettitte (0-0, 1.88). Matsuzaka's game last Sunday against the Yankees was his worst so far, with six earned runs allowed in seven innings. He retired almost half the batters he got out on fly balls, and if he can induce more ground balls, he should be more successful tonight. Pettitte, on the other hand, pitched tremendously in that last game but got no decision thanks to his bullpen. Before this season, the last time he faced Boston was back in 2003, when the Sox had a 5.04 season ERA against him. It would be nice to see that pitcher tonight.
Pitching probables for the weekend games are Tim Wakefield (2-1, 2.25) vs. Kei Igawa (1-1, 6.32) on Saturday, and Julian Tavarez (0-2, 8.36) vs. Wang (0-1, 5.68) on Sunday. Igawa has yet to face Red Sox batters, but Wang has a 4.91 career ERA against Boston with four home runs allowed in 40 innings pitched. As for the Red Sox hurlers, Wakefield has had mixed results against the Yankees over the years, as against every team, but his ERA in the past three seasons is a bit more than a half run better than against opponents as a whole. Unfortunately, he has given up a staggering number of home runs, 14 in 80 innings from 2004-2006. Over the same period, Tavarez holds a 3.86 ERA with just one homer allowed against New York in 14 innings.
Meanwhile, under the same threat of bad weather looming over this area tonight, I still plan to hit McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to watch Jon Lester make his first AAA rehab start. Lester has done well in rehab appearances at single-A.
...and I have just watched Wily Mo Peña hit a grand slam against the Orioles. It was looking like a tough luck loss for Josh Beckett was in the works. Now the Sox have the lead and Beckett is in line for the win. Right now, I almost don't care that Wily Mo has almost as many strikeouts this season as he has at-bats. OK, that's a lie. I do care. But that was a sweet homer.
How about the brouhaha over Orioles announcer Gary Thorne's comment during last night's game claiming Curt Schilling's bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS was a hoax? Thorne admitted today that he got it wrong. No, ya think? I've heard all kinds of theories from people claiming that it was a fake, accomplished by paint/ketchup/dye (the conspiracy theorists can't agree on what it was, but they're convinced it wasn't blood). The thing is, you could see that as the game progressed, parts of the stain began to turn a more brownish color, which happens as blood dries but not as paint/ketchup/dye dries. But better even than the explanation of how you can tell it's really blood are the comments from Schilling himself as well as a few other people with first-hane knowledge of what happened:
"Needless to say it was blood, my blood, and it was coming from the sutures in my ankle," Schilling wrote in a March 17 Q&A [on his blog]. "You're either stupid or bitter if you think otherwise."
"Obviously, we put sutures in Curt Schilling's ankle right before he went out to pitch in a professional-level baseball game," [former Red Sox team physicain Dr. Bill] Morgan said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "Sutures will pull with movement, and we completely expected a certain amount of blood to ooze from the wound."
Baltimore's Kevin Millar, who played for the 2004 Red Sox, said, "It was 100 percent blood, no doubt about it. Why are we even talking about this?"
"I was actually in the training room when he was getting the sutures, so I don't see no reason why he would have to paint blood on his sock," [former Red Sox shortstop Orlando] Cabrera said Thursday.
Red Sox lefty prospect Jon Lester continues his rehab from lymphoma with a start at AAA Pawtucket tomorrow night against the Buffalo Bisons. Red Sox Chick and I will be there to see it, weather permitting. The word is that Lester is supposed to make two starts for the PawSox and then be evaluated by the team. If all goes well, he could be replacing Julian Tavarez in the rotation by mid-May. I for one will breathe a huge sigh of relief when that happens.
Forget the Rawlings Gold Glove award. The Red Sox last night looked like they were vying for something entirely different.
In the span of a mere nine innings, the Sox managed to increase by 80% the number of players who have errors this season. Eric Hinske, Wily Mo Peña, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Varitek all committed their first errors of 2007, leading to a total of four unearned runs, all allowed by reliever Kyle Snyder. It was not the team's finest moment, especially considering that their error total in the game exceeded their run total by one. It's hard to win games that way.
This is to take nothing away from Toronto starter and winner Roy Halladay, who got a more predictable result than he did in his last game against Julian Tavarez and the Sox, a 5-3 Red Sox win in which the Jays bullpen wasted Halladay's good effort. Such was not the case last night, but it almost didn't matter, since Sox fielders did almost as much to allow runs to score as their pitchers did.
You know, it's a funny thing, but I can't help but think about those first two games of the 2004 World Series in which the Sox won despite that many errors. That wasn't a defensively great team, but the '06 squad was. Boston had no more than two errors in any given game all last season. But in just over three weeks this year, they've already had one four-error game and one three-error game.
And it makes me wonder how much the dismantling of last year's Gold Glove caliber infield affects the entire team. Last season, Alex Gonzalez and Mark Loretta made a terrific double play combo and led a defense that was the best in all the major leagues. This year, the Sox are the 6th worst in baseball. Much of that has to do with the shocking error rate so far of Mike Lowell, who last year was as sure a thing as there was in the game and, over his career, has the best fielding percentage among third basemen. But eight more of his teammates have added their own gaffes, and we aren't yet out of April. How much of that has to do with the lack of a solid infield that operates as a unit? Success begets success, but without any clear defensive leaders yet emerged, that aspect of the team's collective personality is less than stellar.
