Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Sox won three of four this weekend against the Devil Rays, but the last two games didn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence. On Saturday, Francona gave Jonathan Papelbon the day off for an impromptu hunting trip. He probably figured they wouldn't have save situation against the woeful D-Rays. When they did need a closer, Francona was forced to bring in the Papelbon Clone. The Clone did some unPapelbonian things, such as allowing hits and runs, in a blown save opportunity that, unfortunately, counts on the actual Papelbon's stats line. That Damn Clone added .009 to Closer Boy's batting average against! Sure, the Sox destroyed the Rays' horrific bullpen in extra innings for the win, but the sullying of Papelbon's pristine statistics was rather troubling. While I have the utmost respect for the contributions made by the Clones to the Red Sox, and to MLB as a whole, it just doesn't seem right that their stats count. Well, at least when those stats hurt the Sox.
As for the Sunday loss, I think I'll have to accept some of the blame for that one. Manny Delcarmen has been remarkably good this season, so I picked him up as an 3rd reliever for one of my fantasy teams on Sunday morning. Fourteen July innings, one earned run allowed, it seemed like a smart pickup. Of course, he gets lit up on Sunday, helping send my team into fourth place. He has since been sent back to the waiver wire. For the good of the Sox.
I only listened to the last few innings of the Sox game on Sunday, as I was on the road. When I tuned in, it was scoreless. You had to like the Sox' chances in a bullpen battle against Tampa. What with the immense suckitude of the Tampa bullpen. Additionally, the Sox have a winning percentage over .700 when I listen to the game while driving. (If gas prices were a bit lower, I'd drive around during all of their games. Earlier in the season, I tried buying gas wholesale, and storing it in tanks behind my fabulous home. But that was short-lived, as the condo association didn't seem too appreciative of my innovative thinking. Obviously, they were not willing to do whatever it takes to support the Sox. Unlike some people.) Delcarmen's unusual badness was too much to overcome.
Sox are at home tonight against the Orioles, with Josh Beckett facing off against Erik Bedard in a superb pitching matchup. Hopefully, Dye (and perhaps Rangers reliever Eric Gagne) will be Red Sox by then.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Of course there were more significant predictors of Soxian success that the above numbers. The new Friendly's Scoop was released today (with Papelbon and Snyder discussing the snappy dressing of Joel Piniero, and Papelbon demonstrating that he didn't know what angle the camera was pointed at), and the Sox never lose on Friendly's Scoop Day. The Heather Mitts Under Armour commercial was played more than the Foxwoods commercial, and also more than that horrific new W.B. Mason commercial. (That new W. B. ad will be giving me nightmares shortly.) Amalie Benjamin was flawless in the pre-game show, speaking on Curt Schilling's rehab (two AAA starts, eight shutout innings, four hits allowed, ten strikeouts), and when he will return to the rotation (likely August 5th or 6th, after one more AAA rehab start, and depending on if they want to give Josh Beckett an extra day of rest). The most significant predictor of all was the fact that the Devil Rays seemed like they'd rather be in the sewers of Manhattan, being pursued by Humanoid Pig Slaves, than be playing at home against the Red Sox. (They probably would have a better chance against the Humanoid Pig Slaves, the HPS's lack mobility, and don't seem to have much of a bullpen either.)
As for the actual game, Wakefield pitched well-six innings, one earned run on six hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts. Manny Delcarmen (two innings) and Kyle Snyder (one inning) shut out Tampa over the final three innings. Devil Ray batters had seven hits and nine strikeouts in the game. Kevin Youkilis had the big blow for the Sox, a three-run homer in the sixth inning. The Rays used three relievers with ERAs over 7.00, including old pal Casey Fossum. Fossum has a 7.71 ERA, with a stratospheric 1.78 WHIP (approaching J. C. Romero territory there) in 72.1 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .339 against him, with a .938 OPS. It's surprising that he has been allowed to pitch so many ineffective innings. Until you look at the rest of the Devil Rays bullpen. Then, it's not actually all that surprising. Hammel did pitch pretty well for Tampa. He left the game without allowing a run, on one hit and two walks in 5.1 innings. But his bullpen allowed two of his runners to score, giving him the L. The Sox actually trailed (1-0) until the sixth inning, but the result never really seemed to be in doubt.
