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Saturday, June 30, 2007

  Close Game, Narrow Win — and That's the Bad News

At first glance, last night's game had all the hallmarks of a classic ballgame. Except for the four stolen bases by a lone visiting player, the contenders matched up quite well. Each team had eight hits. One side had five walks, the other four. Both left 11 baserunners each. Fortunately, the Red Sox came out ahead in the one statistic that matters—runs, 2-1. Hooray for our guys, right?

Not quite. What the numbers don't tell you is that the team that held Sox batters to two runs is the Texas Rangers, the team with the worst record in the American League. Why couldn't the team with the best record in all of baseball do better than 2-1 against them?

The offense has been sluggish recently, to say the least. The way the Sox have been hitting (or not hitting), they're lucky to have a .500 record in June. Fortunately, the Blue Jays and Yankees are doing their part to maintain the Sox' large division lead (did you know that their magic number is 74?)

But they can't rely on what other teams are doing. The bats have to get better and more consistent. And I'm not just talking about Julio Lugo, who didn't play last night and may not play tonight either. I'm talking about the situational hitting. Go back and read the first paragraph. The 11 stranded baserunners should jump out. That's a lot of LOB against any team, but against the Rangers? Come on.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to watch tonight's game, as I will be at the Worcester Tornadoes game with a group from work. Keep your fingers crossed that the FM tuner on my mp3 player can pick up WEEI out of Rhode Island so I can check in on the progress at Fenway periodically.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Thursday, June 28, 2007

  Catch-Up Round-Up

West coast night games certainly do wreak havoc with my blogging rhythm, not that it takes much to do that. I now find myself nine days behind, and an eventful nine days they have been.

After sweeping the Giants and taking two of three against each of the Braves and Padres, the Red Sox turned out three consecutive duds in Seattle. They were all so horrible that it's hard to pick the worst one. For your consideration, I submit:

Monday — Red Sox implode in the fifth inning. Starter Julian Tavarez got knocked out in that inning, when the score was 5-2. Reliever Kyle Snyder allowed one inherited runner to score before ending the inning. Later, in the seventh inning, Mike Timlin gave up a walk and two homers. The Sox mounted a feeble attempt at a comeback in the ninth, scoring two runs with two out before being put out of their misery. Getting the win was Seattle starter Jeff Weaver, who we wish had sucked as badly as he did when we tagged him for seven runs in two innings back in April.

Tuesday — Offense keeps tying the game, pitching keeps untying it. Newly called up starter Kason Gabbard struggled mightily, giving up three runs in the first and one in the second. He left in the fourth inning trailing 4-2. Then the roller-coaster ride began. Mike Lowell tripled in two runs in the top of the fifth; Manny Delcarmen gave them right back in the bottom of the inning. Then in the sixth, an Eric Hinske homer, Alex Cora double, and David Ortiz single came back with two more runs. Which Javier Lopez proceeded to give right back. A Kevin Youkilis sac fly in the eighth brought home one more run, which left the Sox one short of tying the game again. Final score: 8-7, Mariners.

Wednesday — Run support? What's that? Daisuke Matsuzaka must be wondering what he has to do to win a game, since apparently allowing only one run on three hits and a walk in eight innings isn't enough. That's because Boston scored their lone run of the game in the seventh inning, failing to let Daisuke leave with a lead. For the record, in his previous four starts, he allowed a total of five runs in 26 innings (that's an ERA of 1.73) but was only 2-2 in those four games. What's up with that?

Looking at the current situation more broadly, there is good news and bad news. On the positive side, the Sox still own the best record in the major leagues, being just a hair's breadth ahead of the AL Central-leading Angels. They also have the biggest division lead, nine games ahead of second place Toronto going into today (9.5 after the Blue Jays' loss this afternoon). Even with the Seattle sweep and their big slump in early June, they are still on a pace to win 101 games. Coco Crisp has brought his batting average up a big with a strong second half of the month and now sits at .262. Dustin Pedroia has kept his average above .300 since the end of May. Youkilis is over .300 since May 8. Oh, and the Yankees are back in third place, which is always a good thing.

On the down side, Julio Lugo is now hitting (or not hitting) .180 with no signs of coming out of it. You have to believe he'll improve eventually—a proven major leaguer like Lugo doesn't suddenly just lose all his abilities—but I hope it doesn't happen next season when he's playing somewhere else on our dime, a la Edgar Renteria.

