Friday, November 16, 2007

A Revolution Calling...

I called out to the two individuals dressed as utility workers standing on either side of my vehicle. "What are you doing?" But it was blatantly obvious. They were New England Revolution fans, celebrating the Revs' advancement to the MLS Cup Final. It seemed that they had decided to include overturning my car in their postgame revelry. However, upon seeing me, they scurried off into the Somervillian night to continue their celebration elsewhere. Perhaps my imposing 5' 11.125" frame had served as a deterrent. Or maybe my Revolution t-shirt identified me as a like-minded soul. I'd like to think both were factors. Either way, I was ecstatic that the Revs had been victorious, and relieved that my car had survived the rowdy, melodious aftermath of the victory.

New England's 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire was the team's third consecutive shutout. MLS Defender of the Year Michael Parkhurst had another standout performance, and goalie Matt Reis had ten saves. The team has not conceded a goal since I got my lucky Revolution Crocs.

The only goal of the game was a brilliant one by Taylor Twellman, which was not surprising as he scores pretty much all of the Revs' playoff goals. The manner in which he scored was rather surprising, however. An incredible bicycle kick between two defenders which beat the poorly-positioned Fire goalkeeper. It was the type of goal you usually only see in great soccer movies, once disbelief has been suspended. Like the one scored by Brazilian great Pele in "Victory." (Goal is 5 min 40 sec into clip.) Or the one set up by American superstar Amanda Bynes in the cinematic masterpiece "She's the Man." Except Twellman's goal was scored in the 38th minute, which made it a bit less climactic than those other two goals.

The Fire bombarded Reis and the Revs for most of the remainder of the game, but were unable to score. Surprisingly, the Fire allowed Costa Rican forward Paulo Wanchope to remain on the field for the entire game, despite the fact that he was about as mobile as your typical corner flag. Another Fire-related question is whether their insignia seems vaguely familiar to anyone besides myself. The Fire will have to content themselves with the fact that forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco's goal in Week 20 was voted the Sierra Mist Goal of the Year, in a Rory Fitzpatrick-esque travesty that calls the whole voting system into question. Michael Parkhurst should have won for his goal from midfield in Week 29.

The Revolution will attempt to win their 1st MLS Championship this Sunday in DC, against the Houston Dynamo. If that matchup sounds familiar, it may be because the same two teams played in last season's MLS Cup. The Dynamo won that one, but the particulars are too obscene to relate on this family-oriented blog. This Sunday, the Revs will be victorious, 1-0, on a Taylor Twellman goal. And Revs defender James Riley will be dancing on a flatbed truck in Boston less than 48 hours later. Boston doesn't lose championship games these days.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Go Green

(The following post was originally written on recycled paper.)

There were some positives to take from the Eagles' 38-17 trashing at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens was held to only 10 catches, with an average of less than 17.40001 yards/catch. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's QB rating for the game was less than 141.7001. Eagles punter Sav Rocca had that really good punt that pinned the Cowboys in their own end that one time. Eagles kicker David Akers had a sweet onside kick. There may have been more positives, but I am reticent to read any of the game stories on philly.com. The headlines, which include words like "denial", "decline", and "roadkill", are much too disconcerting. My pain tolerance has already been tested enough.

Instead of the actual game, let's focus on all of the good that was done for the environment last night. Fans inhaled their beer out of cups made from corn, which will biodegrade in 45 days. This is a much longer survival time than the Eagles' playoff chances seem likely to have. The fans recycled those cups less than 46 feet away from the point-of-sale, covering about as much yardage as Eagles' QB Donovan McNabb's average completion. Those fans staggered their departure times from the stadium, based on their own personal pain tolerances. The stadium emptied out in increments, so there was less traffic, and pesky auto emissions were reduced. Most fans watching the game at home had turned off their televisions long before the blowout was over, thus saving additional power. This is no longer the organization that once drafted OT Kevin Allen, a player who's best talent was "standing around killing the grass." (My favorite Buddy Ryan quote.) They are the most environmentally-sound team in the NFL.

Of course, it's possible that the Eagles are about to embark on a miraculous playoff run. Stranger things have happened. (Like trading up to draft Mike Mamula.) Perhaps they can win in Washington. The Dolphins haven't actually won a game yet, so they are beatable. Maybe the same striking TV writers who served as the officials for the Pats-Colts game will be in charge of the Eagles-Pats game on the 25th. I'll be watching, if only to see Sav Rocca finally put one his punts into orbit.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Disclosure

(The following post is explicit in nature and may not be suitable for young readers. If you are fewer than 18 years of age, please click here.)

A frightening discovery was made today at stately PFiRSN manor. A horror even more disturbing than J.D. Drew's contract terms. While incorporating books from The Great Pile into the bookcases, a copy of CHB's 1996 book "At Fenway" was found on one of the lower shelves of a bookcase located in the East Wing.

PFiRSN would like to assure it's reader(s) that the presence of this book is not an implied endorsement of the author, or of the book's content. The fact that the book is autographed by CHB should not imply that PFiRSN purchased the book and/or asked it's author to sign it. The book was given as a gift, at no cost to this blogger. The approximate value of the book is not in excess of $25, so this possession is not in violation of the Uniform Gifts to Bloggers Act (UGBA).

PFiRSN regrets any appearance of impropriety, and will dispose of the book in a timely manner.
PFiRSN will conduct a thorough, and immediate, inventory of all current possessions to ensure that a similar situation does not arise in the future.

Prediction

HUGE football game this Sunday. The top two teams in the conference square off. Two outstanding offenses. Two of the top QB's in the NFL. Dominating defenses. Two of the best punters in football.

PREDICTION: It's going to be a close one. 25-20, Eagles.

(Oh, and Patriots 31, Colts 24.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Schilling pitches

On the flight home from Colorado, the Red Sox players unwound in different ways. David Ortiz played cards. Kevin Youkilis napped on the floor. Coco Crisp spoke to Jacoby Ellsbury about the wonders of base jumping.

Curt Schilling was more productive, as he caught up on some of his correspondence. PFiRSN's Covert Surveillance operatives were able to obtain some of his messages.

Mark,
I have the real ball. Make me an offer.
Curt Schilling

Kyle,
Congratulations on your successful rookie season. It looks like we'll be teammates next season, and I was wondering if I could have #38. It would mean a lot to me. I believe #25 is currently available.

Thanks,
Curt Schilling

Javier,
Thank you for interest in employment opportunities at 38 Studios. At the present time, there are no open positions that are an appropriate fit for your particular skill set. We will retain your application for three months, and will be in contact with you should a suitable position become available. Good luck with your future endeavors.

Sincerely,
Curt Schilling

Dan,
Bygones?

Curt

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Champions

The ducks are probably the biggest winners here. The Red Sox winning the World Series is a Significant Triumph. Those Sox fans prescient enough to take advantage of The Monster Deal are enjoying their free furniture. (No free furniture here. Though there is a previously owned mattress up for grabs next to the dumpster out back.) But, after 4402 of their brethren met their doom at the killing hand of a young closer last winter, the ducks can breathe a little easier this time around. While they still have to be wary of the Peregrine Falcon and the Timlin, Jonathan Robert Papelbon will be a bit too busy for duck hunting this offseason.

Papelbon followed up a postseason of scoreless pitching by dancing through the streets of Boston. 'Twas a beautiful thing. The Winter of Papelbon has just begun, however. Next, he'll be jigging his way through the late night TV circuit. There will be the Guitar Hero endorsements. Papelbon at The White House. The Dancing with the Stars appearance with his ultra-talented dance partner, Amalie Benjamin. The series of children's books. (Think Berenstain Bears meets Harry Potter.) No more shilling Barber Chicken for the inimitable Sox closer. He's hit the big time now!

The rest of the 2007 World Champion Red Sox should be be back, and even better, next season. Curt Schilling will probably be my 2nd favorite Phillies blogger (#1), but both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are more than serviceable rotation options. Eric Gagne will be "pitching" in the National League, and Royce Clayton will be a Management Trainee at the Taco Bell on Comm. Ave., but they were forgotten Red Sox long before today. Josh Beckett will be pursuing his second consecutive Cy Young Award, with a fully-acclimated Daisuke Matsuzaka as his main competition. There's no way Mike Lowell and Tim Wakefield play for another team next season. Papi and Manny will be back, Manny armed with a prototype batting helmet that can be remotely ejected by Batshit Tavarez. Pedroia. Edes. Youkilis. Benjamin. Ellsbury. The 2007 season has just ended, but I can't wait to see this team next season. Though they will have a lot more difficulty in the 2008 World Series with the Phillies, than they did with the Rockies.

As a Rule 5 blogger, I anticipate spending the first few months of next season posting for the Pawtucket Red Sox. But a midseason callup is not out of the question. When the Red Sox need a northpaw reliever in the playoffs, I'll be ready to put down my drumsticks and set up for Papelbon. When an HBP is needed to win free tacos for all, I'm your guy. I just hope that the internet connectivity issues that have plagued me this past week don't resurface during next season's Red Sox-Phillies Fall Classic. That matchup will require some prolific blogging in these parts. Plus, without internet, I can't instantaneously determine whether the actor in the movie I'm watching was also the roadie in "Rock Star." Who wants to live like that?

The Sox won't play another game for more than four months, but there are many significant personnel decisions to be made in that time. Papelbon will be omnipresent during the offseason, and the Ellsbury Taco Bell commercials will be as ubiquitous as those damn W.B. Mason ads. If you thought Ellsbury was a great ballplayer, wait until you see him in those Taco Bell ads, co-starring with the Official Scorer who didn't rule "defensive indifference." It will be no time at all before the Sox equipment crew is loading up The Truck, and Julian Tavarez is letting the press know when Manny Ramirez will be reporting to Spring Training.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SOXtober Dream Almost Realized

"Hold on. I've got somethin' for ya, kid." Jonathan Papelbon had just pitched two scoreless innings to save Game 7, and was wrapping up yet another memorable interview. The Cleveland Indians had been defeated in Game 7, and exiled to their City of Midges and Discarded Rally Towels. (Apparently, Tribe Time is Not Now.)

