Sunday, April 29, 2007

2 of 3 Ain't Bad


Its April. Not even May yet. You can't win or lose the World Series now, or any time soon. Still, you just get the sense that this is a special team.

The surging Red Sox took two out of three at Yankee Stadium, dropping the only game that I had them favored in. The Sox won 7-4 today on a series of homers by David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Cora...? Yes, Alex Cora, who also tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Despite their hitting prowess, the Sox won this one on the strength of their bullpen. His Craziness, Julian Tavarez pitched into the sixth inning, but when Julio Lugo threw a easy grounder away, Terry Francona didn't hesitate to go to his bullpen. Francona managed like a champ today, going to his best non-closer reliever, Hideki Okajima, in the sixth inning with no outs to protect a tenuous one run lead.

Okajima came on with Jeter at first, no outs. His only blemish was giving up a single to A-Rod on a good low and away off speed pitch. It was a great piece of hitting by A-Rod, but it wouldn't be enough, as Okajima left the two runners
stranded. Francona left Okajima in to pitch the seventh with great results as the Yankees didn't get a guy on base. Okajima struck out four in two innings of work.

Francona's vision to see he had already gotten the best out of Tavarez and willingness to go to one of his better relievers at a point often considered early in the game and thus only suitable for a lesser reliever, played a huge part in today's win. Francona recognized the high leverage of the situation and made sure to bring in someone who could get the outs. It helps, of course, that the trio of Papelbon, Okajima, and Donnelly can do no wrong at the moment. Imagine how good the team would be if they hadn't traded Cla Merideth? But I digress...

While Francona was managing the game perfectly, Joe Torre inexplicably went to the bullpen early after 6 innings from his starter, Wang. Wang had thrown only 83 pitches but for some reason despite all the usage his bullpen has already experienced, Torre thought that was enough. YES was speculating that Wang had developed blisters on his pitching hand, but that remains unsubstantiated. If that is true, then its understandable. If not, it was negligent. Torre allowed the Red Sox to take advantage of a mediocre Yankees bullpen, piling on for three more runs to break the game open.

That the Red Sox went into the eighth inning leading by four runs allowed them to put Mike Timlin into the game. True to form, Timlin gave up a solo homer to Derek Jeter and a single to Bobby Abreu on a terrible split fingered pitch, but he was able to get A-Rod to bounce into a double play to end the inning. The Red Sox were able to take that kind of chance because of the two run homer from Manny Ramirez in the top of the eighth.

Francona wasn't taking any chances in the ninth even with a three run lead. He brought Papelbon on to record the save, which.. YAWN... he did.

After all the bluster about the Yankees ending their winning streak and sending out their best pitcher to face Boston and win the series, they lost again. Maybe more importantly to them, they lost a match up that heavily favored them. Playing at home, the Yankees sent their number one pitcher against Boston's number five pitcher, and still lost. Decisively.

AL East: With the 7-4 win, the Red Sox are now 16-8 overall, and 5-1 against the Yankees this season. Their lead over NY returns to 6.5 games. Their lead in the division remains at 4.0 games, as Toronto beat Texas, 7-3. Baltimore lost to Cleveland, dropping to 4.5 back. The Red Sox lead Tampa by 6.0, pending the outcome of their game in Oakland.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox get a well deserved rest on Monday before playing a two game set against Oakland in the Fens. Curt Schilling will face Joe Blanton on Tuesday, and Josh Beckett looks to go 6-0 against Chad Guadin on Wednesday. Both games are scheduled for 7:05pm.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

F'd by Froemming


Just a rotten game all the way around for the Red Sox with the exception of the pitching which was, as it has been all year, pretty good. The staff held the Yankees to 3 runs in 8 innings of play, which will usually win you the game. Unfortunately, the Red Sox bats took the night off. They did get runners on base (12 all together) and even sprinkled in some hits here and there (7), but just were never able to put anything together....

Until the 8th inning.