Then there are the injuries. After putting reliever Brendan Donnelly on the disabled list June 17 and releasing J.C. Romero, the Sox sent Curt Schilling to the DL on June 22, retroactive to the 19th, after he got a cortisone shot in his pitching shoulder. Around that time, Mike Lowell strained a ligament in his glove thumb and J.D. Drew developed a tight quadriceps. Both have returned to the lineup, but after last night's loss, the Boston Herald reports, Crisp had his own thumb on ice after he apparently came down on it hard while diving for a ball.

And so it is with perhaps a sigh that the team takes today off before starting a one-week homestand, the first two games of which are must-wins if the team hopes to lock up a winning record for the month of June (they are currently 12-13). The homestand consists of four games against the Rangers and three versus the Devil Rays, both last place teams. The Sox have a chance to make hay while the sun shines, as the saying goes, and have some momentum heading in to Detroit, where the Tigers have regained the lead in the Central division.

I got great news yesterday. My dear friend Jean-Marie, a New Jersey native and lifelong Yankees fan, has seen the light. Due to the steady, quiet example of her Red Sox fan son, our boys have grown on her a bit. During the most recent Boston-New York series, she apparently erupted in involuntary glee at a great Red Sox play. Her announcement to me made me quite verklempt, I welcomed her to the nation, and now have to go buy her a conversion gift.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 2

Are you sure she's not just a mole?

Ha ha - yes, I'm sure. This conversion is the real deal!

  Mariners Ruin My Great Idea for a Headline

The Red Sox were supposed to win last night. After dropping the first two at Safeco Field, the Sox were supposed to come storming back in game three of the series, permitting me to title my next post:

Clever, no? Alas, the Sox lost in excruciating fashion, and I am left with an extraordinarily witty headline that I can't use. Damn those Mariners.

Anyway, I'm well aware that I haven't blogged in over a week. Lunch time, I promise. See you then.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

  I Hate It When I'm Psychic

I hope this is just a precaution.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated that Schilling's right shoulder was the cause for concern. The big right-hander will undergo an MRI from Red Sox medical director Tom Gill.

[ . . . ]

The dead giveaway during Monday's start was the radar-gun reading. Schilling topped out at 90 mph. Most of his fastballs were in the mid-80s, uncharacteristically low for Schilling.

Francona, who is now in his eighth season of managing Schilling, has never seen the righty have such a flat fastball.

Jon Lester might yet get that call-up he's been waiting for.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  I'm Worried about Schilling

And not just because he imploded last night for the second time in as many starts.

I'm worried because he has yet to blog about it.

Say what you will about Curt Schilling, he does not shy away from talking openly and frankly about his lesser quality games. After last week's debacle against the Rockies, he wrote about it in quite a bit of detail, even though I'm sure he would rather have forgotten the whole thing happened. Maybe that's what he's doing now.

I hope so, because I can think of only a couple other reason why he wouldn't be talking. Like being kidnapped by terrorists, or lying unconscious in a roadside ditch somewhere.

Please, Curt, come out come out wherever you are. Just to let us know you're OK.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Sunday, June 17, 2007

  Juice Boy Is Lone Blemish on Perfect Weekend

The Sox won today to complete the three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, and believe me, I am very happy about it. The only thing that could have made the weekend better is no homers by San Francisco's Henry Aaron wanna-be, who frankly isn't worthy of holding Hammerin' Hank's jock. And while I'm on the topic, I am very unhappy with those at Fenway who actually applauded his his latest step toward his steroid-induced usurpation of Aaron's all-time home run record. It will be a sad day indeed when he eclipses Aaron, though he will do so statistically only, certainly not as an honorable person, which I don't believe he is. But I digress.

The bigger story is that the Sox survived a Giants rally in the sixth inning, when starter and winner Tim Wakefield allowed two runs and before Manny Delcarmen, just called up from AAA Pawtucket when Brendan Donnelly went on the disabled list with a sore arm, got the final out of the inning. Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Joel Piñeiro, and Hideki Okajima pitched scoreless relief for the rest of the game.

Red Sox offense was provided mostly by the middle of the order, with David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Lowell accounting for all but one of the team's RBI (Doug Mirabelli had the other). Every Boston starter except Wily Mo Peña and Julio Lugo had at least one hit.