Jonathan Robert was just getting started. He brought the same determination with which he closed out the game back to the field- for the Game 7 postgame celebration/dance-a-thon! With two playoff series wins under his belt, his Irish jig skills are becoming highly developed. Transformers. A Series win could give the inimitable closer the exposure necessary to take his already considerable dancing abilities to the next level.

Down three games to one in a seven game series, the pundits didn't seem to think much of the Red Sox' chances. Baseball Factory was analyzing the potential late-innings matchup between Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt and Rockies pinch-hitter Seth Smith. Hardball Prospectus was advocating using Ryan Garko in right field, so that Pronk could play first base in the Fall Classic games played in Colorado. Baseball Guru Tim McCarver believed that the only way Boston could win the series against Cleveland would be for the Red Sox to win four games before the Indians did. Transformers. Red Sox fans weren't concerned, however. We know how the story of the 2007 Red Sox will end. With a Papelbon-Beckett Dance-Off, Duck Boats, and free couches for all!

The Sox Heroes were many. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis blasted homers, triggering appearances by The Blond Cameraperson. (Almost as good as Bernie Brewer in Milwaukee. Almost.) J.D. Drew had a HUGE grand slam, which will, hopefully, enhance his offseason trade value. Julio Lugo worked Cleveland pitching for more than two pitches/at bat, helping sap their strength. Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, after lackluster first starts, pitched well in the elimination games. Transformers. Kyle Snyder was an imposing deterrent when the benches cleared. Eric Serge Gagne managed to only blow a single game. Josh Beckett was Koufaxian, as he joined the former Dodgers southpaw in the Hall of Playoff Greatness. (Conveniently located in Coopertown.) While Koufax's postseason ERA of 0.95 is (currently) lower than Beckett's, no one can match Beckett's interview performances. He is an immensely talented wordsmith, with an incomparable dexterity with metaphors. A post-baseball career as a diplomat seems to be in the cards for Beckett. Unless he throws us a curve and goes into politics.

Terry Francona also did a terrific job. While he probably should have replaced Coco Crisp with Jacoby Ellsbury a little sooner (In May, perhaps?), his decision to pitch Beckett on full rest in Game 5, rather than on short rest in Game 4, was key to the Red Sox' success. The decision looks even better now, with Beckett ready to start Game 1 of the World Series. I thought Beckett should have gone on short rest in Game 4, so he could return for a Game 7. I'm glad Francona disagreed with me, and ignored all those e-mails. I hope we can still be pals, Terry. Also, please stop blocking my e-mails- I need to tell you about my Mike Lowell at SS idea.

Unfortunately, the FOX television crew did not do a terrific job. Which was about as surprising as Kevin Cash being left off the ALCS roster. Buck and McCarver- can't believe we have another four games left with them. Yikes. The attempts at subliminal advertising could also have been bothersome- if I wasn't immune to such tactics, as a result of my superior intellect. The late start times are the worst, however. After the game, and all available postgame shows/interviews have run their course, I only have a few hours to sleep before my 5am wakeup call. (Did anyone else sign up for those daily wakeup calls from Julian Tavarez? I can't believe how cheap they were!) This leaves no time for postgame blogging. By the time I escape my employment responsibilities the next night, it's time for another pre-game show/game. (Well, sometimes I become ensnared by NHL Center Ice. I guess it's not all FOX's fault.)

Beckett goes against Francis in Game 1 Wednesday night at Fenway. The Rockies shouldn't be a problem for The Wordsmith. Transformers. Jacoby Ellsbury will be starting in center, and Kyle Snyder is available if the Rockies try to send a physical message by sending enforcer Ryan Spilborghs into the game. The Rockies may have won 21 of 22, but they are due for a few losses. (Binomial Theorem, people!) In less than a week, the Red Sox will be Champions. All I ask of you is Believe. And get those duck boats ready.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keep your head on a swivel...

Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast. On Friday night, the Red Sox were ahead of the Indians one game to none, and were about to win another epic playoff battle. Then Eric Serge Gagne entered the game, got pulled after giving up two baserunners, and his replacements combined to allow seven runs. If Gagne had been permitted to finish the inning, he probably would have only surrendered five or six runs. Bad move, Terry.

After losing Game 3 to Jake Westbrook, thanks, in part, to another desultory performance by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield was given the start in Game 4. It seemed like Josh Beckett should have been given the ball instead, on three days rest, so he would have two more starts in the series (including Game 7). Especially considering that he is the only reliable starting pitcher that the Sox have right now. But Francona chose to go with Wakefield, who hadn't pitched for seventeen days. Perhaps Wakefield "deserved" the start. Perhaps Beckett is drained from his 215 IP this season, and needed the extra days off. I spent most of the day arguing the merits of Beckett on three days rest to anyone who would listen, and explaining Francona's "sit on my hands" reference to Wakefield's volatility. I just had a bad feeling about Wakefield tonight.

After four innings, I was thrilled to have been totally wrong about Wakefield. Four shutout innings, one hit allowed? Wakefield was ON. At least until the fifth inning. That was a painful mess, in which Wakefield and the Sox bullpen bled out seven runs. Conventional wisdom would imply that permitting seven runs in one inning is less damaging than permitting one run in each of two different innings. But this season that hasn't been the case. Teams scoring seven runs or more in an inning have beaten teams scoring less than seven runs in a game on a regular basis this season. Very surprising, indeed.

The Red Sox countered with three consecutive home runs, the first two off Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, who had another "scintillating" five inning, 3.60 ERA outing. Manny Ramirez hit the third of the blasts, off Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis, and stood at the plate admiring the ball's flight for quite awhile. (Um, Manny? You're losing 7-3. Get back in the dugout.) The Indians bullpen shut out the Sox the rest of the way, and Boston now must win the next three games, or start their offseason.

Conventional wisdom would state that whenever Tim McCarver prefaces a statement with the words "conventional wisdom", you are about to hear some idiotic nonsense that may cause internal bleeding. The best play that you, as a viewer, can make is to hit the mute button in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I was caught out of position tonight, when McCarver uttered the magic words. He mentioned (again) that a leadoff walk is preferable to a leadoff home run, as the walk has a better chance of triggering a multiple-run inning. (Yes, a baserunner is better than an actual run.) It got even better when he indicated that "this season" the opposite was true. Scoring a run has been better than getting a baserunner this season, for the first time in the history of baseball. Crazy, that. No wonder the Red Sox are losing to the Indians, the games are being played in Bizarro World. (That would also explain "Justin" Pedroia's sudden inability to get hits.)

While trailing 3-1 in games is certainly distressing, this series is not over yet. Beckett could easily outduel Sabathia. Schilling will oppose Carmona and, despite not being on eleven days rest, he could come up with a good outing. Unfortunately, in the winner-take-all Game 7, Matsuzaka (or Lester?) would get the start for the Sox. That would not be good. Of course, if the Sox don't get some production from the invisible 55.6% of their lineup, and some outings by their starting pitcher in excess of four and two/thirds innings, the season will be a memory before we see a seventh game.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sox Walk Off to 2-0 ALDS Lead

Julio Lugo lead off the 9th inning with a base hit off Angels reliever Justin Speier. With the score tied at 3, Lugo moved to second on a fielder's choice. This left first base open, and Angels Manager Mike Scioscia with the choice of having his ace closer, Francisco Rodriguez, face either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez with the game on the line. He chose to walk Ortiz, and pitch to Ramirez. As a Sox fan, I think he made the right decision.

Ramirez DEMOLISHED a Rodriguez offering, sending the ball to Commonwealth Avenue, where it put a dent in a B Line train. Manny stood at the plate a moment to admire his work, raising his arms in jubilation, then proceeded around the bases. The Sox players stormed the field to celebrate. Again. It seems they get to do quite a bit of celebrating these days. Manny didn't have much time for celebration, however, as he had to put on a suit as comfortable as his baggy uniform, and report for media availability. His first walkoff homer as a Red Sox was, apparently, reason enough for the slugger to break his media silence.

The Sox would have lost the game in the middle innings, if their bullpen hadn't risen to the occasion. Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was mediocre, allowing three runs in his four and two-thirds innings of work. He permitted seven hits and three walks. The bullpen SHUT OUT the Angels the rest of the way, on ZERO (0!) hits. Delcarmen, Okajima, Gagne, and Papelbon were BRILLIANT. (OK, Gagne didn't actually pitch. But he would have been unhittable if he had.)
Papelbon got the last four outs, and the victory. The Angels are at the brink of elimination.

Curt Schilling gets the start for the Sox on Sunday afternoon. He is opposed by Jered Weaver, and whomever else the Angels throw out there to try stave off elimination. But, by 6:30pm Eastern time tomorrow, the Sox will have sent Los Angeles into the offseason. Schilling does not lose postseason games. Except when he has to face the Phillies.

Tribe Time (for) Now!

Jabba covered in bugs. Jeter confounded by the Canadian soldiers, trying to whomp them with his glove from his defensive position. Rodriguez not whomping any opposing pitching. Abreu's bat spontaneously combusting at home plate. Torre performing intermittent maintenance on his ear canal. An extra-inning walk-off victory by Pronk and the Cleveland Indians over the New York Yankees. Exactly what you'd like to see in a Yankees'playoff game. (Except maybe the Torre part.)

But, as a Red Sox fan, it might actually be time to root for the Yankees. At least for a couple of games. If New York can extend the series to five games, the Indians will need to use Sabathia again. They may even use Carmona again. I'm sure the Red Sox would much rather see Paul Byrd on the mound in Game 1 of the ALCS, than one of the Indians' Cy Young candidates. If the Yankees can drain some of those Indians relievers a bit, in some more long, extra-innings battles, that would be even better.