There are things about this team that I know will improve. Manny Ramirez' batting average and power numbers will go up, just like they did last year after a slow first month. David Ortiz will hit a few of the game-winning homers to which we've become so accustomed. The team's collective batting average will rise a bit. And no, we won't have many four-error games.
But I don't know when or if this team will "click" the way they did in 2003 and 2004. It's only one game and I'm sure I'll feel better once they start winning again, but this morning, let me wallow in my pessimism.
Fitzy gives a great recap.
Check out this opening day video from Fenway:
sorry link here:
Opening Day at Fenway
I'm fresh from the Marketing Department of Red Sox Baseball Excuses. I have a list here for your consideration:
~ Baby, it's cold outside.
~ Sorry, I've not been introduced to the new guy yet.
~ Hey, it's only 19 games!
~ If only that pinhead would play me more.
~ I'm using a Manny skullcap and it's choking off the blood flow to my brain.
~ It's not my fault I can't run.
~ "I threw at a rat. I swear to God I saw a rat on the field." *Manny Ramirez
yes, it was me again... Tru
Tru, you kill me :)
As I geared up to attend last night's Red Sox vs. Blue Jays game, I commented to some friends that I hoped the Sox hadn't used up all their winningness over the last five games. I had no idea if "winningness" was an actual word, nor do I now, nor do I care. Not only did I want Tim Wakefield to get another win to go with his league-leading ERA, but I obviously wanted to enjoy a win in person. Alas, it was not to be.
There were, nonetheless, several good things about the evening sprinkled amongst the bad. My day-after stream of consciousness recollections follow, in no particular order.
Labels: game recaps
Any given ESPN baseball broadcast has two story lines: the game, and the announcers. Seasoned viewers know that diarrhea of the mouth is pretty much a required attribute for the network's on-air personalities. So rather than writing about the game itself (Red Sox defeat Yankees 7-6, sweep series, and hit four consecutive home runs), I thought it would be fun to recall some of the statements made during the game by Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.
Four years ago, I was asked to join a team my employer was entering into a Scrabble tournament. It was a fundraiser for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester, and even though I wasn't anyone's idea of a Scrabble whiz, I thought it would be fun. It was team scrabble, not individual traditional scrabble, so instead of taking turns placing tiles, each team was permitted to populate its own board however it wished, as long as at the end of the round, everything connected back to the original word. Along with my teammates Roger, Jack, and Janice, we came up with a strategy which won us the championship in that first competition. Roger and I, along with a different teammates from one tournament to the next, would successfully defend our team's title in of the next three years.
How this pertains to yesterday's Red Sox game is that this year's tournament was scheduled for 5:00 yesterday afternoon. That meant that I wouldn't be able to watch or listen to the game after about 4:45, obligated as I was to once again defend our Scrabble crown. Which we did, thank you very much. But the game was on the minds of others there besides just me.
I turned off my car radio after the second inning ended, so when I went inside, I was able to report to the early arrivals that we were locked up 4-4 with the MFY after having matched them run for run in each of the first two innings. It sounded like a sloppy game so far, with Josh Beckett not having his best stuff. Luckily for the Sox, Jeff Karstens kept pace and let Boston tie the game each time he came out. At the rate they were going, it was shaping up to be a game with double-digit scoring on each side. It sounded sloppy and probably looked even worse to those watching from Fenway or at home.
Inside, we had some refreshments, meeted and greeted some of the other players and our judge (hi Ed!), and completed round one. While Ed was scoring our board, teammate Steve and I ran out to my car to check the status of the baseball game. After six innings, 7-4, in favor of the right side. Beckett had settled down and, well, Karstens hadn't. Big Papi had homered. Back at the Scrabble tables, people were pleased.
The update after round two (courtesy of Matt, a season ticket holder who donated two pairs of tickets for auction) had the score at 7-5. By the time we completed round three, the event emcee announced that as the final score. The crowd of assembled Scrabble-holics and other assorted brainiacs went wild. The appeal of the Red Sox is indeed universal in more ways than one.
It was on the drive home that I found out how Beckett settled in to a nice routine and was eventually relieved by Hideki Okajima, who apparently can pitch in any situation with success, followed by Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon. The MFY bullpen was pretty good too, which is why it's always a good idea to get to the starter as much as possible. I sure wouldn't have figured their pen would stop the bleeding. But then there were a few other aspects of the game I wouldn't have figured on.
Take, for example, Mike Lowell's fifth error of the season, which puts him just one shy of matching his error total for all of 2006. Or Joe Torre's decision to let Karstens, who was clearly struggling in the fourth, stay in the game after allowing a single, sac bunt, and walk before getting to David Ortiz. Or another multi-hit game for both Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp. Or the fact that Manny Ramirez's batting average is still under .200 three-quarters of the way through April. Baseball is indeed a most unpredictable game.
Which is why, despite all the reasons to be optimistic about tonight's game (Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Chase Wright, 8:00pm, ESPN), I am taking nothing for granted. Boston has to give Matsuzaka better run support than he has received in his last two starts (zero and one run, respectively). They have to get to Wright early and often to get to the taxed MFY bullpen. They have to cut the crap with the errors and passed balls. And now is as good a time as any for Manny to wake up and figure out that it isn't spring training any more and he's making a boatload of money, which the team presumably would like him to start earning.