The Sox face the Rays in the second game of the series Saturday night, with Jon Lester making his second start of the season. He is opposed by James Shields, who has pitched very well for the Rays (and my fantasy team) until his last few starts (6.82 ERA in July). He was torched last Sunday by the Yankees (10 ER on 10 H, in 3.1 IP), single-handedly costing me two places in the my league's standings. (Curses!) Saturday, he will be in the dugout on my fantasy bench (I don't typically use pitchers starting against the Sox or Phillies), and will probably in the dugout on the non-fantasy bench after a few innings against the Sox bats. Lester should pick up another W, before he returns to Pawtucket to make room for Curt Schilling later in the week.
Terry Francona is also on the "Trade Pena Now" bandwagon. In the "Roy Rogers' Restaurants Terry's Take with Tina Cervasio", he lauded Pena's ability to hit left-handed pitchers who have minimal baseball ability and a repertoire consisting solely of AA-quality fastballs. (He did not mention that Pena was only in the lineup because J.D. Drew is batting .143 against LHSP's with ERAs under 12.50.) When asked if Wily Mo should be traded while his value was at it's peak, Terry indicated that "no one was untouchable." Pena's skill set is definitely a good fit for the National League. Well, except for that whole fielding thing. But the Pirates can figure that part out. The Buccos wouldn't be where they are today without being masters of innovation.
Wily Mo wasn't the only offensive hero in the Sox' 14-9 win. Manny Ramirez blasted two homers in his 3 for 4 performance. One of his homers carried an estimated 481 feet. That's pretty far. Even LMontro was impressed. And he doesn't impress easily. Cliff Lee was bombed for eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and three walks. He survived five batters (and zero outs) in the Sox' five-run 5th inning. He left to a chorus of boos, which he responded to by taking his hat off after he left the mound. Because his head was sweaty after giving up all those runs. No hat-tipping to be seen here. He'll take his 3 yr. $14 million contract down to AAA, as he was optioned down after the game.
As you might be able to tell from the score, the Sox' pitching performance could have been better. After the Sox scored five runs in their 23 minute 5th inning, Not Jason Gabbard took the mound with a 9-1 lead. Considering that Not Jason had only allowed one hit (a solo HR) through the first four innings AND he has magical powers over time and space, it seemed like a good time to zip around in the MLB Extra Innings Zone and see what was going on. After watching the Yankees and Royals for awhile (the quality of the Royals broadcast is equivalent to the quality of their team), I flipped back to watch the Sox score some more runs. Unfortunately, at that point, Not Jason was Bonking Pronk with a pitch, reducing the Sox' lead to 9-5. Gabbard got the hook, one out away for qualifying for a victory, and Batshit Tavarez got the call for his first relief appearance this season. Tavarez got out of the inning without further damage, and picked up his 6th win. Batshit did give up four runs in his 2.1 inning, 39 pitch outing, but they were unearned, thanks to a Julio Lugo error. The Sox pitching was bombed for nine runs, on only six hits and four walks, but it was enough to win on this night.
Boston travels to St. Petersburg to play a three game series against the D-Rays this weekend. In tonight's game, RHP Jason Hammel takes his 5.82 ERA this season (10.50 against Boston in his career) to the mound against Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Wakefield never loses at Tropicana Field (7-0, 2.39 lifetime ERA), and gets a decision every time he starts a game (11-9 in 20 starts this season). Therefore, by the transitive property, the Sox will win.
(*Note: This is a reference to pre-Lannan Chase Utley.)
Thursday, July 26, 2007
It could be a tough one tonight. There is still no new Friendly's Scoop. There were two glaring errors in the pre-game. In the Uno Chicago Grill Red Sox Insider Report, Amalie Benjamin, when speaking about recent Pawtucket pickup OF Brady Clark, gave the wrong date for his DFA'ing by the Dodgers. In the MBTA MLB Notebook, Nick Cafardo mispronounced Phillies LF Pat Burrell's surname. This is a lot to overcome, but with Not Jason, refreshed from his pre-game nap on the mound, the Sox have a chance. And if NESN shows this commercial more times than that damn Foxwoods one, the Indians have no chance.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Jonathan (Cincho-Ocho) Papelbon struck out two in the 9th, for his 23rd save. But that wasn't the only Papelbonian highlight of the night. The other highlight was his pre-game interview with Tina Cervasio, during which he spoke of his love of PB&J, as well as his quest to kill a moose. (A worthy goal, that.) But my favorite part was, when asked to name the opponent (non-wild animal category) who has the most success against him, he named journeyman OF Frank Catalanotto. This seemed strange, so I ventured over to baseballreference.com to check who had the best lifetime stats against Jonathan Robert. I went down the list of statistical profiles, without looking at who they belonged to, and found one batter with a .556 avg., in nine AB. Sure enough, it was Frank Catalanotto.