Shit. What was I thinking there? I can't root for the Yankees. Not even for a single game. The Red Sox can decimate either of those two teams, anyways. Forget Sabathia and Carmona, the Indians could start an in-his-prime Feller, and still not beat the Sox. It's Tribe Time Now! (But only until the ALCS against the Red Sox starts.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Red Sox Elevate for Postseason

Did you even think it was possible that Red Sox ace Josh Beckett might give up a run on Wednesday night? No, me neither. Beckett is The Master of the Postseason. The two consecutive playoff shutouts is just the beginning.

Beckett wasn't the only one to raise his game on Wednesday. There were home runs from Ortiz and Youkilis providing the scoring. My cable company came up big, adding TBS HD in time for the MLB playoffs, as well as NHL Center Ice and Versus HD. Well played, RCN! Every bit as impressive as Beckett's performance was that of Boston Globe writer Amalie Benjamin, who excelled in the pregame and postgame shows, and had a perfect blogger rating of 187.6 in the Extra Bases Blog. She became the first blogger in postseason history to pass the 180 barrier.

However, in the presence of such greatness, mediocrity becomes so much more glaring. TBS has a ways to go before they can even claim mediocrity. We're only six games into the playoffs, and TBS is already driving me crazy. In fact, a bulleted list is necessary to review TBS' crimes against baseball fans, and humanity.
  • FrankTV. It is really necessary to have a FrankTV commercial between every half-inning? That guy is driving me crazy. The probability that I will watch his show is indirectly proportional to the number of promos I must endure. I think I would prefer to watch an Everybody Loves Raymond marathon (in HD!) at this point. I try to escape Frank by changing channels during commercials, but it is to no avail. When I toggle back, he is there. Always. There.
  • Commercials. I appreciate the fact that TBS wants to jam as many commercials as possible in between innings, but they really need to get back to the action when pitches start getting thrown. There will be time for more FrankTV and Mellencamp commercials later.
  • Crowd noise. What the shithell's going on here? The crowds at Fenway and CBP are crazy, loud, batshit insane. Yet it doesn't seem that way on the TBS broadcast. Not even close.

The Red Sox and Benjamin will continue to elevate their games on Friday night. Matsuzaka v. Escobar. Matsuzaka has never lost an MLB playoff game. He won't lose one tonight, either. The Red Sox won't face a team playing at their level, until they face Philly in the Series. By that time, we'll be done with TBS, and watching the games on FOX. I never thought I'd be looking forward to FOX baseball broadcasts. Anything that allows baseball fans to escape the clutches of FrankTV is a positive.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just the Beginning...

This celebration was a little less restrained than the last one.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was outstanding, allowing only two runs in eight innings. Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in the ninth on only six pitches, for his 37th save. David Ortiz continued his hot streak, going 3 for 4, with his 35th home run. Daniel Malloy was flawless on the Extra Bases Blog. Just about everything went right for the Sox, in their 5-2 win over the visiting Minnesota Twins. Then, things got even better.

The Sox players, and reporters, retreated to the Sox clubhouse to watch the end of the Yankees-Orioles game. A Yankees loss would clinch the AL East for the Red Sox. But, with a 9-6 lead in the 9th inning, and Mariano Rivera in for the save, it looked like the Sox would have to wait another day to clinch the division. As the thousands of fans remaining in Fenway Park watched on the big screen, and Amalie Benjamin attempted to peer around a gajillion Japanese reporters to see the screens in the Sox clubhouse, the Orioles staged an unlikely game-tying rally. After dodging a bullet in the top of the 10th, with Tom Caron and Dennis Eckersley reporting on every batter, the Orioles sent former Sox hero Kevin Millar to the plate with the opportunity to give the Red Sox the AL East. And Millar... struck out. Then Melvin Mora shocked the world with a two-out, game-winning bunt. Cue: Pandemonium!

NESN really should have assigned a camera to follow Papelbon around during the celebration. (Well, at least his celebrations after he covered up his Papelbutt.) The uninhibited closer was spotted running around the field, dancing on the pitcher's mound, wearing an empty Bud Light box, and various other shenanigans. Alex Cora was DJ'ing, as Mike Lowell ran around the perimeter of field, spraying fans with champagne. Mike Timlin and Curt Schilling were on top of the dugout, communing with Red Sox Nation. Tina Cervasio and Kathryn Tappen were drenched in a delightful combination of champagne and Bud Light, as they interviewed everyone in sight. Terry Francona was hugging players, and Mike Timlin pecked Jason Varitek on the cheek, as Varitek was interviewed on NESN. The focused Captain seemed unmoved by Timlin's tender gesture, probably because his thoughts are already on Vladimir Guerrero and the Angels. Conspicuously absent from the interviewees was AL Cy Young Award winner Josh Beckett, but I am fairly certain that I heard him yell, "We did it, motherfuckers!" a few times in the background. It was awesome that the fans were allowed to stay in the ballpark and watch the last hour or so of the Orioles win, and then celebrate with the Sox players. Hopefully, they'll be celebrating the AL pennant that way in early Soxtober.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Without Hope?

Off the top of my head, I can come up with three reasons that Hope Solo should have started in goal for the U.S. Women in their semifinal match against Brazil on Thursday. First off, Solo had a 298 minute shutout streak. Secondly, backup keeper Briana Scurry had not played since June. Finally, Hope Solo was the keeper chosen to appear in the Nike commercials. (Featuring Dwight Schrute!) Jim Mike doesn't make player selection errors.

In a perfect world, the U.S. would have qualified for the Final against Germany based on the strength of their Nike commercials, and the match would not have been played until U.S. Defender Heather Mitts was ready to return to the starting lineup. But, alas, the world, and the USWNT are both imperfect. While the decision to start Scurry over Solo in the Semifinal was rather horrendous, having Solo in the lineup would likely have changed only the scoreline, and not the result. The Brazilians controlled the game, as the 4-0 score would indicate, and they made the U.S. players seem slow and unskilled.

The first goal was scored by the U.S. into their own goal, as Leslie Osborne tried to use her head to direct a cross over her own end line. Unfortunately, she headed the ball over the part of the endline located between the goalposts. She probably should have chosen a different body part to redirect the ball- her feet, perhaps? Brazil scored again on a shot that Scurry probably should have stopped. Shannon Boxx was shown a red card after a Brazilian player tripped over Boxx' feet from behind, a terrible call that reduced the U.S. to ten players for the rest of the match. U.S. Coach Greg Ryan chose to use his substitutions to bring on defensive players, in what seemed more of an effort to reduce the margin of loss, than an attempt to come from behind. However, he probably would have needed to bring on an Akers and a Foudy to have had a chance at a comeback with only ten players.

As brilliant as Marta was when she appeared on Arrested Development, she's even better as a Brazilian soccer player. Quite possibly the best in the world. Abby Wambach, the best U.S. player, didn't see too much of the ball, as Brazil had possession of it for most of the game. (Well, except for when the U.S. players were retrieving the ball from the inside of their own net.) Wambach was credited with eight "hits" in the match. I'm not really sure what ESPN counts as a "hit", possibly elbows thrown by Wambach? Or Brazilian players barrelled over by the bulky U.S. Forward? Wambach really needed her teammates to get her the ball, so she could make an impact. But it didn't happen.

Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this defeat, and future player selection will infuse some more speed and creativity into the lineup. With Mitts, Wambach, and Heather O'Reilly, the U.S. has the foundation for a good squad. But the rest of the women's soccer world has caught up to them, and they'll need more than a few good players to continue to compete for championships. Of course, if the U.S. had started Nicole Barnhart in goal against Brazil on Thursday, they'd probably be preparing for the Final on Sunday. Instead of the 3rd Place game against Norway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sox Clinch Playoff Berth

Terry Francona raised his glass and shared a calm, dignified toast with his ballclub behind closed doors in Tampa. The Red Sox had become the first MLB team to officially qualify for the postseason on Saturday night, with an 8-6 comeback victory against the Devil Rays. But this was just the first step on the path to AL supremacy.

The Sox trailed 6-5, as the game entered the 9th. The Rays had their closer, Al Reyes in to close out a Tampa win. It looked like the Sox' Magic Number would remain at 1. But Captain Jason Varitek had other ideas. He led off the inning by hitting a game-tying home run, his fifteen of the season. With one out, Eric Hinske doubled, and Julio Lugo followed with a two-run homer, his eighth of the season. Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth for his 36th save, and the Sox had an 8-6 win, and a spot in the playoffs. J.D. Drew (2 for 4, 10th homer, 3 RBI) and Eric Gagne (scoreless 8th, 2 K, 4th win) also contributed to the cause. If Drew and Gagne can produce like that in the playoffs, and Ramirez, Youkilis, and Benjamin (all unavailable for the Tampa series) do what they are capable of, the Sox shouldn't have a problem winning the division. And the pennant.

With the Yankees' loss on Monday to the Blue Jays (Thank you, Jesse Litsch!), the Sox are now two games ahead of the Yankees, with six to play. However, the Sox will need to finish with a better record than New York to win the division, as the Yankees won the tiebreaker. (I still think the Sox should have recalled Craig Breslow to compete in the tiebreaker-deciding Scrabble match against the Yankees' Mike Mussina, but Terry and Theo were confident in the abilities of closer Jonathan Papelbon in that discipline.) Boston has a two game series with Oakland, followed by a four game set with Minnesota. If the Sox can take four of the six games, at home, against two teams that are already eliminated from playoff consideration, their next toast will be made as Division Champions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How do you like the claw?