All the Yankees fans who are whining about how the only reason they're losing to us is because of all their injuries need to SHUT UP. I didn't hear them cutting any slack to the Sox last August when we were swept in five games at home at a time when we were hobbled by injuries. Our starting pitchers in that series included Jason Johnson and rookie Jon Lester (who didn't yet know he had cancer), with guys like Javy Lopez and Eric Hinske playing regularly and a cast of thousands covering right field. Besides, a month later, still racked with injuries, we took three out of four from the MFY in their house. So go away.
Okay, re: Manny...
This morning, while getting a front row seat for my future trip to hell because I don't go to Mass...
I looked at Manny's numbers from 06, thru April 21. Not much different, frankly.
Most stats are within mere 1's or 2's of each year. There are some exceptions like OPS and OBP, which in 06 were better. Yet, he struck out 20 times thru 4/21 last year and only 9 times this. So, take your pick of what you think is the issue, other than we need hotter weather and a few more games for Manny to begin to crank it up.
That's DOWN IN FRONT TO YOU SISTER
Beazer? Is that you?
No, it's not Beazer. It's me, Tru...
(Preliminary note to self: The next time you spend 90 minutes writing a post-game blog entry, save the draft before the laptop battery dies at minute 89.)
As I was saying before my computer so rudely shut down on me at quarter past midnight this morning, I've decided I'm not crazy about the Red Sox' alternate green jerseys. It's fine that they wear them once a year, for the spring training St. Patrick's Day game, but once a year is enough. Perhaps they would be alright if they were simply green and white, like the uniforms of the Celtics whom they honored last night. But between the red undershirts and the red socks and the red logo patch on the shoulder and the red trim around the letters and numbers, they end up looking more like the Italian national team or an early Christmas present.
But I digress. What we're really here to talk about is the Sox' dramatic comeback victory against the Sons of Satan, also known as the M***** F****** Yankees (hereinafater referred to as the MFY). On Thursday evening, the Triumphant Mama asked me about this weekend's pitching matchups. I told her we had Schilling, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, and the MFY had Moe, Larry, and Curly. As it turned out, last night they had Andy Pettitte, who pitched a fine game while he was in. But fortunately for the Red Sox, they also had Moe, or rather Mo, as in Mariano Rivera, the erstwhile Sure Thing whom the Sox figured out around, oh, sometime in 2004.
The story is very much worth telling from the beginning, when Curt Schilling began the game with two innings that were statistically if not actually perfect. New York hitters were driving the ball hard, and if it weren't for what seemed like about ten fly outs to Coco Crisp in deep center field, it would have gotten ugly very early. As it was, the Yankees ended up getting to Schilling for five runs, four of which came on two homers by the red-hot Alex Rodriguez.
It looked like that would be the story when the Sox came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning down 6-2, the only two runs coming from a Jason Varitek two-run homer (hallelujah!) off Pettitte in the fourth inning. MFY lefty specialist and former Red Sox reliever Mike Myers, whom Brian Cashman picked up pretty much to neutralize David Ortiz, gave up a leadoff double to—you guessed it—David Ortiz. I just love it when a plan comes together. Myers left for Luis Vizcaino, who walked Manny Ramirez and gave up an RBI single to Mike Lowell. Enter Mr. Rivera who, God bless his heart, allowed a Varitek single, Crisp triple, and Alex Cora single. For those keeping score at home, that's a blown save for Moe—er, I mean, Mo—and a score of 7-6, Defenders of Truth and Goodness.
Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy advised the listening audience that Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable to pitch because of two consecutive appearances, and Terry Francona chose lefty Hideki Okajima to close it out. Unlike Myers, Okajima is an all-purpose pitcher, not merely a lefty specialist. He allowed only a walk to Bobby Abreu, followed by a hard hit liner stabbed by Cora, before ending the game with a Kevin Thompson swinging strikeout. Okaji was pretty proud of himself, grinning ear to ear while his teammates lavished him with bows, the traditional Japanese sign of respect, which were somewhat sloppily delivered but heartfelt, no doubt. I was pleased with his performance myself, suggesting as it did that I may be correct in my prediction of Okaji as this year's go-to pitcher in tough spots, set-up relief, or as last night, closer duties when Papelbon can't pitch.
Score one for the home town team. The series continues this afternoon at 3:55 on Fox. Try not to wear out the MUTE button on your remote.
Here are some stats of interest from yesterday:
This afternoon, Josh Beckett faces Larry, also known as Jeff Karstens, who just came off the DL. Tomorrow pits Daisuke Matsuzaka against the immortal Chase Wright, whose resume includes five major league innings and 14 innings in AA. Poor kid, thrown into the lion's den. I wish him a good game, but not good enough.
Okajima's birthday is December 25th. I think the red and green mojo was working for him!
Great pickup, Beazer! I forgot about that. But I still don't like them ;)
Manny got the word today :-)
Neither academic achievement nor exceptional intellectual aptitude is a prerequisite for a successful professional baseball career. The talents major leaguers have in common are physical, not mental. Some of them could be forgiven for not having, say, the greatest mastery of mathematics. So I'll put this particular mathematical principle into terms they can understand.