The Sox flashed some leather to protect their lead, with Youkilis, Lowell, and Wily Mo Pena all coming up with big plays in the field. 2B Dustin Pedroia, playing at Manny Ramirez-depth in RF (pre-Manny's chat on defensive positioning with Terry Francona), made a nifty play to retire Indians slugger Travis Hafner. I was concerned that the Sox defense would flounder without Batshit Tavarez out there giving direction, but it appears they are doing fine without him. For now. (Small sample size, folk(s).)
While the Sox only scored one run (against Indians ace C. C. Sabathia), their should be no concerns about their offense. Not with Dave Magadan as hitting coach. I saw a clip of Magadan smashing a playoff-winning hit for the Mariners against the Twins the other day, demonstrating the clutch-hitting that he has brought to the Sox. When anyone remembers that particular game, they always remember Griffey Jr's game-saving catch. Or the 12 yr. old managing the Twins. Or the Twins slugger who proposed to the 12 yr. old Manager's Mom after the game. But, for my yen, Magadan was the story of that memorable piece of baseball history.
The Sox send Josh Beckett to the mound tonight, facing the Indians' Fausto Carmona. Carmona has been lights-out this season, but the Sox own him. He probably still has nightmares about the Sox' beatings of him last season. Besides, Tom Caron remembered to thank Tina Cervasio AND Amalie Benjamin after their segment during the pre-game. And the Sox are undefeated in Beckett starts this season, when Caron thanks both Cervasio and Benjamin in the pre-game show. All signs point to the Sox' sixth win in a row.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
But this week we have a truly amazing sports story to celebrate. A remarkable triumph of spirit over adversity. (No, not J.D. Durbin and his complete game shutout victory against Jake Peavy and the Padres. We're talking about another "Real Deal" here.) Jonathan Tyler Lester. First, he beats lymphoma. Then he makes his return to the major leagues, and shuts down the Cleveland Indians. Six innings, one run allowed, and his eighth career victory in ten decisions. Just. Incredible.
I'll admit I was a bit concerned about the timing of his return to the Majors. His performance in Pawtucket had been inconsistent, and he had not pitched very well in his most recent AAA appearances. While it was certainly time for Batshit Crazy to be ejected from the starting rotation (0-3, 8.05 ERA, 2.21 WHIP, .402 BA against in July), it seemed possible that Lester was being rushed a bit. Perhaps not. He was extremely poised and got results. Even if Lester goes back to Pawtucket when Curt Schilling comes off the DL, or is packaged in a trade for Teixeira or Rowand, he's given Red Sox Nation another highlight in what has been a season of highlights. Hopefully, there will be many more highlights this season. Both for Jon and the Sox.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
One-hundred and fifty-eight hardy souls gathered in a subterranean bunker in Saugus, Massachusetts. Humans, robots, and monkeys, alike, cloistered underground with the goal of ensuring Boston Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima's election to the the American League All-Star Team. (And, yes, robots have souls, but that is a story for another blog post.) We were not to be dissuaded by logical arguments, such as "Okajima has pitched less than half as many innings as his (non-Neshek) competitors." Or, "He's a goddamn relief pitcher, for crissakes." As the Red Sox candidate, Okajima would receive our full voting support. Just as Messrs. Damon and Varitek had, in The Time Before The Great Victory.
As we sat for days, casting vote after vote for Okajima and San Diego Padres SP Chris Young (the robots were rather adamant about giving our NL support to Young, for reasons not known. Yet.), we subsisted on a diet of Aquafina and dragon bones. Two large television screens hung from the opposite end of the room. One displayed Red Sox action, both live, and from the Sox' glorious history. Pre- and postgame content, not including any car racing-themed segments, was also available. On the other screen, Escape from New York was played continuously. The collective brilliance of Matsuzaka and Plissken served as additional inspiration, as we increased our voting output into the millions.