Those god-awful uniforms are going to have to stay. Eagles 56, Lions 21. FIFTY-SIX POINTS! These aren't the good ol' crappy-ass Lions we are used to either. They were undefeated until they had to go to Philly. When was the last time you saw such domination on the football field? (Well, probably on Saturday when the U.S. Women's National Human Foosball team defeated Kelly Smith (of the Philadelphia Charge!) and the Brits, but that's not the correct "football.") I don't remember the Eagles scoring more than 50, since that playoff game where they scored 58 against... the Detroit Lions.

I was relegated to following the game on NFL.com, and the updates I was seeing on the screen were somewhat unbelievable. Every time I checked, it seemed that the Eagles had another touchdown. They weren't wasting any time with field goals, incomplete passes, or anything like that. The box score indicated that the Eagles' only difficulty was in determining whether Westbrook or Curtis would be scoring their next TD. As the Eagles continued to score touchdown-after-touchdown in the second quarter, I was convinced I was being punk'd by NFL.com. Like that time when they had the Eagles losing 7-(-2). (I found the Eagles having NEGATIVE points rather disconcerting, but the error was, mercifully, corrected before I took any drastic measures.) Remember 1987, when the players were on strike, and the NFL played three games with replacement players? This first half had that kind of vibe. It was like the third game, when some of the real players had crossed the picket lines to play, with Kevin Curtis starring as Steve Largent. (Ugh. Guido Merkens flashback. I'm going to need a minute.)

McNabb ditched his knee brace, and had a perfect (PERFECT!) passer rating for the game. Perhaps he has a little left in his tank. Westbrook (111 yds. receiving, 110 yds. rushing, 3 TD) and Curtis (221 yds. receiving, 3 TD) were unstoppable, the defense had NINE sacks, The Great Tommy McDonald was running around the field carrying cheerleaders, what more can you want? Well, punter Sav Rocca could improve upon his 43.7 yd. avg., but that's about it. When I spoke to Sav this morning in our weekly performance review (I gave him a B for Sunday.), we spoke about his steps and his follow-through, and may have pinpointed an area of concern. He should be improved next week. Sav also indicated that those vintage uniforms were "better than some of the (Australian Rules) football unis he's worn in the past." I think those uniforms might be growing on me, as well. Those forty-two first half points may be affecting my opinion.

The Eagles face the Giants next Sunday night. Hopefully, the Eagles will put up at least 60.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Beckett Wins 20th, Gagne Dominant

Finally, we have a Red Sox win. It was only a four game losing streak, but it seemed much, much longer. Josh Beckett struggled a bit in the 1st inning, but escaped with only one run allowed. That was the only run he permitted in the six inning, nine strikeout performance that earned him his 20th win. With a 20-6 record, and a 3.14 ERA, he is certainly a frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award.

The Sox' offense scored eight runs, but five of the eight came in the last two innings against a reliever with a 5.18 ERA, one with an 8.34 ERA, and one with an ERA of infinity. The first three runs, off Rays ace Scott Kazmir, were assisted by two Rays errors. The Sox struck out seventeen (17!) times in the game, and left ten runners on base. Lineups that feature Bobby Kielty batting fifth, Eric Hinske batting ninth, and Julio Lugo batting anywhere tend to do these things. Hopefully, we won't see too much of Kielty and Hinske in the playoffs.

Eric Gagne pitched a scoreless ninth, retiring the side in order on twelve pitches (nine strikes). Gagne stuck out two of the three batters he faced, and displayed a nasty change-up. He is definitely ready for the 8th inning role in the playoffs now.

Jacoby Ellsbury made the defensive play of the game in left field, with a sliding catch in the Red Sox bullpen. The bullpens in Tampa are conveniently located ON THE FIELD (in foul territory), and Ellsbury was fortunate not to injure himself on any chairs, pirate gear, or relief pitchers. It would have been helpful if the Sox relievers had moved the chairs and/or the treasure chest out of Ellsbury's path. It is quite possible than Manny Ramirez does not make that play. Unless, of course, Manny was positioned in one of the chairs, which would also be quite possible.

The Yankees lost a five hour, fourteen inning game to the Blue Jays, so the Sox' division lead is back up to 2.5 games. Special thanks to Jays catcher Gregg Zaun for hitting the game-winning homer, and to Yankees reliever Brian Bruney (1:1 BB/K ratio) for sucking. The Sox should have their playoff spot clinched by the end of the weekend, if not on Saturday. The division clinching probably won't happen until the middle of next week. By this time next week, the Sox will be preparing to face Escobar, Lackey, and the Anaheim Angels.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sox Resting Up for Playoffs

Eric Serge Gagne retired the first two Blue Jay batters in the 8th inning with little difficulty. This was why the Red Sox had acquired him- to protect one-run leads, and setup saves for Jonathan Robert Papelbon. After walking slugger Frank Thomas, it all fell apart. A single, two more walks, and a two-run double followed, and Gagne had cost the Sox yet another victory.

Clay Buchholz fielded the ball, but didn't appear to have a play at any base. However, he decided to make a hurried backhand throw towards third base. The throw went into left field, allowing another run to score. Only a successful Lowell Ball Trick prevented further damage in the frame.

With the tying run on second, and two outs, Julio Lugo got jammed, and fisted the ball towards short. Thinking the Jays' shortstop would make the inning-ending force at second, Lugo failed to run the ball out all the way. The play was made to first, and Lugo was called out on a close play.

What did these plays have in common? They resulted in ferocious streams of expletives from this replacement-level blogger, profanity the likes of which Somerville has rarely seen. But the frustration wasn't simply a result of the game-altering plays.

I thought, and still do think, that the right move was made in bringing in Gagne. That was the situation that Gagne was acquired to handle. That's the situation the Sox need him to succeed in. It didn't work out on Tuesday night, but with a more competent home plate ump than Ed Rapuano, or if J. D. Drew catches that double (which I thought he should have had a play on), we'd be saluting Gagne's performance today. The difference between success and failure is sometimes as thin as the edge of the razor that shorn Gagne's once-unruly hair. But he's going to need more chances to pitch, in order to get the inside of his head under control. A confident Gagne might be the difference between a Sox loss to the Phillies in the World Series and an Angels loss to the Phillies in the World Series.

I'm not too concerned about Clay Buchholz making a rookie error occasionally. But I am concerned about Terry Francona and Theo Epstein making a major error in the deployment of one of their hottest pitchers. If Buchholz has a "hard cap of 155 innings" this season, a number that is rapidly approaching, why did Buchholz get the start on Wednesday night in Toronto? Shouldn't they be saving every possible Buchholz inning for when the would matter the most, in the playoffs? Why not have Batshit or Hansack start the Jays game, and use Buchholz sparingly during the remainder of the regular season? Buchholz is pitching extremely well, at a time when many of the Sox' pitchers are struggling, and he could be a force in the playoffs. Especially when you consider the fact that many of the Sox' likely playoff opponents (Yankees, Indians, Phillies) have never faced the young right-hander. I just hope Buchholz is on the playoff roster, and we don't see him pitch too many more innings before the playoffs start.
Because giving that start to Buchholz might be an indication that the Sox don't plan to include him on the postseason roster.

Julio Lugo? Well, he pretty much pisses me off every time he is in the lineup. (Or in the dugout, or on the roster, or walking around Boston wearing that goddamn pink tie.) The Sox are stuck with him as their starting SS for the rest of the season, so it's best to try to ignore him whenever possible. It is much easier to ignore him when Francona doesn't put his sub-.300 OBP anywhere near the top of the batting order. Hopefully, Theo can make Lugo go away in the offseason.

Right now, the only everyday players who are consistently producing are Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin. Without them, the Yankees AND the Tigers would have passed Boston by now. The Sox really need to get Ramirez, Youkilis, and Crisp back into the lineup for the playoffs. But, as for making the playoffs, that is pretty much a done deal. The Sox have a 99.98338% chance of making the postseason, as calculated by Baseball Prospectus. (Which, incidentally, is the same probability that the Papelbon-Beckett team will beat the Zumaya-Verlander team, in the event a NES Duck Hunt Wild Card Tiebreaker is necessary. I bet that dog makes Beckett go batshit!)

The Sox have the day off, as they travel to Tampa to face the Devil Rays. Go ahead and kick back tonight with the latest issue of Sports Weekly, the new Mind's Eye CD on the stereo, and some laid-back, relaxing National League action on the HD TV. Whether the Sox clinch a playoff berth on the field, or in Bud Selig's rec room, it's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eagles, Red Sox Lose.LOC Raised from "Green" to "Yellow"

Monday was not a good day to be a Red Sox/Eagles fan. The Eagles lost 20-12 to the Redskins, and did not look too good in the process. The Red Sox lost 6-1 in Toronto, and looked worse than the Eagles. The losses were disconcerting, but only cause for mild concern. Both teams are preparing for the playoffs, and doing what is necessary to ensure success in the postseason. The results of the last fourteen games of the regular season are much less important than getting things in order for extended playoff runs. (At least that is what I am telling myself, in an effort to avoid becoming disconsolate.)
The Eagles dropped to 0-2 with their MNF loss. They could easily be 2-0, with some better special teams play. That said, they have been pretty bad. Outside of the performances of Brian Westbrook, David Akers, and their outstanding cheerleading squad, there haven't been too many positives. But when I spoke to Punter Sav Rocca this morning to give him his weekly performance review (B grade for the Redskins game, B- this season), he indicated that the team was still "pretty confident." From the offensive play-calling of the first two games, it is obvious that Head Coach Andy Reid doesn't want to reveal too much to possible playoff opponents. He'll still have plenty left up his sleeve for the postseason. The Eagles will go 10-4 the rest of the way, picking up their first win of the season against the Lions next Sunday. I just hope the Eagles don't sustain too many key injuries before the real season starts.