Kyle Farnsworth came on to pitch for NY in the 8th, with the Yankees leading 3-0. The inning started off with Youkilis singling and then Ortiz walking. 1st and 2nd with zero outs and the heart of the order coming up. Then Manny struck out looking on a pitch that looked to be high (this would be the theme of the night) an JD Drew grounded into a force out at second. Just like that the Sox had 1st and 3rd with two down. Mike Lowell was up next. He fell behind in the count, but came back to bloop a single into right field for a hit and an RBI as Youkilis scored. 3-1, NY.

This is where it gets dicey. Coco Crisp came up. During the at-bat, Coco took five straight balls, and was called out on strikes after the fifth one. How in the world, you ask, is that possible? Well, I wish I had a good explanation, but I don't. Home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who's strike zone was, to put it charitably, horrific all night, felt that three of the five pitches were strikes. In particular Froemming called Crisp out on three pitches that were progressively more outside, culminating in the third strike call where Yankees catcher Jorge Posada had to actually reach slightly into the right handed hitters batters box to catch the thing. Froemming called Crisp out and Crisp reacted as I think I probably would: by smashing his helmet into the ground and tossing his bat in disgust. Froemming, of course, threw him out of the game.

This series of terrible calls effectively took the bat out of Crisp's hands and killed the Red Sox rally. You never like to blame the result of the game on an umpiring decision. The game is too long and there are too many individual outcomes that shape the game for that to truly be the case.

However, in games between evenly matched teams, its a shame for the game to be altered by a series of bad calls, as was the case here. None of Fransworth's offerings to Crisp was in the strike zone, and Froemming never should have called any of them a strike. If Farnsworth continued to throw the ball to that spot, it should have resulted in Crisp walking, and the bases being loaded. Who knows what happens at that point. The Red Sox didn't play very inspiring baseball today, so its entirely possible that the next hitter would have grounded out, struck out, or what have you. But its incumbent upon the umpire to not alter the game, and to let it play itself out.

It was a shame that the lasting image of that game to me will be Froemming making some terrible calls.

AL East: The Blue Jays lost in extra innings today, so they remain 4.0 games behind Boston for the division lead. The Red Sox don't find out if they lose ground to the division until Baltimore wins or loses (they are currently tied with Cleveland 1-1 in the 2nd inning). With the win today, the Yankees snap their seven game losing streak, and move to 5.5 games behind Boston for the division lead. Tampa lost again today. They remain 5.5 games behind Boston as well.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox wrap up their 3 game series in the Bronx at 1:05pm. Julian Tavarez pitches the rubber match for Boston. He'll be opposed by Chien-Ming Wang.

Sox Crush Yanks or I Got Your Run Differential Right Here!


Last week after the Red Sox swept the Yankees in Boston you heard a few excuses from Yankee fans, some legitimate, some not so much. The list usually began with injuries, but also included playing on the road, the Red Sox rotation was lined up perfectly while the Yankees rotation wasn't, and the fact that the Red Sox only won the three games by a total of four runs.

With that in mind, you'd think Friday night would have been the Yankees day. They were at home, with their opening day lineup out in full force, and their best pitcher on the mound who entered the day sporting a sub-2.00 era.

I'm not sure what the next list of excuses will be, but judging from the empty seats at Yankee Stadium tonight they'll probably be on the creative side. Tonight the Red Sox crushed the Yankees. Crushed them.

The score was 11-4, but the Yankees never threated other than in the 4th inning when Matsuzaka, who pitched an effective game other than the 4th inning, walked the first three hitters and then gave up two bloop singles to Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter. Actually, Jeter's was more of a grounder just out of reach of the fielders. Still, neither player hit the ball hard. In fact, Damon's single was on a check swing, which was, you know, kinda weird.