Uh, guys? SCORE RUNS!
After outscoring the Los Angeles Angels 25-3 in three games last weekend, the Red Sox have scored one run in the 13 innings that have transpired since. Last night, Daisuke Matsuzaka was victimized more by Sox batters' collective inability to bring baserunners home than by his lone "bad" inning (2 runs allowed). Tonight, Tim Wakefield has allowed no runs and one hit in the first four innings against Toronto, but his teammates have done even less than the Blue Jays batters have. Both these pitchers have losses against them in which they made quality starts but got no support by their offense.
News flash: As I type this, Mike Lowell has just hit a solo homer in the top of the fifth inning, the first Red Sox hit against Toronto's Tomo Ohka.
But one run doesn't change what I'm talking about. We got one run last night, too, and lost the game. It's possible that Wakefield, and possibly a reliever or two, will complete a shutout, but the point is they shouldn't have to. They deserve a little help. And unfortunately, those 25 runs from last weekend can't be placed on account to use at a later date.
It's very simple, and you don't have to be a math genius to get it: More runs are better than fewer runs. We aren't talking about Euclidian geometry or trigonometric functions or differential calculus. You only need to remember twp equations:
Please, on behalf of Wakefield and Matsuzaka and the rest of the starting rotation, take a few minutes to study that principle. Have your teammates quiz you on it. Write it on the palm of your batting glove if you have to. Do whatever you need to do to score more runs. I'm begging you.
It was my first regular season game of 2007, and the first game I have scored since last fall, having left my scorebook at home for spring training. Not feeling my very best due to a cold, I wasn't sure how the afternoon would go. But with the help of our Red Sox, everything went just as I would have wished it.
It started with another outstanding performanced by a Sox starter, this time Curt Schilling, who pitched eight innings of four-hit shutout ball. Schilling struck out four and walked only one while pitching very economically (103 total pitches, for strikes) and facing no more than four batters in any inning. Brendan Donnelly pitched a one-hit ninth inning (I would have given Lugo an error, but the official scorer disagreed) to preserve the shutout.
The hitters did their part as well, taking advantage of every possible opportunity to get on base and score (eight hits, nine walks, a three-run homer, a two-run error and a run on a wild pitch). David Ortiz had the home run and an RBI single, batting in four of his team's eight runs. Eric Hinske joined Ortiz with two hits, and Manny Ramirez added an RBI single. The other hits came from Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Julio Lugo, who added a stolen base.
There was even some flashy defense. In the third inning, Mike Lowell stabbed a Jose Molina line drive that was hit so hard, the television camera operator didn't have time to zoom in on the play (thank you, in-the-park replay). Two and a half innings later, the Angels' Maicer Izturis made a similarly spectacular play on Varitek liner.
Tomorrow's game, which may be marred by rain, pits Josh Beckett against Ervin Santana.
The game provided Red Sox Chick and I with an "I Am Woman" moment. In the first couple innings, she and I were engaging in some girly talk about players, prompting the three young guys next to us to roll their eyes and, in one case, mutter something about having to listen to that all game long. Shortly thereafter, they noticed my scorebook. Let's just say that there was no more mockery of the ladies for the remainder of the game.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the best thing about being a female baseball fan is being able to appreciate the game on multiple levels.
As I mentioned yesterday, I was able to enjoy this game thanks to Allan, who was originally supposed to fly trans-Atlantic and attend with me. I had fun throughout the game text-messaging him while he watched (via computer, I think).
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield had another outstanding game, but this time, the Red Sox actually won. Thanks to 14 hits, the Sox beat the
California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels (one of the WEEI Flash guys calls them the Orange County Angels) 10-1 in a game that featured not only Wake's stellar performance but a solo homer by catcher Doug Mirabelli that got the offense going. A six-run eighth by the Sox sealed the deal.
You realize what this means, don't you? Tomorrow afternoon, when I'm sitting in a chilly Fenway Park, wrapped in a blanket and sipping hot chocolate to soothe my viral throat and open my congested nasal passages, we'll get about three hits.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what would have happened if the Sox hadn't blown the game open in the bottom of the eighth inning? Jonathan Papelbon would have pitched the ninth for another elongated save appearance. I would rather have seen Terry Francona bring in Mike Timlin for the eighth instead of starting with Wakefield, followed by Brendan Donnelly, followed by Papelbon. It's only mid-April and we're already seeing Papelbon before the ninth as more the rule than the exception.
I e-mailed Jere this afternoon and found out he's up from New York and will be at the game tomorrow. I hope to run into him. He's a good guy I've met a couple times at the ballpark while I was with Cyn. Red Sox Nation truly is flung to the four corners of the earth. I was actually supposed to attend tomorrow with my English pen pal, Allan, who works for an airline and was going to jet in for a long weekend. Alas, unplanned car expenses kept him at home. I promised some pictures and will also text message him from the park.
Cyn and I are also supposed to attend the Patriots' Day game on Monday morning. Yankee Dad, an amateur meteorology buff, insists that game will not happen, given the near certainty of rain and lots of it. I'm still hoping for a shift in the weather pattern, but in the event the game doesn't happen, I'll probably stand at Kenmore Square in a rain poncho and watch the marathoners go by. I have seven friends (that I know of) running, at least one for the first time (good luck Gary!) Either way, the day will be a far cry from the last time I went to the Patriots' Day game, when it was 85 degrees and sunny. Great for us baseball fans, lousy for the runners. Watch the temperature be 50 degrees lower this year.