Notes: Okajima's ERA is ever so close to 1.00. Another scoreless inning and two thirds and it'll be under 1.00...With the team hitting the road for their final two interleague series (Atlanta and San Diego), they will once again be without the benefit of a designated hitter. That means that if Big Papi is going to play, it has to be at first base, which either removes Youkilis from the lineup or moves him to third base, displacing Lowell. Youkilis has limited experience in left field, mostly last season when Manny had his annual mystery ailment, but I'm not sure I would want him playing left field anywhere that didn't have a bit wall in relatively close to home plate. Besides, Manny hits well against National League pitchers...J.C. Romero was designated for assignment when Mike Timlin came off the DL. The move was good for Lopez, who was the only reliever with minor league options and thus was assumed by many to be the one who would go down...Tomorrow night's game in Atlanta starts at 7:05, but Tuesday and Wednesday are 7:35 games. Plan your sleep schedules accordingly.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Sox Win Pitchers Duel

It has been a rarity this season, the Red Sox winning a game in which they score only one run. In seven such games going into today, they were 1-6. So I unconsciously held my breath every time Daisuke Matsuzaka put Giants on base yesteray afternoon.

I shouldn't have worried, as Matsuzaka and relievers Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon shut out San Francisco, which was the only way they were going to win the game as Sox bats were unproductive save for a Manny Ramirez solo homer over the wall in the fourth inning. The only other Boston hits were by J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Coco Crisp, who was 2-for-3.

I was quite concerned going into the fourth inning, which a friend recently told me is supposedly the inning in which Daisuke is most likely to give up runs. I couldn't find that particular statistic anywhere (though if someone wanted to pay me to do this blog, I'd be happy to spend the time going through old Gamedays and compiling the numbers.) What I did find in Daisuke's splits on ESPN.com is that his opponents batting average is worst in the middle three innings, .323 versus .194 in the first three and .237 in the last three. Indeed, the biggest San Francisco threat he faced yesterday was a two-on none-out situation in the sixth that he got through unscathed. He had 1-2-3 innings in the third, fifth, and seventh innings before the bullpen took over.

So the first two games of this series were a study in contrasts, as far as Sox offense was concerned. I guess that's to be expected—up days and down days—but it sure was satisfying to finally get a win in such a low scoring game.

Yes, I realize I'm a full day behind in blogging the game recaps. I'm starting the Sunday game post as soon as I hit "publish" and will have it up before I go to bed tonight.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Saturday, June 16, 2007

  Ready for Prime Time, and Other Thoughts on Friday's Game

Count me among those who doubted whether second baseman Dustin Pedroia was ready to be a full-time major leaguer. He is young (23 years old) and struggled mightily in call-up duty late last season (.191 average and 7 RBI in 31 games). What was the rush in making him the starter right away? I was all for signing Mark Loretta to a one-year deal so that Pedroia could come up in a no-pressure situation (remember that he came up last year when the team was in the throes of a team slump compounded by a flurry of injuries. His inconsistent start this season seemed to confirm the wisdom of a more caution approach than Theo had adopted.

If Pedroia isn't ready for the big leagues, you wouldn't have known it from last night's 10-2 Red Sox win over the San Francisco Giants, in which he went 5-for-5 with a home run and five RBI. He and J.D. Drew (3-for-4 with three RBI) accounted for most of the Boston offense, which is pretty good considering they hit in the one and two spots.

By the time I got home last night after working late, David Ortiz had already been kicked out of the game. I "saw" it on MLB Gameday ("David Ortiz called out on strikes...Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz ejected by HP umpire Tony Randazzo.") and figured that Papi's tendency to complain about every called third strike finally got him into trouble. It wasn't until later when I saw a replay that I realized that Randazzo pretty much waited for Ortiz to give him an excuse for ejection. Oh well.

Once again, Julian Tavarez pitched a pretty good game, allowing only two runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings. Tavarez is making a pretty good case for himself as the fifth starter going forward, even though Jon Lester has completed his rehab assignment. Lester was activated from the disabled list on Monday and then immediately option to AAA Pawtucket.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 3

I was feeling guilty about wanting Pedroia out of the lineup until I heard Eck a few days ago saying he had been thinking the same thing. So I don't feel like such a loser now. Hell, if he fooled Eckersley, who were we to think any differently?

I think Remy has had an affect on how some fans perceived Pedroia (not saying that is the case with either of you). He's been so hard on him, even when he's doing well, it's obvious that he doesn't like him. It's too bad, too.