The Red Sox are in the same situation as the Eagles. Just trying to get ready for the playoffs. Their 3.5 game lead over the Yankees is unassailable. (Note: The Yankees' 3.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers for the Wild Card is in serious jeopardy.) Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin fared well Monday night, but the rest of the Sox, not so much. After a draining series against the Yankees, and a 4:30am arrival in Toronto, a bit of a letdown was almost to be expected. The rest of the regular season is about getting Matsuzaka, Okajima, and Gagne back on track, and getting Ramirez and Youkilis back in the lineup. With the way Edes, Ellsbury, Schilling, Benjamin, and Beckett are playing right now, they should be more than sufficient for the Sox to hold on to the division lead.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sox Division Lead at 4.5, Papelbon's Cellphone Found!

That was a draining series. For Red Sox players, Red Sox fans, and anyone having to endure the FOX and ESPN broadcasts on consecutive days. (Three hours of Joe Morgan really takes its toll.) On Friday night, the Phillies-Mets and Red Sox-Yankees started their respective battles at the same time. While the Phillies celebrated their ten-inning victory, the Sox and Yanks were still at it. IN THE TOP OF THE SIXTH INNING! The laws of space, time, and baseball don't necessarily apply when the Sox take on the Yanks. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

The Sox only managed to win the second of the three games, though they were only a bullpen meltdown and a little Papi Walk-Off Magic away from a series sweep. But, with the one win, the Sox go into the season's final twelve games with a four and a half game lead over second place New York. Baseball Prospectus gives the Sox a 107.2% chance of making the playoffs, and a 102.3% chance of winning the division. Despite the two losses, things are still looking pretty damn good for Boston.

With the playoffs in mind, the Sox have started to get their playoff rotation in order. Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his next start on Saturday, instead of on his regular fifth day (Wednesday), to slot him in behind 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner Josh Beckett. A week ago, I would have questioned that move. But, ever since Matsuzaka was ignominiously released from my eighth-place fantasy baseball team, he has been taking measures to return to his strong early-season form. It's possible that being released, and replaced by the esteemed Yovanni Gallardo, was the wake-up call the Japanese right-hander needed. He now seems more comfortable using all of his pitches, and more comfortable just being himself. After 150 games with the team, he's now relaxed enough to dress the way he used to dress in his days with the Seibu Lions. He's no longer concerned about being as well-dressed as a David Ortiz, or a Manny Delcarmen. He's going to throw quality inning-after-inning the rest of the season, and he's going to dress like Dipsy the Teletubbie when he's not throwing those quality innings. Matsuzaka has found his comfort zone, and the Red Sox will be a better team for it.

Jonathan Robert Papelbon probably hasn't ever had too much difficulty finding his comfort zone. In the eighth inning of Friday night's game, however, he seemed a bit out of sorts. Giving up hits? AND runs? Not very Papelbonian behavior. But, the next day, he indicated that his poor performance was a result of a "mental concern that only happens a few times a year." With his third loss, he is now officially done with this concern for the 2007 season. So, instead of a mere 99.6% chance that he'll convert a save opportunity, that percentage is now an even 100. In other Papelbon news, the invincible closer's missing cellphone was found in the back of a Boston cab. The cab driver who discovered it indicated that it "belonged to a Sox player with a long "P" name." Which raises an obvious question. How could this cabbie not know the name "Papelbon?" Unacceptable. Perhaps he should be sentenced to drive his cab in the Bronx?

The Sox travel to Toronto to face the Blue Jays tonight. The Sox have won 81 of the 110 games between the two clubs this season. Tim Wakefield goes to the mound, as he prepares to be the fourth starter in the playoff rotation. The Boston Globe is also getting their playoff rotation in order, with the Big Three of Edes, Benjamin, and Malloy primed and ready for a long playoff run. With Globe's Big Three and the Sox' Big Four in top form, Boston shouldn't have too much trouble in the postseason. At least until their inevitable World Series encounter with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Papi Walks Off

If there's one thing the Red Sox have showed us over the last couple of weeks, it's the ability to overcome adversity. By "adversity", I obviously mean "piss-poor starting pitching." Additionally, with Manny Ramirez (annual September vacation), Amalie Benjamin (giving lecture at M.I.T.), and Mike Lowell (intestinal turmoil) all out of the lineup, the Sox had to show some real, um, intestinal fortitude tonight. Especially after Jon Lester dug a Matsuzaka-sized hole in the first inning.

Lester, who had allowed only two runs in his last thirteen innings of work (2 starts, 2 wins), continued the latest Sox tradition- starters being unable to pitch more than four innings. He survived only 3.2 innings, allowing four runs, on eight (!) hits, and four (!) walks. (His outing tonight was obviously part of the plan to fool teams scouting the Sox into thinking he is not good at baseball.) His line could have been worse, but Batshit Crazy stranded the two runners Lester put on in the 4th. The Sox bullpen, as usual, was extremely effective. Five and a third innings, one (!) hit allowed, no runs. Three of those scoreless innings were a Batshit Crazy Production. David Ortiz brought the Sox to within 4-3, with a three-run blast (30th) in the 3rd inning. But the Devil Rays shitacular bullpen managed to shut down the Sox bats, and the score remained 4-3 into the ninth inning.

Jonathan Robert Papelbon (1.52 ERA) pitched the top of the 9th, keeping the Sox deficit at a single run. Al Reyes came on for Tampa in the bottom of the frame with 24 saves in 26 save opportunities. When he was done for the night, he had 24 saves in 27 opportunities. With one on, and one out, the "greatest clutch hitter in history" came to the plate. There was no dispute about David Ortiz' clutch hitting ability tonight. His long fly to right field landed in the first row (31st homer), and the Sox had another incredible walk-off victory. Ortiz was enveloped at home plate by his teammates, with winning pitcher/Jedi Knight J. R. Papelbon leading the way. Papelbon's awestruck expression as the ball left the park, and his reaction (hoisting himself onto the field, with an assist from Coco Crisp), was caught by the NESN cameras. Nicely done, NESN. (Though they should probably have a camera on JP at all times, with JP's antics displayed continuously in the corner of the screen. But that's an argument for another blog post.)

The Sox will ride the momentum of another awe-inspiring win into their series with New York, after Thursday's off day. Hopefully, the Sox will have Benjamin and Lowell back for the series that could knock the Yanks back in the Wild Card race, and the Tigers back in. Unfortunately, the second game is on FOX, and the Sunday night finale is on ESPN, DURING THE PATS-CHARGERS GAME! (Shithell. Why do the schedulemakers do this to me?!) Anyways, I'll be watching the Sox Sunday night, as they go for a three-game sweep over the Yankees. (Hopefully.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sox 16, Rays 10

Ingenious. Tuesday night's 16-10 win over Tampa Bay went exactly according to a brilliant plan. Tim Wakefield used tremendous cunning to allow ten hits and seven runs in three innings. In his last two starts, Wakefield has pitched only 6.2 innings. He has allowed 19 hits and 13 runs in those two starts. In each start, he managed to avoid taxing himself too much, and he fooled the opposition into becoming complacent. The complacent opponents fell prey to the Red Sox offense both times, and potential playoff opponents have been fooled into thinking that Wakefield is not in top form. Those foolish enough to understimate Messrs. Wakefield and Matsuzaka will pay the price in the postseason.

With the Red Sox trailing 8-1, as play entered the bottom of the 4th, it was pretty obvious the Sox would come back. It was just a matter of how badly the Sox wanted to pummel the Rays. Apparently, they wanted to do quite a bit of pummeling. They outscored the Rays 15-2 the rest of the way. The Sox went an amazing 20 for 40 in the game, numbers that are rarely seen outside of Philadelphia. (Note: This statement is a reference to the vaunted Philadelphia Phillies offense, NOT the horrific Phillies pitching and/or their bandbox ballpark.) The Sox connected on four home runs, and eight of the nine starters had at least two hits. (Only catcher Kevin Cash, who belongs in AA, had less than two hits. But his 1 for 4 effort did increase his season average to from an unsightly .100 to a somewhat less unsightly .125. He is 3 for 24, with one extra-base hit, a double.)

It was a remarkable offensive explosion from a team that had been shut out on five hits the previous day. I totally saw it coming. I may have been reading The Hockey News as they began their inevitable comeback, but that was just a sign that I wasn't concerned about the deficit. AT ALL. If teams continue to underestimate the Sox, thinking a seven-run lead is sufficient, or that Wakefield and/or Cash are not good at baseball, those teams will continue to lose. Terry Francona and John Farrell know what they are doing...

Jon Lester goes for the Sox tonight, as they try to win the three-game series from Tampa. I expect another come-from-behind victory that will put the Sox' Baseball Prospectus odds of making the playoffs at over 110%. If we're lucky, we may even see Gagne and Papelbon close out the victory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sox Lose, Nancy Joins U-Turn on Drive-By

Awesome MNF game tonight- another return TD from the Ravens' Ed Reed- ON A PUNT RETURN! A comeback by the Ravens that should have ended with a Boller-Heap TD strike, but instead ended with an INT when the ball bounced off the not-so-sure-handed TE's gut. Come-from-behind wins by the Phillies AND the Tigers (two of my three favorite MLB squads). Strong episodes from Weeds and Californication. It was tough keeping up with everything at once, but I am The King of Multi-Tasking! I've got an HD TV, a clunky desktop computer, a Bachelors in Remote (Control) Sensing, and great anticipation. And, like Jonathan Robert Papelbon, I've got talents that you just can't teach.