Yesterday afternoon, I wrote:
The only thing that unsettles me about blowouts like yesterday's is the tendency for the other team to come back stronger the next time out. They're defending their honor, after all, and no one wants the taste of humiliation to linger any longer than absolutely necessary. Tonight will be the Mariners' chance to cleanse their collective palate, so to speak.
Um, yeah. I'd say a 21-year-old pitcher one-hitting the Red Sox got the bad taste out of their mouths. I don't have the numbers to back it up and I don't have time to go digging, but it seems this happens every time the Sox have a terribly lopsided win. On the other hand, we've also done the same thing to teams who have beaten up on us, most notably after game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. I guess it's human nature to fight back.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was good, but not good enough to win. He allowed three runs, all earned, on eight hits and a walk while striking out only four. He obviously wasn't at his sharpest, but he was good enough to win most nights. And that's what distinguishes a team sport from an individual sport: neither side of the equation, offense or defense, can win the game without some help from the other.
At least one aspect of the matchup came out in Matsuzaka's favor. He held Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to another 0-for game (ground out, fly out, swinging strikeout, fielder's choice, plus a fly out when Joel Piñeiro was pitching).
Several times during the evening, Red Sox Chick and I text messaged each other about how the game was unfolding. She was at the game while I was wrapped in a blanket laid out in the recliner in my parents' family room.
Best remark of the evening, from RSC: "I'm not freezing my ass off to watch another episode of the 'Run Support? What's That?' show." I pointed out to her that seeing a no-hitter would be pretty cool even if we're on the wrong end of it, as long as the Yankees aren't on the other end. She was coming around to my point of view when J.D. Drew got the Sox' lone hit of the game. So instead of freezing while watching something historic, she froze while watching a plain old pathetic loss.
NESN color announcer Jerry Remy spent the first few innings gearing up to greet Japan's viewers, who were apparently glued to their television sets at home or work (game time was just after 8:00 a.m. local time). What he said, or what he was trying to say, was, "People in Japan, good morning." Or something. All I know is that it was quite a bit longer than the standard "Buenas noches, amigos" greeting he gives to Spanish-speaking viewers after Don Orsillo tells them how they can hear the game in Spanish. Evidently he got it right, as I've heard of no international diplomacy crises this morning.
Two starts, 12 innings, 178 pitches. Four hits, two runs, 13 strikeouts. And just to prove he isn't perfect, four walks. Those are the numbers after in the first week of Josh Beckett's season. Gives you a warm and tingly feeling, doesn't it?
Sure, he started out strong last season too. In his first two games of '06, he pitched 14 innings and gave up a total of two earned runs. But he allowed more hits (ten) and walks (five) while striking out only seven. His third start was good too, before he finished April with two losing efforts in which he gave up 13 earned runs in only 11 innings. Ouch.
Still, the Josh Beckett we have seen so far this year seems to have more confidence. More control (look at those strikeout numbers again). He has a year in the hard-hitting American League under his belt, so he is better prepared for what he faces in each game, not just the games against lesser lineups.
There are reasons to hope the Beckett of 2007 will be the guy we all thought we were getting two off-seasons ago. If he can get through April without a 2006-like implosion, we can breathe easier.
Jeff Weaver (whom some of my Sistahs are calling Schilling's bad brother because of this picture) just didn't have it yesterday. Then again, neither did his bullpen, excepting a scoreless inning from each of Julio Mateo and J.J. Putz. It didn't help that Ichiro Suzuki, Richie Sexson, Jose Guillen, and Jose Lopez combined for nine strikeouts, and it's hard to give your pitchers any run support if every time you step away from home plate, it's to go back to the dugout.
The Sox, meanwhile, pounded out 14 runs on as many hits plus seven walks. Every Boston starter but Dustin Pedroia had at least one hit, but Pedroia did draw a walk. Jason Varitek had three RBI on three hits (Hallelujah!). By the bottom of the fifth inning (11-1, good guys) Francona was making substitutions because, hey, why not?
The only thing that unsettles me about blowouts like yesterday's is the tendency for the other team to come back stronger the next time out. They're defending their honor, after all, and no one wants the taste of humiliation to linger any longer than absolutely necessary. Tonight will be the Mariners' chance to cleanse their collective palate, so to speak. Standing in the way of their quest: Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Labels: game recaps
Major League Baseball, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim today announced the three-game series between the Indians and Angels, scheduled to be played at Jacobs Field April 10-12, has been moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wis., due to poor playing conditions, player safety concerns, as well as fan comfort issues.
Obviously, there was a problem. You can't be playing baseball in a stadium that looks like this:
The Seattle Mariners were supposed to play the Cleveland Indians over this past weekend. Friday's game was postponed due to snow. They scheduled a make up after the regularly scheduled Friday game; both were snowed out. Then they tried to play both games on Sunday, with the makeup to be played today; all three have been similarly postponed.