That would be all for the Yankees offense. And in the Red Sox very next turn at bat in the top of the 5th, they quickly took the lead back on a couple walks and some timely base hits. After scoring three in the 5th the score was 5-4, Boston, but the Red Sox weren't done yet. They managed to score a few more on the Yankee bullpen and then took it to Mariano Rivera in the ninth who came on to protect a three run... deficit? Well, it didn't matter if it was a deficit when Rivera came on or not because it was definitely a deficit when he left. Rivera was yanked by Joe Torre after retiring one hitter (JD Drew on a strikeout to start off the inning) and surrendering 2 runs. He left with the bases loaded and Mike Myers came on to allow the pounding to continue. After Myers was done, Rivera's line looked like this: one third of an inning, three hits, four runs, one walk, and one strikeout. Oh, and Rivera's era is now a sparkling 12.15.

All in all, it was a fabulous night to be a Red Sox fan. We crushed the Yankees best lineup, best starting pitcher and best reliever on their turf in front of their fans in the Bronx. We've beaten them four straight, are way up on them for the division lead and tomorrow they're staring down the barrel of having to start Jeff Karstens against us, losing the series and potentially getting swept. Again!

Even More Good News: Jon Lester, who was scheduled to receive a check up to ensure he is still cancer free today, was pronounced 100% healthy.

Even More "Even More Good News": Then Lester went out and beat the pants off some AAA team. Hopefully he'll be able to rejoin the Red Sox soon. He has another rehab start scheduled for this coming Wednesday.

AL East: With tonights 11-4 win, the Red Sox continue to maintain the best record in baseball, now 15-7. The increase their lead in the division as Toronto, Baltimore, and New York (obviously) all lost. The Sox lead the Blue Jays by 4.0, the Orioles by 4.5, Tampa by 6.0 (who won tonight), and the Yankees by a whopping 6.5 games. The Red Sox are 4-0 against NY this season, and with tonight's loss the Yankees have lost seven straight games. The Yankees fall to five games below .500 on the year.

Tomorrow: Tim Wakefield vs. Jeff Karstens. Game time 3:55pm. The game will be broadcast on Fox, so for best results, place your fingers in your ears and continue to breath normally.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wily and Josh


Tonight the Red Sox won a game they probably should have won, though for a while it didn't seem like it... Let me explain. By the eighth inning, the Sox had had 13 baserunners and had scored one run. Fortunately for them, they had the bases loaded. Unfortunately for them they had Wily Mo Pena coming to the plate. So far this year, Pena has... well, I can't remember any hits he has had. I'm sure he's had some, somewhere, but they escape me at the moment.

Actually, Pena had had a hit earlier that game, a well struck double in the left center field gap. Anyway, my memory aside, Pena came up against Chris Ray, the O's closer. This is the same Chris Ray who gave up a game losing grand slam to Alex Rodriguez earlier this year. So, Ray falls behind in the count and thinks, "I need a strike. I'll throw Pena a fastball." Now, remember, much like Pedro Cerano from the movie Major League, Pena can't hit a curveball. Not now, not ever. But, a fastball, well, he hit it very much. Having obviously never seen Major League, or Wily Mo Pena for that matter, Chris Ray decided that he should throw a fastball. And he did. And Pena hit it 70 miles. Like we couldn't all see that coming.

A 4 run homer, or as the kids call them, a 'grand slam' homer. The O's 2-1 lead switched to a 5-2 lead for Boston. That one swing, combined with eight semi-masterful innings from the major's first 5 game winner, Josh Beckett, put the Red Sox in the win column tonight.

AL East: The Red Sox 5-2 win over Baltimore gave them a sweep of the two game mini-series in Baltimore and gives them the most wins (14) of any team in Major League Baseball. They also have the best winning percentage of any team in baseball, at .667. The win increased their lead over Baltimore to 3.5 games. Their lead over the division as a whole only grew a half game to 3.0 though as Toronto's win in New York vaulted them over Baltimore for second place. The Yankees have now lost (can you believe this?) six in a row. With their loss, and the Red Sox win, the Yankees fall to 5.5 behind Boston and last place in the division. Tampa is also 5.5 back, but above NY due to a slightly higher winning percentage.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox make their first trip to the Bronx to take on the reeling Yankees. Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Andy Pettitte. Game time 7:05pm.