I anticipated a better result for the Red Sox, playing at home against woeful Tampa. Even with Devil Rays ace lefty Scott Kazmir getting the start, the Sox still should have won. Especially with Amalie Benjamin starring on the pre-game show, and Nick and CHB nowhere to be found. Curt Schilling pitched well, allowing only one run in six innings, but it was the only run of the game. The Sox' bats gave Curtis Montague a taste of what it would be like for him next year, if he joined the Devil Rays, by failing to score in an anemic five-hit effort. Besides the Sox' strong pitching, the only (non-Amalie) Sox highlight was probably the double play turned by Coco Crisp, Alex Cora, and Kevin Youkilis. With a runner on first, Crisp ranged deep to snare a fly ball, relayed the ball to Cora, who DRILLED it to Youkilis to double off the baserunner. Youkilis wound up almost in the first row from the momentum of Cora's throw. Good stuff. But the Sox couldn't score off Kazmir, Dan Wheeler, or Al Reyes, and went down meekly. The Sox ' lead over the idle Yanks, winners of five in a row, now stands at five games.

With D-Ray Killer Tim Wakefield starting Tuesday night, the Sox' one-game losing streak should come to an end. Only three baseball games I need to monitor Tuesday night. I promise I won't miss the only run of the Sox game flipping channels this time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Red Sox Continue Quest for World Domination

The Red Sox are HOT! How hot? Well, every bit as hot as the Three Musketeers Mint Fairy. With another series win in Baltimore the Sox have now lost about three of their previous forty-seven (or so) games. Jonathan Papelbon, currently averaging 1.2 pitches per strikeout, appeared in forty-three of those games, recording thirty-five saves. He has only allowed one hit during the lifetime of starting RF Jacoby Ellsbury. Josh Beckett now has eighteen wins, in what should certainly be a Cy Young season (not bad for a "Texas redneck"-Jonathan Robert's word choice), and rookie Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter in his 2nd career start. Yes, the Sox' (sixth? seventh?) starter pitched a no-hitter. Looking at the Sox' current 40-Man Roster, 86.8% of the team players currently receive a "kick-ass motherfucker" rating, or higher. It's simple to quantify the level hotness of the Sox. (See "Fairy, Three Musketeers Mint." See also "Mitts, Heather.") Determining how they managed to win so many games, seeing as how even the best teams in MLB history lose about 40% of the time, is a little more difficult.

In Probability, you can sometimes simplify matters by determining the probability of a complement event, rather than directly computing the probability of the event itself. (If you don't believe me, ask Craig Breslow.) So, when the Sox actually lose games, why do they lose them?
  • J.D. Drew. Since the All-star break, he has a .248 batting average, one home run, and a .708 OPS. Plus, after he screwed the Phillies when they drafted him, it was mathematically determined that he has no soul. His performance with the Sox has validated that conclusion.
  • Julian Tavarez. Yes, he needs just "two hours notice and a Red Bull" when asked to be an emergency starter. But one of those guys walking on stilts outside Fenway could produce similar results. Possibly without even requiring the Red Bull. Batshit has a 5.35 ERA since the All-Star break. He had a prime opportunity to bonk Daniel Cabrera on the head the other night with a Red Bull (or any other implement he had concealed on his person), but failed to convert. The Sox have better options for BC's innings.
  • NESN/The Boston Globe. NESN's over-reliance on W.B Mason commercials and non-Eck pre-game analysts, in combination with the numerous errors scrolling across the bottom of the screen on "The Edge" (spelling "Buchholz" with two "c's" on the night of the no-hitter? Unconscionable.), doesn't help. Don't even get me started on the horrors of "Sox Appeal." (Except for that contestant with the Sox tattoo. She's alright.) The Boston Globe's utilization of Red Sox writers not-named "Gordon" or "Amalie" is similarly unconscionable.
That's pretty much it. A few little tweaks, and the Sox won't be losing three out of every forty-seven games any more. Keep Batshit and Drew off the field, use Gordon and Amalie (with Daniel Malloy covering their days off on the Extra Bases Blog) as the Sox writers/pre-game interviewees, and spell-check all NESN graphics before they make it to the big screen. Simple. The Sox are not that far away from being a 1.000 team. (At least until their inevitable World Series loss to Philadelphia.)

The Sox start yet another series with the sad-sack Tampa Bay Devil Rays (in "NESN-speak", the "Devils Rays") tonight. I'm excited to see Tampa's AAA callups. How bad must those guys be, if they can't make the 25-Man Roster of a .420 team? But don't stay up too late celebrating the Sox win/watching Californication and the late MNF game. The U.S. Women's National Human Foosball Team starts their World Cup run tomorrow at 4:55am against North Korea. If you are not excited about human foosball, with Heather Mitts commentating, you might be tied with J.D. Drew in Soul Count (SC).

Sports of the Foot

A wild day in the sports of the foot on Sunday. The U.S. Men's National Human Foosball team gave a pretty good account of themselves, in a 4-2 loss to Brazil. With better luck on an own goal, and without a very questionable call by the ref that lead to another goal for the visiting Brazilians, the U.S. could have escaped with a draw. Props to U.S. keeper Tim Howard for responding to a painful finger injury by using his other fingers. If Homer Simpson had drawn the refereeing appointment for this match, the U.S. would have been victorious, and hilarity would surely have ensued.

The Philadelphia Eagles completed their preseason with a 16-13 loss at Lambeau Field to the Packers. Not much hilarity ensuing there. Unless you are a Green Bay fan. (Strangely, NFL.com is counting this as an Eagles loss in the regular season standings. So, until that error is corrected, simply subtract one loss from the Eagles' record.) Obviously, if this was a game that really counted in the standings, the Eagles braintrust would not have experimented as much as the did. Would QB Donovan McNabb play the entire game with weights on each of his limbs? Would randoms like Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed be returning punts? No, certainly not. But, the real punt returners that the Eagles (obviously) have were protected from injury in a meaningless exhibition, and McNabb continues to build up his strength for the games that count. Postseason games. Regular season games. Neither of which occurred yesterday.

When the Eagles start their season, for real, against the Redskins next Monday night, Australian Punter Sav Rocca will make his NFL debut. (NFL.com has Rocca ranked 24th out of 27 NFL punters, after including yesterday's stats. Must be a computer glitch.) When the games count, Rocca will quickly rise to the top of the heap. It's been quite a while since the Eagles had one of the league's top punters. However, some NFL enthusiasts don't exactly hold punters in high regard. Despite my numerous electronic entreaties, most fantasy football leagues don't even include punting stats. (Crazy, that.) But when Rocca leads Philly to a Super Bowl win over New England this season, perhaps philosophies will change. I dream of a day when fantasy football includes a dizzying array of punting statistics. A day when athletes (ATHLETES!) named Rocca and Lechler are drafted ahead of the Tomlinsons and Westbrooks.

I guess I've always been a bit alone in my "kicker love." In neighborhood football games, the majority of the players would mimic quarterbacks with cool nicknames. Such as the Polish Rifle and the Polish Pistol. Or famous names from the Giants, like Simms and Brunner. I was always Tony Franklin. Or Paul McFadden. Or Sean Landeta and David Trout of Philadelphia Stars fame. When we scored a touchdown, I'd start counting off the steps for my PAT attempt, until I was told (again) that "we weren't playing with kicks." As our offense faced 4th and Goal, from the shadows of the trees behind our own goal line, I was reminded that we were playing with "throwing punts." I was met with a similar level of derision when I announced my candidacy for the Patriots' punting job a month ago. Even though I offered to punt, hold for kicks, kickoff, and DJ in the locker room, all at a very salary cap-friendly wage level, I was denied the opportunity for even a tryout. But when the Pats get Rocca'd in the Super Bowl, everything will change. The scoffing will come to an end. I'll be staying in kicking shape if the Patriots want to rethink their plans for next summer's training camp. I'm a much better DJ than that Hanson guy, to boot.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sox Lose, Division Lead at 5 Games

Well, at least they got some hits. Two of them, even. After being no-hit through six innings yesterday, the Red Sox had become the first team in forty years to be no-hit for at least the first five innings of consecutive games. Not exactly an impressive accomplishment. But, even after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the Sox still have a five game lead, with twenty-eight to play. So, if the Sox go 14-14 the rest of the way, the Yankees would have to go 19-9 just to TIE. You still have to like Boston's chances.

Another reason to like their chances was the performance by Curt Schilling yesterday. He allowed only two runs (on six hits) in seven innings of work. He permitted two solo home runs to Yankees 2B Robinson Cano, but not much else. His velocity could have been better, but his location was good (88 pitches, 57 strikes), and he got results. The 3.48 ERA/1.06 WHIP Schilling we have seen in August will fit quite nicely into the Sox' playoff rotation.

The Sox offense shouldn't bear all the blame for the loss, however. In a bold move, NESN/The Boston Globe flew Amalie Benjamin down to New York for the final game. Obviously, this was done in the hopes of preventing a sweep, and it was a move that had to be made. (It should have been made to START the series, but we've already been over that.) Benjamin's pre-game NESN appearance was a huge positive, but then Nick Cafardo was assigned Extra Bases Blogging duties for the game. IN. EXPLICABLE. The Red Sox are playing .434 ball with Cafardo on the EBB, including a woeful .406 against divisional opponents. Sure, it was preferable to have Benjamin, instead of Cafardo, on the game story, but which game story would you rather read? Benjamin, on a Sox loss, or Cafardo, on a Sox win? (If you chose the first option, you might be a fan of good writing, but you still got the wrong answer.)