If you don't understand why all that was pitifully unnecessary, consider that:
What's done is done, though, and it was obvious that something had to be done to avoid additional snow-outs for this week's series against the Los Angeles Angels. Baseball looked at all the possibilities, which were:
It would seem as if Cincinnati would be the best bet. Sure, rain isn't pleasant, but we're not talking about Noah's flood. The games would get played. And some Tribe fans might actually be able to go. So that's the decision, right?
Wrong. Baseball decided on Milwaukee. As in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 444 miles from Cleveland. Home of the Brewers, which are owned by the daughter of commission Bud Selig.
Now, I realize the Brewers play indoors. But really, how many Cleveland fans are going to be able to drive that far for a game, and how many would gladly sit in a bit of rain if it were 200 miles closer? Here's the comparison.
I mean really, which trip would you rather make? Me too. I just hope the $$$ Ms. Selig-Prieb rakes in from this is worth the trouble to the fans.
Labels: major leagues
In the interest of full disclosure, I begin this post with the admission that I went to bed at 8:30 last night, so it is through that filter that I say:
Thank God that Curt Schilling hasn't lost it.
It was a little after 8:30 that I turned off the radio and, exhausted from holiday revelry, hit they hay early. Frank Catalanotto had hit his first inning homer to tie the score, and I wondered if it was going to be one of those games. Not so. From everything I heard and read this morning, he had terrific control after the shaky first. One wonders if at his age, Schilling is more susceptible to losing his rhythm and not getting it back until five days later, but yesterday gives me hope that will turn out not to be the case.
One full week into the season, we can make some cursory observations about each player we've seen to date.
Next up as the Sox come to Fenway: the Seattle Mariners. Pitching probables are Beckett for the opener tomorrow, Matsuzaka Wednesday evening, and Wakefield on Thursday afternoon.
Having been at church last evening (four baptisms + nine confirmations + lots of readings + lots of music = 3 hours), I didn't see the debacle. And this being Easter Sunday, there will be no blogging until tomorrow morning. The Triumphant Red Sox Fan wishes a happy Easter to those of you who celebrate.
As a famous whack job from some other team once said, it's like déjà vu all over again. I could swear that this is exactly how the Red Sox started overusing Jonathan Papelbon last year, a move that led to late-season shoulder problems for the rookie.
While making it perfectly clear that he is going to be mindful about Jonathan Papelbon's usage this season, Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated that the eighth inning will not be off limits for his closer.
In fact, Francona said that there could be occasions when he'd rather have Papelbon rescue the team from a sticky jam in the eighth, even if it means going to one of his other relievers for last call.
"Obviously we're not going to over-use him," said Francona. "And we've talked about managing him better. But for me, still, that last out in the eighth is maybe the most important out of the game. We don't want to sit around until the ninth and have a tie game."
What that sounds like to me is that you think you're going to have two closers, one to get you out of pre-ninth inning jams and another to actually, you know, close the games. But isn't the former the job of your set-up reliever? And if you use your closer in the set-up role, what's the point of having a closer?
the idea isnt to have your best reliever just get saves, thats a waste of his abilities, you want your relief ace to pitch in the most important situations on the game...if bases are loaded in the 8th you find someone else to pitch the 9th
Your comment, anonymous, sounds as if you didn't read the post. The problem with the "idea" you suggest is so obvious is that if you don't have a reliable set-up reliever who can, say, pitch the eighth inning without getting into a bases-loaded jam, then you have no one who can reliably close the game in the ninth. Thus Papelbon will be used in the ninth inning as well. Again. And near the end of the season, when he is hurt, we'll have no one to close. Again.
This is how a pitcher gives up one earned run on three hits and two walks in seven innings—and loses.
First inning. Watch your team's offense fail to reach base in the top of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, allow a one-out walk and two singles. 1-0, bad guys.
Second inning. Watch your #5 hitter get a one-out single, hoping it will lead to much scoring. Watch the next two batters leave him there. In the bottom of the inning, watch your second baseman commit a fielding error to put a runner on base who promptly steals second and then scores on a single. Get a ground out, a fly out, and a strikeout after the damange is done. 2-0, the wrong team.
Third inning. Watch your batters fly out, pop out, and line out. In the bottom of the inning, strike out three opposing hitters and allow one harmless walk.
Fourth inning. Watch your cleanup batter take a walk and then get stranded. Pitch a perfect bottom of the inning. Wonder when your teammates will start giving you some run support.
Fifth inning. Watch your light-hitting center fielder get a one-out double and think, Finally, some action! Be promptly disappointed as he ends the inning still on second base. Induce the other team to hit into three consecutive groundouts, hoping the rest of your team will notice that you've kept the door wide open for them to step up and take the lead.
Sixth inning. Watch the Greek God of Walks walk. Watch the next two batters fail to move him over. Wonder if they're doing this because they hate you. Pitch another perfect half inning even though you're beginning to think it won't do any good.
Seventh inning. Another walk. So what? Know he's never going to leave first base. Sit in the dugout while your relief walks one batter before getting out of the inning.
Eighth inning. Watch your so-called offense get another useless walk and fail to score. See the second reliever hit an opposing batter and think about how much you'd like to plunk some of your own guys right now.
Ninth inning. A hit! One of your guys finally got another hit! Is there hope after all? Strikeout, ground out, ground out. Plan to spend the rest of the day drinking.