Jumping the Gun With Future Fun: Miguel Cabrera & A-Rod


I took the above picture of Manny Ramirez, Big Papi, and Miguel Cabrera last summer when I interned with a company down in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It happened that the Red Sox were scheduled to spend a weekend down in Miami vs. the Marlins, and I was able to get tickets and go. Aside from seeing the Red Sox and attending a game at a new (to me) stadium, I really wanted to watch current hitter-extraordinaire Miguel Cabrera. Big Papi and Manny both hit two homers apiece while Cabrera settled for a single as the Red Sox routed the Marlins, 11-5.

I bring this up because there is an interesting thread over at mlbtraderumors.com concerning Cabrera and his future. Cabrera will be a free agent in three years, after the 2009 season, but he is already getting pretty expensive for the cheap-ass Marlins. (Don't tell me they are a 'small market' team. Have you ever been to the Miami area? Its huge and expensive.) This season, Cabrera is making $7.4 Million, which is just under a quarter of the Marlins payroll of $30 Million. While the team's payroll isn't likely to increase substantially, Cabrera's salary is.

It is possible that Cabrera could be shopped around the league for cheaper talent, possibly next off season. It is unquestionable that he would bring a king's ransom in return, especially if the Marlins were to trade him sooner (this coming off season) rather than later (two years from now). Teams will pay more the longer they control a player, so in that sense it behooves the Marlins to trade Cabrera sooner.

Its fun to speculate (and let me be clear: thats all I'm doing here) about the potential for interesting possibilities that this brings up. There are a number of teams that could afford to trade the required bounty of minor and/or major league talent to acquire Cabrera and pay him at the same time. The Angels have been looking for a big hitter to compliment Vladimir Guerrero for a few years now, and the Dodgers definitely have the talent and the need at third base.

Still, predictably, its the Yankees and Red Sox that I'm interested in discussing. Both teams potentially have a need at third base, the talent to trade, and the payroll to absorb Cabrera's salary now and in the future when he gets really expensive.

For the Red Sox, current third baseman Mike Lowell's contract is up after this season. Great as he's been since he came from the Marlins in trade last year, Lowell is no Miguel Cabrera. The Red Sox could re-sign Lowell, but considering his age I'd find it unlikely unless there is nothing else available. However, its likely that there will be something, or someone I should say, else available: Alex Rodriguez.

As everyone not living on the moon knows, A-Rod has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Anyone who thinks that he won't at minimum use this clause as a bargaining chip to get extra years and dollars added to his current contract is dreaming, but the most likely scenario is that A-Rod will simply exercise the out clause. As a Scott Boras client, A-Rod will be seeking the highest dollar (as he should be, you won't find me bashing him for successfully making money here) and that will come if he can leverage teams against each other, something he can't do by just bargaining with the Yankees. Opting out doesn't preclude him re-signing with New York, but it does mean that he will listen to other offers.

If A-Rod opts out and becomes a free agent then his salary will no longer be subsidized by the dim-wit owner of the Texas Rangers, the aptly named Tom Hicks. Right now, A-Rod costs the Yankees about $16 Million a year, but his take home salary is $25 Million. Texas pays the difference for the life of the contract. If A-Rod were to opt out of his contract and the Yankees were to resign him to the very same contract he plays for now, it would cost NY about $40 Million more than they will pay him under the current conditions. Then, add any additional years at full price plus the penalty for going over the luxury threshold and you can see that it would be a massive expenditure for the Yankees, especially in light of the sweet deal they are currently enjoying.

This isn't to say that signing A-Rod would be any cheaper for anyone else, but when you consider the fact that the Yankees are reportedly trying to cut salary down to a more manageable number you have to wonder if A-Rod opted out, how big an offer would he get from NY. Complicating the matter is the fact that the Yankees don't have much in the way of salary coming off the books after this season. Abreu ($16M club option), Rivera ($11M), and Posada ($12M) are all free agents or have club options after this season, but at least two out of three and likely all three will be re-signed. This doesn't give NY much wiggle room unless they want to simply add payroll.