I can't say I place much stock in Remy's opinions, though it's interesting to hear the thoughts of a former second baseman. My concern stemmed from a sense that Pedroia needed more seasoning in AAA. I was seriously concerned that if they brought him up to fast, he'd fold. Think Cla Meredith. Fortunately, Pedroia seems to be a self-confident guy, something Francona commented on recently. I think the way Tito put it is, "He believed he could succeed here because he has succeeded everywhere else he has played," or something very close to that. So he has the mental part of the game going for him to carry him through rough spots.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

  I Was Just Thinking...

The Red Sox returned from their west coast swing with a 3-4 record. A split with Oakland would have pushed that over the .500 mark for the trip—and for June.

By and large, pitching hasn't been the problem this month. The Sox have given up an average of five runs in the six losses, which isn't great but shouldn't be an insurmountable obstacle for a good-hitting team. But they have scored an average of only 2.83 runs per. In half those games, they scored less than two runs.

Once again, Tim Wakefield gots no run support from his team, so in order to win, he had to pitch almost as well in last night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks as Curt Schilling did last Thursday to beat Oakland. Wakefield's ERA is on the way down again, now sitting at 3.92. It feels like his record should be better than 6-7, but you'll never hear him say that. Wake is the consummate teammate and is far less concerned about his record than about the team's.

Credit J.D. Drew for making sure that Wakefield's great effort last night wasn't wasted. His two-out sacrifice fly in the eighth drove in Alex Cora, broke the 1-1 tie, and allowed Jonathan Papelbon to come on in the ninth to save the W for Wake. Drew's batting average had gone from a high of post-opening week high of .419 on April 13 to a season low of .222 on June 1. He is now, we can hope, on his way up again.

OK, I'll say it. Julio Lugo concerns me. Deeply. His batting average and on-base percentage are second to last among qualified major league shortstops, his slugging average third to last. His relatively high number of runs batted in (34, tied for seventh best) are a sign that batters at the bottom of the order are more successfully doing what Lugo himself should be doing: getting on base. Last night, Terry Francona moved him from leadoff to the ninth spot in the order in hopes of sparking something.

Speaking of shortstops, I've been thinking about the common perception among Red Sox fans and the talk radio people that Lugo and Edgar Renteria were/are/will continue to be a bust, while Orlando Cabrera and Alex Gonzalez were so much better. While defensively that is true, the offensive numbers tell a different story.

The career numbers clearly show that Renteria was the best bet, with the best batting average and on-base percentage. There was no reason to think that he wouldn't be an offensive upgrade from Cabrera, who played better than his career average while he was here. Lugo also topped Cabrera in the OBP column while being comparable in career average; he should have been a significant upgrade over Gonzalez.

Anyone who tells you they could have foreseen the difficulties Renteria and Lugo would have playing for Boston are engaging in revisionism. Renteria's biggest problem was the defense; he did pretty well offensively, quite a bit better than Gonzalez would be in replacing him. Lugo also projected to be a big improvement over A-Gon; there was absolutely no reason to believe he would join the Red Sox and have the worst year of his career.

It doesn't help Lugo that the other three are all doing much better than he is at the moment. But let's stop with the 20/20 hindsight. If Theo were prescient, he'd play the lottery and live out the rest of his life in leisure, with nobody second guessing his every move.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 2

Hard to believe there are three SS in the league slugging at a more sluggish pace than Lugo, or one with a lower BA. Must've been that call up from the LA County Coroner's office named John Doe.

You're killing me, BSB! This is just the laugh I need on a Monday morning :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

  A One-Hit Shutout Is Good, Too

Curt Schilling went into the bottom of the ninth against Oakland this afternoon with just a Julio Lugo fielding error spoiling his perfect day. Then with two out, Shannon F. Stewart got a bloop single just past [correction - thanks Tru!] Alex Cora. A co-worker with whom I was watching the ninth inning at our company gym said, "Too bad Pedroia [sic] isn't taller." One of my sistahs said, "Congrats to Big Papi on his home run....thank goodness or the game would be 0-0 in the 10th inning."

Hey, it's a win. More commentary after supper.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Psst, it must have been way over Dusty's head...

  OK Guys, You've Had Your Slump. Now Snap out of It.

This is why you can never have too big a lead. The Red Sox were on top of the world until they flew to Oakland. Suddenly, they have lost four in a row (including the last of three to the Yankees at Fenway last weekend) and six of their last ten.