Not that I am blameless for the Sox' loss. As per usual, I was watching the Red Sox on NESN, with the Phillies-Mets battle taking place on the desktop computer, next to the TV. Usually, I try to positively influence the results through my own behaviors. Typically, this involves positioning the bobbleheads so that they can best help their respective teams, and then rearranging them, according to game situations. But it also involves positioning myself to best help the teams. It is quite a delicate balance. For example, on Tuesday night, when Phillies 1B Ryan Howard hit a blast that fell just short of a home run, I writhed on the floor in anguish. As I writhed, Jason Varitek hit a game-tying home run. What do you do in that situation? Well, I considered the fact that the Phillies trailed in the divisional race, and got up off the floor. The Phillies went on to win, but the Sox did not. On Thursday, I was just unable to find the correct combination to help both teams. The Phillies bullpen kept on blowing leads when I tried to help the Sox. So, I had to revert back to the conditions that the Phillies were succeeding with, and hope for the best for Boston. If the Phillies had won their game in less than four hours, and Benjamin had been assigned to the EBB, things may have gone differently for the Sox. (Plus, getting more than two hits would also have been helpful.) It's going to get real tricky when the Sox and Phillies face each other in the Series.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sox Lose First Two in New York

So. Wednesday. Well, I went to Target, my top #1 favorite retail establishment. Love that place. But, how come every time I go there another customer asks me where something is? Yes, I am aware that I propel myself through the store WITH AUTHORITY, but does my soccer shirt with the big shamrock on it indicate that I'm there to help YOU? Geesh. Ask one of the four store associates shooting the shit in Menswear where to find...Oh. Sports blog. Sorry about that.

OK. Did I ever tell you about that catch I made playing whiffleball when I was eight? I was really more of a kickball kid, but, one bright summer day, we were playing with one of those big red FLINSTONES CLUB-type bats, and I was positioned in CF, two feet behind 2B. Where the scouting reports indicated I should be positioned. The batter SLAMMED a high line drive, and I LEAPT immediately, and grasped the oversized whiffleball between my miniature hands. It may well have been the greatest...Oh. Major sports.

What was up with the Texas Rangers announcers calling the game from the bleachers last night? Section 50, as they mentioned about 50 times. They couldn't even see what was going on half the time. How did that make sense? Was it all a set up so that guy from the baseball glove company could come on, give the announcers baseball gloves, say "You bet!" fifty times, and hype his company that sells "not only gloves, but catcher's equipment, and football helmets!"? Maybe the car-racing segments with the Red Sox have made me cynical...Wait. Red Sox. Guess I should blog about them. Seeing as this is a Red Sox/Phillies blog.

OK. Not very concerned about the Sox after their losses to the Yankees the last two nights. But more than a bit, well, pissed off.

  • Hate when they lose to the Yankees. Clemens didn't seem to have his good stuff, and the Sox should have been the hell out of him. Damon. Hate when that guy does things to beat the Red Sox. (I do, however, like when that noodle-armed dumbass slides into first base. Idiot!)
  • Why was Josh Beckett allowed to throw so many pitches? Yes, it was a gutty effort by Joshua. But throwing that many pitches is not a good plan. Plus, the Sox have the greatest bullpen since the Saucier-Reed-McGraw Phillies. Okajima. The Serge Protector. Jonathan Robert Papelbon. Use these guys, Francona!
  • Why did we have Gordon, Moe, and Curly in the pregame? Edes is good, but it's tough to beat the Yankees with that lineup. After resting Benjamin last week in Tampa Bay, she's well-rested for the New York series. Remember that Bruins coach who ignored the goalie assignments I emailed to him? How's he doing these days? I shouldn't have to tell you that, against the Yankees, Edes-Benjamin-Malloy need to be your Big Three.
  • How does that truck driver on Sox Appeal NOT pick the second contestant? Geez, that was almost as short-sighted as keeping Beckett in for all those pitches!

This stuff makes me miss my blissful days as a Kickball Prodigy. But the Sox have Schilling going today, and will, hopefully, salvage the last game of the series. Boston still has a good-sized lead (7 games, with a win today), so it's all good. The Boston Globe must have gotten my strongly-worded e-mail last night, because Benjamin was back for the pre-game. But NESN may have muted the beneficial effects of her appearance, by playing that W. B. Mason commercial with the choir right after Amalie's interview. When the W. B. guy pulls out that tambourine, I want to...

OK. I'm, obviously, having some anger management concerns. After the game, I'm going to have to head down to the Dog Park with my Michael Vick cards, and get myself under control. Perhaps I'll bump into Bachelorette #2...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Streaking Bosox Attack Bombers

The Red Sox' streak was in jeopardy. With two outs in the top of the 9th in Chicago, David Ortiz lofted a fairly routine fly ball to left field. It should have been over, as White Sox LF Josh Fields pursued the final Red Sox out of the game. But then the miraculous happened. The ball dropped, and the Red Sox went on to reach double digits for the 4th consecutive game.

That was about it for suspense in the Red Sox' four-game sweep of the White Sox. Boston destroyed Chicago, outscoring them 46-7 in the four games. It was even more pleasant and relaxing than the three game series in Tampa Bay that had preceded it. And that Tampa series was pretty damn relaxing. With a three game set in NY on tap, the Red Sox are well-positioned to knock the Yankees (currently EIGHT games behind!) out of the divisional race.

Soxian blog posts, in these parts, have been as absent as Douglas Mirabelli in the past week or so. Between MLB Extra Innings and working to be able to keep my chocolate milk reserves sufficient, my vices have seriously cut into my blogging time. A new addiction to Gameday Press Pass, and some inopportune connectivity issues have also combined to reduce my output. A particularly brilliant Sox post, which took amost as long as the Nicole Richie's 82 minute jail term to construct, disappeared into the Blogger Void. Surprising insights gleaned from an interview with a Papelbon bobblehead were lost forever. Or at least until the inevitable "re-imagining."

Many of the components of the Sox' impressive success over the past week have been chronicled throughout the blogosphere. But there are some that have been missed, as well as some that could never be chronicled enough.


  • Jonathan Papelbon hasn't pitched much recently, but when he has, the results have been Papelbonian. Since July began, he has been averaging 1.58 K/batter. Yes, Paps has been striking out each batter he's faced more than one and a half times per AB. Plus, his Scrabbling and Friendly's Scooping have made him the obvious heir apparent to Dennis Eckersley on NESN. When Paps retires from pitching. In about thirty years.

  • While there has been some criticism that key players have been rested too often, keeping Amalie Benjamin out of the Tampa Bay series will pay dividends in the stretch run. Her paragraph count is already at a single-season career high, and she has used a lot of words in each of her articles this month. While they might have swept the Devil Rays with her, the right long-term decision was made.

  • (Nick Cafardo + Jim Rice+ TC)<<< (Eck + TC) Hopefully, that unfortunate NESN postgame combo won't be seen again.

  • NESN also needs to get some editing action on that scrolling bottom line of theirs. Spelling errors galore, game schedule/pitching matchups often a day behind, the only thing worse is that big graphic they show for games against the "Devils Rays." (OK, that Nick Cafardo thing: also worse.)

  • Not Jason has pitched well for Texas, and David Murphy's 5 for 7 effort in the 30-3 game was about a week's worth of hits for J. D. Drew. But Eric Serge Gagne is getting his Sox' act together, and The Serge Protector will be a huge factor in the playoffs. "Huge" in a POSITIVE RESULTS way, not just in a bulky physique way. Still like the trade. Pour maintenant.

  • A lot of Bobby Kielty Love going on right now. He has been a great pickup so far, but don't expect this level of success to be sustained too far into the 2020's. By 2024, he'll probably be a platoon player. His defense has been superb- he's made some catches that I don't really think Wily Mo Pena would have made. Plus Pena would likely have done structural damage to Friendly Fenway in the attempts.

  • The acquisition of minor-league 1B Chris Carter in the Wily Mo Pena deal might not help the Sox too much on the field, as he is one of the few baseball-playing humans with less ability on defense than WMP. Despite his lack of skill with the glove, the screenwriting and producing aptitudes Carter displayed with the X-Files might be able to save Sox Appeal. Storylines with more aliens would certainly be a step in the right direction.
The Red Sox have their top three starting pitchers primed and ready. Two of three in New York is a definite possibility. But it's not who wins or loses- it's who takes the worse beating that counts.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Youth Movement

Incredible. Just incredible. Today was a truly memorable day in Massachusetts history. Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz picks up his first major league win. Theo Epstein finds someone willing to trade for Wily Mo Pena. The Jimmy Fund raises in excess of $3.5 million. The memorable moments weren't confined to Boston, as the Walpole Little League squad defeated Hamilton, Ohio in South Williamsport, PA, on a game-winning home run-saving catch by Walpole CF Mike Rando. They weren't even confined to the United States, as we also had Pawtucket C Kevin Cash hurtling through Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa, valiantly attempting to get to Boston in time for the second game of the doubleheader. In that second game, the Sox rallied from a deficit with four runs in the bottom of the eight inning, and The Serge Protector closed the door on the Angels in the 9th, completing the doubleheader sweep. (OK, that part about Eric Gagne getting the save in the second game didn't actually happen. But I didn't want to ruin a really positive paragraph.)

The Sox won the first game, 8-4, as Buchholz held the Angels to three earned runs in his six inning stint. Double H allowed eight hits, three walks, and struck out five. Not a bad debut. HH gave up an unearned run in the top of the first, but the Sox supported the 23 yr. old rookie by responding with SIX runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. The lead stood up, with Hideki Okajima (1.2 scoreless innings) and Jonathan Robert Papelbon (1.1 scoreless innings, two strikeouts, 29th save) finishing things off. David Ortiz (2 for 5) and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 5) each homered, and J. D. Drew was 3 for 5, raising his average to .263. Possibly the only negative was an injury to C Doug Mirabelli. Mirabelli was placed on the DL, necessitating the recall (and sprint through Canada) of Pawtucket backstop Kevin Cash. HH, as planned, was sent back to Pawtucket after the game, with OF Jacoby Ellsbury promoted. The Sox also announced the trade of Wily Mo Pena to the Washington Nationals, for a player to be named. (I am hoping it will be Chad Cordero. That way, after Serge is re-signed, the Sox can have THREE closers next season. Not including Okajima, who could close for many teams.)