This all leads back to Cabrera. If Cabrera were available, he would allow the Yankees to replace A-Rod's production for pennies on the dollar. The Yankees have the top tier prospects that Florida would likely be looking for in Jose Tabata and/or Phil Hughes. Packaging one or both with Melky Cabrera or Robinson Cano... well, I'm making things up, but its likely to take an immense package of talent to bag Cabrera. Fortunately for them, the Yankees have that talent, and they have the funds and the room in the lineup if A-Rod opts out.

At the same time, the Red Sox will also have a hole at third base. I would argue that it makes more sense for Boston to try to sign Rodriguez than it does to trade for Cabrera, (although I'd rather have Cabrera simply because of his youth). Despite their spending spree this past off-season, the Red Sox will have some substantial salaries coming off the books after this season. Lowell, Schilling, Clement, Hinske, Piniero, Tavarez, and Timlin are all free agents to be who cost the Red Sox $43 Million this year. The Red Sox can absorb the salary hit better than NY this coming off season, in part because of the glut of talent in their minor leagues. While they don't appear to have the top tier talent that NY has in Hughes and Tabata, they could adequately replace the free agents above with minor league talent and not miss as step in the process.

While the Yankees would have to increase their payroll substantially to re-sign Rodriguez, the Red Sox could sign Rodriguez, re-sign Schilling, fill the vacancies with minor league players, and hardly increase their payroll at all. If Cabrera is available, its possible that the Yankees would simply let Rodriguez go, whether it be to Boston or not. This could be a more interesting off season for the two protagonists than we've seen since the Yankees signed Rodriguez in the first place.

Weather Helps Yankees


Last night's rain out in New York alters the pitching match ups we'll see this weekend when the Red Sox go to the Bronx (pictured above from a 2005 game I was lucky enough to attend where the Red Sox beat Carl Pavano and the Yankees 17-1).

Andy Pettitte who was scheduled to go last night is now available and will pitch tomorrow night against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Yankee legend-in-the-making Phil Hughes will make his first major league start tonight versus Toronto. Manager Joe Torre is altering Pettitte's start date by two days instead of altering Peittitte and Hughes by a day each to help Hughes avoid making his first major league start in the circus atmosphere of a Red Sox/Yankees series. This makes good sense, especially in light of what the Sox did to Chase Wright last weekend.

So, thanks to last night's rain, the Yankees catch a break and can now have their two best pitchers face the Red Sox. This tilts the match ups for this weekend in favor of NY. Lets take a closer look:

Friday: Matsuzaka vs. Pettitte
Notes: In the event of an even pitching match up, you give the advantage to the home team. However, its probably true that Pettitte has been pitching slightly better than Matsuzaka. We'll see if that holds or not. This is the closest match up of the series and its likely that the winner of this game will take the series.
Advantage: Yankees

Saturday: Tim Wakefield vs. Unannounced (likely either Igawa or Karstens)
Notes: Wakefield has, believe it or not, been the Red Sox second best pitcher behind Beckett this season. His reputation is that he gives the Yankees fits, although his actual career stats against the Yankees don't back that up. His career ERA is 4.28 while his career ERA against the Yankees is 4.60. Still, Wakefield is likely to be better if not significantly so than either either Igawa or Karstens, both of whom look less than major league ready. Additionally, if the Red Sox can force the Yankee bullpen to throw a good number of innings in this game, they'll increase their chances to win on Sunday.
Advantage: Red Sox

Sunday: His Craziness, Julian Tavarez vs. Chien-Ming Wang
Notes: Tavarez just isn't very good and against the best lineup in baseball this is simply a terrible match up for the Red Sox. Conversely, Wang is a good pitcher, though not a great one and is likely miscast as an ace. However, there is no question he is vastly better than Tavarez. For the Red Sox to win this game they likely need to do two things:

1) Knock the Yankee bullpen around in games 1 and 2
2) Get Wang's pitch count up so that he has to come out by the sixth inning

Wang likely won't hold the Red Sox scoreless, so weakening the Yankee bullpen earlier in the series by increasing their workload could allow the Red Sox to come from behind in this game if Tavarez can keep it reasonably close. Still, I won't be holding my breath.
Advantage: Yankees

On paper this series promises to be more competitive than last weekend's series in the Fens. The reality is that it likely won't be, simply because it doesn't get a whole lot closer than last weekend's series. Somewhat obviously, the goal for the Yankees will be to sweep the Red Sox and even the season series in the process. With Karstens or Igawa going for them on Saturday that will be a tall order.