The monkeys were the first to succumb to the perilous conditions. In the middle of Day Three, as Snake Plissken battled the Giant in N.Y. Library, and Rich Garces battled the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, the monkeys revolted. They began to beat the computers, and each other, with the dragon bones. It was neccessary that they be forcibly removed, and "sequestered." The robots were unmoved by the simians' demonstration, as they continued to vote unerringly. The behavior of the robots was, perhaps, more disconcerting than that of the monkeys. Someday, the goals of the humans and the robots will be in opposition. I fear that day. I think we all do.
I managed to make it hours into the last day, before the sleep deprivation affected my perception of reality. I had not slept for days, as the steel implements fashioned by Mike Timlin had prevented my eyes from closing. But I fell into a state somewhere between sleep and hallucination, as I continued to Vote Okajima/Young. My visions became increasingly vivid. I saw a Red Sox OF named Jacoby score from second on a wild pitch. A Red Sox SS named Julio reached first base on an actual hit. Not Jason pitched hitless inning after hitless inning. My mind journeyed to the Red Sox' Picnic in the Park where, teamed with Batshit Crazy Tavarez, we defeated David and D'Angelo Ortiz in a fierce badminton match. Next, I won the top auction prize at the Picnic- the opportunity to cover a Red Sox game with the Globe's Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin. Suddenly, I sat in the Fenway Park Press Box, with Gordon the Great's Pad O' Stats mere inches my grasp. I reached for it, eager to greedily devour the statistical goodness contained within the nondescript cardboard covers. My insatiable thirst soon to be quenched, I opened to a random page and began to...
It was over. I was jolted into consciousness by the celebratory yells of the other humans. Before we fled out onto the streets of Saugus, to begin proclaiming that Okajima is A#1, and to find a place that served something other than dragon bones, I took once last look at my computer. The screen that I had spent what seemed like eons staring at, stared back at me. One final vote for Okajima awaited entry of the validation code. I typed in 102704 on the ergonomic keyboard, and clicked, sending one last show of support for Okajima into cyberspace.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
The Red Sox will score three runs in a single game again. Someday. But I'm not worried. The Sox have only lost one game this month. Besides, they still have the Good 'ol Binomial Theorem in their corner. Their offense is just too good to do this badly for too long. And a long streak of Soxian wins is just around the corner. Well, as long as Julio Lugo is not allowed on the field in any capacity. He might be a fit as a vendor, though. Just not one who has to throw things or anything. Perhaps they should just pay him the $9 mil./yr. to stay home.
The Jacoby Ellsbury Era has begun. Finally. However, I was surprised that he was given the same number worn by Red Sox immortal Dwayne Hosey. Quite the tough act to follow. Strange that they would put extra pressure on Ellsbury like that. The fleet CF is batting only .125 so far, but he won't be batting under .300 in MLB for long. Once he starts facing a steady diet of lackluster NL pitching, as the starting CF for the Philadelphia Phillies, he'll triple his current BA. At least. It is quite apparent that the reason Ellsbury was brought up to the bigs, is to showcase him for a trade. Expect the Sox to send Ellsbury and Manny Delcarmen to Philly for ALL-STAR CF Aaron Rowand before the week is over. You heard it here first. Don't bother heading over to mlbtraderumors.com or anything. Because I gots the good stuff right here.
The Red Sox were well-represented on the All-Star squad. Beckett. Lowell. Ramirez. Ortiz. Jon Papelbon. JON Papelbon. Not really sure when he stopped going by "Jonathan." Whatever. I just hope if the AL has a save opportunity, they give Jon the ball. And not J. Putz, Bob Jenks, or Frank Rodriguez. The AL team looks pretty good. They could probably use a not-actually-Greek 1B/3B with a .924 OPS, but not bad otherwise.
Hideki Okajima is on the AL Final Vote ballot, going against the likes of Jeremy Bonderman, Kelvin Escobar, and Roy Halladay. And Pat Neshek. I love that Pat Neshek is on the ballot. It is good to see his sensational season hasn't only been noticed by incredibly brilliant fantasy baseball players. (No need to name any of these brilliant fantasy baseball players. One of whom, incidentally, is in 3rd place now, but will be in 1st place shortly.) Neshek and Okajima's brilliance aside, I wonder if one of the SPs would be a better choice, considering that they have pitched quite a few more innings than Okajima and Neshek have. Just trying to be objective here. That said, I'm going to sign up for some more e-mail addresses, so I can get some more votes in for Okajima. Go Sox!