The team hasn't stunk. They're pitching and they're hitting, just not at the same time. Take last night, for example. Tim Wakefield and Hideki Okajima held the A's to just three runs, but the bats only scored two. Baseball players don't have to be mathematicians, but they have to know that the team that scores more runs than they let the other team score will win the game. Last Friday night, for example, Boston bats scored five runs, which is good. But the pitchers gave up nine, which is bad. Baseball math says the Red Sox lose that game.

It isn't always as simple as hitting and pitching. Sometimes it's when and how you hit. Getting a single is good, but it's better when someone is in scoring position. On the other hand, grounding out isn't a disaster, unless the bases are loaded and you hit into a double play, which the Sox have done with shocking frequency this week (seven times in the last two games, plus another double play in which Dustin Pedroia was doubled up at first base). That utter lack of situational hitting is what has allowed Oakland starters to look like the great-grandsons of Cy Young.

These two teams wrap it up this afternoon, with first pitch coming in a mere 15 minutes. That is the time for the Red Sox to pull themselves together and resuming playing like the best team in baseball (which, remarkably, they still are). Curt Schilling goes up against Joe Blanton. They have comparable ERAs, but Schilling needs to do what champions do, which is be better on the field than he looks on paper. J.D. Drew, batting fifth today, needs to start hitting again. Julio Lugo needs to get on base more from the leadoff spot. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz need to hit a home run or two like 3-4 hitters should.

And the whole team needs to remember the baseball math. Score more runs than the other guys, and we'll all be happy.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

  Sox Get Cycled, Lose to A's

It wasn't just that the Oakland Athletics beat the jet-lagged Red Sox in a 3-hour and 45-minute, 11 inning marathon that saw the Sox take an early lead, lose it, tie the score in the ninth, then lose it in extra innings. It's that they lost in the fashion in which they usually win games like this: via the walk-off homer. Oh, and along the way, an A's batter hit for the cycle.

Second baseman Mark Ellis tripled in the second inning, homered in the fourth, and doubled in the sixth, all off Julian Tavarez, then singled in the tenth off J.C. Romero. Ellis, who went into the game batting .240 with only 12 extra-base hits all season, became the first player to hit for the cycle against the Red Sox since 1978, according to ESPN.com.

Oh, the humiliation, and not just because of Ellis. A first inning solo shot by David Ortiz off Oakland starter Danny Haren, who incidentally looks like he could stand to be introduced to a comb and a beard trimmer, gave the early impression that the Sox might just get to the A's ace, who entered last night's game with an ERA of 1.62. Unfortunately, the Sox didn't score off Haren again until another homer, this one by Wily Mo Peña, in the seventh. By that time, Oakland had scored three runs, so the Sox still trailed. The A's added another run in the eighth on a Jason Kendall sacrifice fly off Joel Piñeiro.

Baseball watchers the world over know that no stinking two-run lead is insurmountable by our boys, and it wasn't last night. Thanks to two-out RBI singles by Jason Varitek and Peña off former Sox reliever turned A's closer Alan Embree, the game went to extra innings.

It was at that point that the Red Sox were supposed to do what they do, which is win in dramatic fashion. Granted, it isn't as dramatic when you're on the road because the home team always gets the last chance to score. But when David Ortiz belted a two-out line drive double in the tenth and Dustin Pedroia tried to score from first, it looked like we would have our dramatic moment.

Pedroia was out at home. D'oh!

The Sox didn't even get that close to scoring in the 11th. Then with Kyle Snyder pitching after having gotten the last two outs of the tenth, Eric Chavez hit a two-out homer. Game over, Red Sox lose.

We should have expected it when we saw Terry Francona's lineup. Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez, and J.D. Drew were the only regulars starting at their normal positions. Kevin Youkilis started at third base. And David Ortiz, of course, was the DH. Not in the starting lineup at all were Jason Varitek, Julio Lugo, Coco Crisp, or Mike Lowell. With Tavarez being pushed off to this game to avoid the Yankees series over the weekend, one might have wondered if Francona was conceding the game before it even began. Of course, one of this team's strengths is depth, and besides, the question was moot by the later innings when Varitek, Crisp, Lugo, and Lowell all made their way into the game in pinch hitting or running capacities. Maybe the team was exhausted from its coast-to-coast trip after Sunday's late game. Or maybe the Red Sox are simply experiencing their first slump of the year, having lost four of their last five games.