Labels: game recaps
When Roger Clemens threw his second career 20-strikeout game, he was still the only pitcher ever to have struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. The first time was in 1986 against a Seattle Mariners team that would go on to lose 95 games and finish last in the American League's West Division when there were only two divisions and seven teams in each. The second time, ten years later, it was against an even more pathetic Detroit Tigers team that lost a whopping 109 games and finished 21 games behind the next-to-last place Blue Jays. Whining Yankees fans (as well as a few disgruntled Sox fans) swarmed to New England sports talk radio to point out that Clemens' accomplishment wasn't all that because, after all, look at the lousy teams he did it against.
Never mind that the number of other pitchers who had done the same thing against any major league team at that time numbered zero. Kerry Wood did it two years later, and Randy Johnson struck out 20 in nine innings in a 2001 game that went into innings. But that still makes a grand total of only three pitchers who have ever struck out 20 batters in nine innings. (Hat tip to Baseball Almanac.) Perfect games and unassisted triple plays are more common.
A similar tenor and tone accompanied a few callers to WEEI yesterday when discussing Daisuke Matsuzaka's ten strikeouts in seven innings against the Kansas City Royals yesterday. Yeah, it's a milestone, but it was only the Royals, so is it that big a deal? For their edification, I present the following list of pitchers who struck out ten Royals or more in seven innings or fewer last season, when K.C. lost a whopping 100 games. (Props to RetroSheet for being nice enough to have all those box scores online.)
As you can see, it's a short list, and the only name on it is the 2006 American League Cy Young Award wininer. But surely others have come close, wouldn't you think? Let's be a little less demanding and see how many pitchers last year struck out ten or more Kansas City batters in more than seven innings.
That list isn't much longer than the first. So the next time someone is inclined to suggest that Daisuke's achievement yesterday was no big deal, keep in mind that the list of pitchers who have actually duplicated his accomplishment suggests otherwise.
The World Baseball Classic and spring training are one thing. The real season, when the games actually count for something, is quite another. In his first such game in the major leagues, Daisuke Matsuzaka made a good case that all those millions the Red Sox paid to get him was money well spent.
Matsuzaka comes out of this afternoon's game against Kansas City with his reputation as a premier pitcher intact. He threw 108 pitches, 74 for strikes, in seven innings; allowed six scattered hits and one walk; and struck out ten. Only a sixth inning homer by denter fielder David DeJesus spoiled the party. Matsuzaka's ERA is an itty-bitty 1.29.
Ironically, that's exactly what losing pitcher Zack Greinke's ERA is. Greinke was a victim of his own wild pitch, which allowed David Ortiz to score the second—and winning—Sox run. In relief, Joel Peralta allowed another two runs, one unearned.
J.C. Romero pitched a one hit eighth to set the table for Jonathan Papelbon, who closed the game with two strikeouts and a ground out. Seven innings by the starter, one inning by the set-up man, and one by the closer—that's the way it's supposed to go.
Dustin Pedroia continues his good batting with two more hits to maintain a .500 average. Julio Lugo, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell also had two hits each. Jason Varitek was the only hitless Boston batter. Early in the game, he attempted unsuccessfully to bunt for a hit, indicating that the Captain is searching for some way to jump start himself offensively.
Reports were that of the 200 credentialled media at Kauffman Stadium this afternoon, 124 were from Japan. No doubt Matsuzaka's countrymen, many of whom were likely watching, are pleased with his performance. We are too.
Thank you so much for putting up a link for me on your terrific site, I really appreciate it....
So I was watching last night's ball game in my parents' family room, sitting in the rocker/recliner, the one Mom kept asking me to stop rocking in because it was making her dizzy. Dad sat on the couch briefly to watch some of the game with us, a rarity because he's a Yankees fan and ordinarily avoids Red Sox games like they're the plague. After he spent a few minutes mocking my angst over game 1 ("What? You mean your team isn't going to win 162 games this year? Oh no!") I pointed out to him that Mike Lowell was up to bat with two runners on.
"He got a double on Monday," I noted, "continuing the trend from last season of being 'Mr. Double.'"
Dad wasn't impressed. "One game is a trend?"
"That isn't what I said. I said he was continuing the trend from last year. In fact," I challenged, "watch him get a double right here, driving in two runs."
Dad chuckled. You can't blame him—he doesn't realize that I sometimes know things others don't.
A couple pitches later, what do you suppose happened? I'll give you two hints: 1) it involved Mike Lowell, and 2) it involved a double. I arose from my chair, raised my arms triumphantly, and declared, "Mr. Double."
I love having the last word.
My prediction of yesterday was correct. The Sox won, even though I forgot to wear my red underwear, either the panties or the bra. I seldom wear them together because they don't quite match; the bra has a slightly more pinkish tint. But I digress. Intimate apparel aside, I feel I was successful in my small effort to propel our team toward victory.
What I never would have predicted was that the Sox would commit three errors, never mind that all three would be by Mike Lowell. In addition to being Mr. Double, Lowell is also a stellar defensive third baseman, sort of the anti-ARod. I'm sure he felt damned lucky that none of those errors resulted in runs, since Josh Beckett did a fine job pitching out of those jams. So it goes in baseball: sometimes the defense bails out the pitcher, sometimes it's the other way around.
Finally, one observation: why were there only 22,348 people at Kauffman Stadium last night? I understand it was cold, more than 40°F colder at game time that it was for the opener. But that park holds more than 40,000 people, and their team was undefeated. Where's the love?