In the second game, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett pitched extremely well, allowing only one earned run in seven innings. Beckett (3.15 ERA) had eight strikeouts, permitted only five hits and one walk, striking out eight. But the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner was outdueled by Angels SP Ervin Santana, who surrendered only four hits and a run in six and a third innings. After Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen allowed two runs in the top of the eight, the Sox trailed 4-1. With the Angels' top three relievers (Justin Speier, Scot Shields, and Francisco Rodriguez) all ready for action, it didn't look good for the Sox.

It didn't look good, that is, until the Sox loaded the bases. With David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez coming to the plate. The two sluggers each doubled, giving the Sox a 5-4 lead. As Papelbon had already pitched the first game, Eric Serge Gagne was called on to save the second one. Serge failed to protect the lead, allowing three runs, on three hits, in his inning of work. He couldn't get his changeup over, and had great difficulty locating his fastball. (As a Red Sox, Gagne has a 15.00 ERA, and a 2.83 WHIP. He is making me long for the halcyon days of J.C. Romero and Joel Piniero.) The Sox could not come back in the bottom of the ninth, and fell, 7-5. It was a pretty crushing defeat. (Thanks, Serge.)

Despite the unfortunate loss in the second game, it was still an incredible day. Tom Caron performed brilliantly in a marathon effort, and Amalie Benjamin turned in two spotless performances on NESN, and some strong Extra Bases-blogging. They were overshadowed, however, by the Jimmy Fund Crew. It's amazing that only $3.5 million plus was raised, considering their efforts. There was just one incredible testimonial after another. So many remarkable, courageous stories. Jordan Leandre, a seven-year old patient at the Dana Farber Cancer, sang the National Anthem before the second game. Last time he sang the anthem at Fenway, he was in a wheelchair. This time he was on his feet, and ready to race around the bases after he finished singing. He got a rousing standing ovation as he circled the bases, and was enveloped by members of the 1967 Red Sox team at home plate. (The 1967 team is known for donating a full share of their World Series winnings.)

Lexi Alden, the 11 yr. old cancer survivor last seen kissing all the Sox players in Baltimore, after a very vocal interview with Tina Cervasio, also made an appearance. This time, with Tom Caron and Jim Rice at the NESN table outside Fenway, she was given her own microphone. Not that she needed it, as she was probably heard quite clearly in Baltimore. Awesome. There were just so many courageous guests who shared their stories with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy in the broadcast booth. In summation, if you didn't donate to The Jimmy Fund today, it's quite possible that you have no soul. (But it is not too late for you. Also, check out the website, as there is quite a lot of interesting stuff there.)

The Sox face the Angels in the third game of the series on Saturday night. Curt Schilling (6-5, 4.06) starts for the Sox against Jered Weaver (8-5, 3.85). It will take a lot to top Friday. Like a Schilling no-hitter, perhaps. Or a scoreless inning from The Serge Protector. Both are, probably, equally likely.

A Sweep is in the Air...

You can just feel that a Sox sweep is on the way today. Clay Buchholz, with the 12K/9IP ratio, makes his debut in the first game. No way he loses his debut. In the second game, 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner Josh Beckett gets the start. Even the least couth baseball fan has to admit that the Angels' chances of even escaping today's action with a split are not so good.

That tough series last weekend in Baltimore is all but forgotten, as the Sox rallied to win 2.9 of their 3 games against Tampa this week. (Unfortunately, current MLB rules only recognize 2.0 of those victories, but the Sox' lead over the Yankees is back up to 5.5 games. With help from the Tigers and Orioles.)

As would be expected when a team wins 96.667% of a series, the Sox had a bunch of impressive performances. Tim Wakefield no-hit the Rays through six innings in the first game, leaving after completing eight shutout innings (two hits allowed). Jonathan Robert Papelbon pitched the 9th, picking up his 28th save in the 3-0 victory. Jon Lester, making his first start at Fenway since successfully defeating cancer, pitched seven dominating innings in the second game, allowing only two hits. Red Sox team hypnotists performed well, as Eric Serge Gagne contributed a scoreless ninth inning. Serge picked up the win when the Sox staged an incredible comeback in the bottom of the 9th. Mike Lowell hit a solo blast, and Captain Jason Varitek scored the winning run on a Coco Crisp single. Jason currently ranks second on my list of All-time Favorite Jasons, behind this Jason, who is even more well-known for his leadership skills.

The Sox would have won the third game of the series as well, but the U.S. Military got involved. Devil Rays' starter Andy Sonnanstine entered the game with a 1-8 record and a 6.35 ERA, having lost his last eight decisions. But, after a few "tweaks" by military doctors, followed by an aerial escort to the game, Sonnanstine was an effective pitcher. At least for a day. Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka further buried my fantasy team, allowing six runs in six innings (including eight hits and three walks, which were quite WHIP-damaging). The Sox staged a miraculous comeback from 6-0 to 6-5, including a huge ninth-inning double by Julio Lugo (in a remarkable 11 pitch AB), but fell just short. Tom Caron and Amalie Benjamin performed well in the pregame, Daniel Malloy (up from Lowell for a spot start) did well on the Extra Bases Blog, and Sox Appeal was moved back until AFTER the postgame show. But it was not enough to overcome the large deficit.

Caron, Tina Cervasio, and Benjamin all turned in sterling pregame performances today, and the Heather Mitts Under Armour commercial was played twice prior to the first pitch. So you can go ahead and put your money on the Sox in the first game. Or, alternatively, you can send your money to the Jimmy Fund. Also a smart move. Either way, don't miss Double H's first MLB victory today.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sox lose two of three in Baltimore...

Four games. After losing two of three in Baltimore, the Red Sox' lead over the MFYs (23-8 in last 31 games) has been whittled down to four games. Not that I'm concerned. The MFYs have a brutal schedule (eight games with Detroit, three with the Angels) coming right up, and the Sox will (hopefully) fatten up on the Devil Rays the next few days. By the time the MFYs come into town for a three game series at the end of the month, the Sox' lead should be back up over eight games. Hopefully. OK. I am a bit concerned. I'd feel a lot better if the Sox' lead was still in double digits, instead of merely hoping it will get up there again.

The weekend could have, should have, gone so much better for the Sox. They easily could have won all three games. Everything was lining up so well for them going into the series. Their top three starting pitchers (Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Schilling) on tap. The home field advantage of Camden Yards. A new Friendly's Scoop (with Kevin Millar!) premiering before the first game. Dennis Eckersley returning to action on NESN, and Amalie Benjamin returning to action on NESN and the Extra Bases Blog. The best bullpen in All of the Land. The Orioles should not have been a problem.

The Sox' Big Three starters did extremely well. Matsuzaka held the Orioles to one measly run in seven innings. Beckett came within one strike of a complete game shutout on Saturday, and allowed only two runs in his 8.2 inning effort Saturday. Schilling permitted only one unearned run in six innings on Sunday (zero walks and zero strikeouts). Top. Notch.

Yet the Sox only managed one win. Who was to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they shall be held accountable. But if you are looking for the guilty, you need only look at Eric Serge Gagne. On Friday night, he came into the bottom of the eighth to protect a 5-1 lead. By the time the inning had mercifully ended, Hideki Okajima was leaving the mound with the score tied. Gagne had only retired one batter, and was responsible for the four runs that tied the game. The Orioles completed the comeback with a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly off Okajima in the 9th. On Sunday, Gagne was called into the game in the eighth, in relief of Okajima, and allowed a game-tying home run to Miguel Tejeda. The Orioles won in the 10th, on a Kevin Millar three-run walkoff homer.

Gagne finished the series with one inning pitched, five runs allowed, two leads blown. His ERA with Boston is now 15.75, with seven runs allowed in four innings. (Merde.) Perhaps he's not cut out for the 8th inning role. What to do? Well, Gagne is only successful in the 9th inning, and Jonathan Robert Papelbon is successful in all innings that are mathematically conceivable. The solution is obvious. Gagne needs to be hypnotized before each eighth inning performance, so he thinks he is going for the save in the 9th. Perhaps LMontro can help find the hypnotist. L has plenty of contacts.

The Saturday afternoon game, that was magnifique. Well, 99.8% of it, anyway. Josh Beckett was dominating in winning his 15th game. He threw 81 of 115 pitches for strikes, with zero walks allowed (eight strikeouts). He got to within one out of the complete game, before allowing two RBI hits. After Manny Delcarmen came in and issued a walk, Jonathan Papelbon came in for the final out (27th save).

The Saturday matchup would have been a great game to have attended: a ninety degree afternoon with approximately 42,358 (total attendance: 49,242) Red Sox fans filling one of MLBs finest ballparks (Camden Yards), and Beckett the Ace starting. I'm sure I was there, in person, in at least one parallel universe. (Hopefully, not in the first row of the upper deck, though. That was scary shit.) Having to endure that craptacular FOX broadcast, instead, was not so great. Now, it's never an optimal situation when there's a Sox telecast without Eck and Amalie directly involved. But when FOX or ESPN (Joe Morgan!) is on the scene, you just know you're going to need to be proactive with the mute button. There were a couple of gems on Saturday. When it was revealed that "the Sox would concede a run for the double play", and the Sox immediately followed by turning a double play. Which ended the inning, as there had been one out already. (Yikes.) Also, there was the flourish with which the game-ending strikeout by Josh Beckett, completing his complete game shutout, was called. Except that the ball was obviously fouled off, and the Orioles proceeded to score two runs, knocking Beckett from the game. These sorts of mistakes are only OK if Orsillo and RemDawg make them.

The Sox have a three game series at home against the 45-72 Devil Rays this week. The Sox are 5-1 against the Rays, who have the lowest winning percentage in MLB, at .385. (On the plus side, the Rays do have several cartoon heroes on the active roster.) That winning percentage would drop to .375 with a Sox series sweep. The Boston bullpen will have to perform a bit better for that to happen. I'm going to do my part, and help LMontro find that hypnotist.