Tonight at 10:05 (EDT), the Sox try to bounce back with Daisuke Matsuzaka facing former Sox lefty reliever Lenny DiNardo (ooh, baby!) who just last week made his first start of the season. I wish Lenny a brilliant but short outing (pitch count, you know) after which he can watch his bullpen implode and give up a great many Red Sox runs.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

I was proud of our guys for battling back Monday even though they didn't win.

I'm humiliated by the way they played against Lenny last night.

Monday, June 04, 2007

  I Hate West Coast Games

It's bad enough that I had to take a nap yesterday so I could stay awake for four hours of nonsensical blathering by Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Now the Red Sox are in Oakland for a four game series against the A's, which means three 10:00 (EDT) starts followed by a 3:30 start on getaway day that I won't be able to watch either because I'll be at work. Grrrrrrrr.

The only thing that will make this remotely doable is tomorrow night's pitching matchup between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Lenny "Object of My Lust" DiNardo. I predict five brilliant shutout innings by Lenny, after which we'll beat the stuffing out of the Oakland bullpen.

Following the Bay Area swing, the team heads to Arizona, which might as well be on the west coast because it doesn't go on daylight savings time (Mountain standard time = Pacific daylight time). At least we'll be into the weekend and I can sleep in the next morning. Except that on Friday night/Saturday morning, I have to walk in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at 2:00 a.m. (How about sponsoring me?) Guess I'll finally hit the hay at about, oh, 3:30.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Part 12 (or I'm Tired of Losing to Teams That Suck)

The Yankees beat the Red Sox last night, 6-5. Josh Beckett left with the lead, Hideki Okajima couldn't hold it. Jonathan Papelbon took the loss. Every Sox batter had at least one hit, but none when it mattered most, in the bottom of the ninth.

But, as Arlo Guthrie once said, that's not what I came to tell you about.

One-third of the way through the 2007, the Red Sox have lost four series out of 19 played. That's a pretty good mark, but when you look at the four lost series, you begin to see a trend.

The trend, for those who haven't been paying attention to the standings, is that all those series were lost to sub-.500 teams. Entering each of those series, the combined record of the opponents was 49-65.

In the overall scheme of things, of course, the losses don't matter. The combined records of those teams is now 71-96, even with their wins against the Sox. Thanks to victories in other series against the same opponents, the Sox lead the season series against all three: Texas 4-2, Toronto 5-3, New York 7-5. The only season series they don't lead is Oakland (1-1 with six games remaining). The Red Sox are still in first place with a double-digit lead over all division opponents. They still have the best record and the biggest lead in the major leagues. As a team, they still have the best batting average in the majors. They have the third best earned run average in the American League.

In other words, things are good. Actually, they're more than good. But they won't be good enough until the Red Sox stop letting pathetic loser teams like the New York Yankees rain on their parade.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 4

Hey, maybe the Yanks aren't as bad as we think they are...I mean, after all, they've got barn burner Key Igawa starting for them in Chicago tonight.

Didn't Pettitte remind you of Clemens last night? When things get bad for Roger, he historically pulls a groin...when things go bad for Andy, it looks like back spasms are his scapegoat of choice!

Oops, I'm wrong, the even MORE talented Matt Salvo is up tonight!

Actually, its DeSalvo. Not that anyone outside the Bronx, and probably most people in it, would know that.

Are you starting to feel just a big sorry for the Yankees? Neither am I.

About as sorry as I did for the Pistons, which is to say NO.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

  Just Popping in after the Seventh Inning to Say...

Thank God ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan talked about Alex Rodriguez for only five innings. If it had gotten to six, I would have had to string myself up just to make the voices stop.

Oh, and I just love that Manny Ramirez belly-flop slide.

Now, back to the game.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Parts 10 and 11 (or Sox Break Yanks' Two-Game Winning Streak)

If you want to summarize these two teams' season so far, I can think of no better benchmark than streaks. The Red Sox' longest winning streak so far is five games (April 18-22 and May 25-29), their longest losing streak two games (they've done that three times). The Yankees' longest winning streak is three games (which they've done only twice), their longest losing streak seven games (April 20-27).

Put another way, the Yankees longest losing streak of the year was longer than the combination of their two longest winning streaks. And the Sox haven't lost three in a row yet.

So it was with a patronizing smile that I told a MFY fan co-worker on Friday, before the start of this weekend's series at Fenway, that she should probably contain her hopes that the rivals' fortunes had reversed until 1) her team could cobble together a winning streak longer than one weekend series, and 2) her team's record got up over .500.