In the embryonic phase of the 2007 baseball season, the two leagues' batting average leaders are (drum roll please):
Of course it won't last. But even so, there's something distressing about seeing this on ESPN.com's stats index page.
At least they had the sensitivity to show Trot in a Boston cap.
Warning: Selective use of statistics follows. The Triumphant Red Sox Fan has decided to be more positive and optimistic tonight.
I admit to being crankier than usual after yesterday's less than stellar game against the Kansas City Royals. Having had more than 24 hours to ponder my sin, I feel obliged to atone with a list of the top ten reasons why game 2 of this series/season will be better than game 1:
I know it's only one game. Stop telling me that and let me rant.
I had such high hopes for a great beginning to the new season. The afternoon started with Alex Rodriguez making a fielding error in the first inning of the Yankees vs. Devil Rays game, followed by a Derek Jeter throwing error in the second inning, which almost made up for the fact that the MFY won anyway. Then we had Curt Schilling—he who bled for Red Sox Nation—facing the overpaid Gil Meche in our own season opener in Kansas City.
Two glasses of merlot and seven innings later, I didn't feel so well.
It wasn't all bad. Julio Lugo got a hit. Kevin Youkilis got two hits. David Ortiz had an RBI double. J.D. Drew had a hit and a walk. Mike Lowell made a bid for another season as Mr. Double. Even Dustin Pedroia, batting ninth, went 2-for-3. The Sox committed no errors, wild pitches, or passed balls. They allowed no stolen bases. Our pithing struck out eight and walked only two. Brendan Donnelly struck out the only batter he faced. Javier Lopez and J.C. Romero were also solid in relief.
On the other hand, for all their hits—and eight hits isn't nothing—Boston scored only one paltry run. Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp were hitless, as was Jason Varitek who is clearly pressing at the plate. Boston batters struck out ten times. Schilling got knocked around, walking in the first Royals run of the game on the way to allowing a total of five runs in four innings. Hideki Okajima served up a home run ball on his very first official major league pitch. Joel Piñeiro allowed a hit on two runs in a lousy third of an inning.
It wouldn't be so bad if we could "go get 'em" tomorrow. Alas, tomorrow is a day off, placed in the schedule in case of a postponement of the opener. That means we have to wait until Wednesday to begin what I hope will quickly become this team's winning ways.
It's only one game, I know. But once again I am reminded of the words of Jimy Williams, who pointed out that Boston doesn't have a 162-game season, we have 162 one-game seasons.
The baseball season is here. It promises to be a bumpy ride. Have the barf bags ready.
//But once again I am reminded of the words of Jimy Williams, who pointed out that Boston doesn't have a 162-game season, we have 162 one-game seasons.//
I don't remember Jimy saying that, but he's right on the mark isn't he?
Whatever was in the water up in Bangor, Maine, last Friday seems to have made its way to Worcester, Massachusetts this weekend. Maybe it's all an April Fool's joke. Or maybe I'm not giving the 2007 Red Sox much credit. After all, if the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's sports curmudgeon, Bill Ballou, is picking the Sox to win it all this year, it can't be too early to jump on the bandwagon.
It will not be another 86-year wait for Red Sox fans to experience the ultimate thrill of a World Series title.
Let’s see — 2007 minus 2004 equals 3. That's not long at all. In fact, at this rate, Boston winning the World Series could get absolutely mundane. But that’s what will happen this year, again. The Red Sox in the World Series, the Red Sox winning the World Series.
Ballou embarks on the litany of things that are wrong with this year's team, but his attitude seems to be that every team has problems. What sets Boston apart from all the rest?
It starts with starting pitching.
The Red Sox have enough of it to move a potential 200-innings guy like Jonathan Papelbon to the bullpen.
[ . . . ]
A look back at the 2004 champions shows the Sox getting 815 innings from its top four starting pitchers — [the certain former Red Sox pitcher whose name shall not be spoken], Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield. It is not unreasonable to believe that Boston can get that same amount of work from this year’s Top Four — Schilling, Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett.
The more the starters pitch, the less you have to see of the bullpen, aka the junior varsity.
[ . . . ]
The Red Sox' starting pitching gives them a larger margin than anybody else, which is why they are the best team in baseball to begin the season.
I do believe in the old adage about good pitching beating good hitting, and its corollary about pitching winning championships. Perhaps there's still a bit of the old, pre-2004, Miserable Red Sox Fan left in me to tend to magnify the deficiencies in this squad. But how do I know Ballou just hasn't developed a taste for Kool-Aid?
Well, he isn't the only one making such a bold prediction. Of the T&G's 12 sports writers, eight are picking the Red Sox as World Champs: Ballou, Phil O'Neill, Paul Jarvey, Bud Barth, Rich Garven, Dave Nordman, John Conceison, and Jim Wilson. All but Conceison predict Boston to get there via the East Division title. No one projects less than a second place finish, and only two say the Sox won't make the playoffs. One of those two, John Bousquet, acknowledges in his column that the national media are on board too, citing Sportsline.com, SI.com, and ESPN.
I guess that means I have about 20 hours to adjust my attitude. I certainly don't want a pessimist like Bill Ballou to out-hope me.