My caution proved wise when, after the Yankees spanked the Sox 9-5 on Friday to win their second consecutive game, Boston came right back at them Saturday to remind them who is the real Boss.

Which team can come back again and again to win a game? The Red Sox. Which team has a bullpen that can hold a lead? The Red Sox. Which team maintains a double-digit lead in the AL East standings? The Red Sox.

As if the games and the standings don't make clear which team is favored by the baseball gods, the Yankees suffered two more injuries yesterday. The first was an injury they heard about via long distance, when Roger Clemens notified Joe Torre that he wouldn't be able to make his scheduled start Monday against the Chicago White Sox because of a fatigued groin. I don't even know what that means, but it sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Clemens might have gotten a bit too athletic in their marital relations. Whatever. The point is he isn't ready to swoop in and make it all better.

Then in the seventh inning yesterday, Doug Mientkiewicz was knocked out by Mike Lowell's leg while trying to salvage an errant throw by Derek Jeter, the shortstop with the second worst fielding percentage and the worst zone rating in the American League. While the Kool-Aid drinkers on the Yankees message board last night were blaming Mientkiewicz' injury on everyone from Lowell to New York relief pitcher Scott Proctor, the fact is that Mientkiewicz wouldn't have fallen backward just as Lowell was crossing first base if the throw had been anywhere close to where it should have been. Anyway, Mientkiewicz reportedly was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital with a mild concussion, a cervical sprain, and a fractured bone in his right wrist. Now say what you will about Mientkiewicz and his world series ball notoriety; he made the final putout in the 2004 World Series, so he's OK by me. Besides, no one deserves to suffer such a horrific mishap as that which took him out last night.

Hmmm. I got kind of off track there, didn't I? For those of you disinclined to believe the Jeter stats, go to ESPN.com's baseball stats page and look up American League player fielding to see for yourself.

But back to the game. Lowell also bulldozed into Robinson Cano earlier in the game while running from first to second. Yankees fans were also apoplectic that Lowell would do such a thing, ignoring the fact that Cano had placed himself directly in the path of the baserunner and stood there as Lowell came toward him. For Lowell's part, he credited the play to the training he received in the Yankees farm system. Heh.

Boston currently leads the season series against the Yankees 7-4 and the division by 11 games over the second place Orioles. The rubber game of this weekend's series is tonight at 8:00 EDT on ESPN. Josh Beckett, facing off against Andy Pettitte, will try to improve his record to 9-0.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Friday, June 01, 2007

  Showdown in Back Bay

The New York Yankees are in town for a three-game series, and I'm not sure how much of a showdown it is, considering that the best one team can possibly do is to leave town 10.5 games behind the other team. But humor me.

The pitching matchups actually look pretty good for some competitive games. The three New York starters that people outside the Bronx have actually heard of (Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, and Andy Pettitte) are facing Boston's Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, and Josh Beckett. Sox starters have the ERA edge in the first two games, while New York has a slight advantage in game three, but it gets more complicated when you look deeper.

Wakefield is actually worse at Fenway than on the road this year, while Wang is better away from Yankee Stadium than he is in his home park. Wakefield's ERA against the Yankees this season is high; so is Wang's all-time ERA in Fenway Park. The point is that anything can happen in game one.

Game two is more comfortably in the Red Sox' column, since we haven't been kind to Mike Mussina. As always, the key for Sox batters is to get to him early as much as possible, as he is much more likely than other pitchers to settle down after a bad first couple innings. Schilling hasn't been great against the Yankees either, but he's been better than Mussina. Plus he's pitching a home, where he is 25 and 6 as a Red Sox player. Advantage: Boston.

Sunday night's matchup is the most intriguing of the three. even though the two starters have similar season ERAs, Pettitte has the clear advantage in head-to-head in Red Sox/Yankees meetings. Beckett, on the other hand, looked better than ever in his last start after coming off the DL. On paper, this one goes tot he Yankees.

You readers will have to worry about putting the hex on the Bronx babies tonight, as I will be enjoying a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera with the Triumphant Mama. Don't let me down.

(P.S. Matt, I spent my lunch hour blogging so I wouldn't have to hear any more complaints. I hope you're satisfied with yourself. <g>)


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

It's going to be cool and rainy in Boston tonight. Doesn't that usually help Wake's knuckler?

Have a great time tonight!

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