For Boston a sweep looks improbable. On the road, Boston should hope to win a more modest two out of three. This likely means winning on Saturday and then either of the other two games. Still, you never can tell exactly what will happen by looking at the pitching match ups in a series. About the only thing we know for sure is it will be exiting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

OKI!


One thing that the Sox haven't had in the Theo Epstein era is a great bullpen. The pen in '03 was good at the end of the season (not that Grady noticed) but only so-so in it. In '04 Foulke was just amazing, especially in the post-season, but the pen didn't have a ton of depth. Since then, the bullpen has been a medium-grade disaster featuring such luminaries as Matt Mantei, Mike Remlinger, and John "The Llama" Halama in '05, and Rudy Seanez, Jermaine Van Buren, and Mike Burns in '06.

Well, no more (hopefully). Hideki Okajima hasn't given up a run since his first pitch this season, Brandon Donnelly hasn't given up a run period, and Jonathan Papelbon has been as dominant as I can imagine a pitcher being. Having three guys like that to control the game in the late innings is going to go a long way towards winning the AL East, not to mention helping Terry Francona quit chewing tobacco (You can do it, Terry!).

Tonight, Curt Schilling pitched a gem, giving up one run in seven innings (a moonshot of a solo homer to Miguel Tejada on a hanging curve). His counterpart, Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles, pitched a good game also, leaving with two runners on base after allowing only one run (strangely enough on an Alex Cora solo homer).

At this point the game was up to the bullpens. Here is their respective performances:

Baltimore: 2.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks and two inherited runners were allowed to score.
Boston: 2 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 K's.

And thats the game. The Sox offense came alive as soon as the Baltimore bullpen showed their head, while the Orioles offense was even less alive (if thats possible) after the Boston bullpen entered the game. If their bullpen can keep up the pace, the Sox will be extremely formidable this season, especially compared to the bullpens that the Yankees and Blue Jays have right now.

AL East: Good win for the Sox today, as they win in Baltimore, 6-1. The Yankees and Blue Jays were rained out today, so the Red Sox pick up a 1/2 game against both of them in the standings and a full game against Baltimore. The Sox lead the Orioles by 2.5 games, the Blue Jays by 3.0 games, and the Yankees by 4.5. The Rays are just starting up in LA against the Angels. Their deficit will be either 4.0 or 5.0 depending on whether or not they win. This will not keep me up at night.

Tomorrow: The Sox go for the mini-sweep in the concluding game of their mini-series in Baltimore. Josh Beckett will try to go 4-0 on the year. He will be opposed by O's super-rookie Adam Loewen, who has pitched well this year so far (3.72 ERA). Game time 7:05pm.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

E - Everyone

"Whoops!"

Tonight the Red Sox lost to Toronto, 10-3. His Craziness was His Craziness, allowing too many hits (7) and too many runs (6) in not enough innings (4.2) and Kyle Snyder didn't help matters (1.1 innings pitched, 4 runs allowed). The Red Sox defense was complicit as well, kicking the ball around to the tune of 4 errors on the night which led to 4 unearned runs. The concept of unearned runs is bunk, but just the same the Red Sox didn't make the Jays work too hard for those four extras.

Particularly egregious in this regard was Wily Mo Pena, who with one dropped ball in center field cost the Red Sox four runs and just about any shot at actually winning the game. With two outs in the top of the sixth inning and two runners on base, Lyle Overbay hit a low line drive into center. Even after initially starting back on the ball he had plenty of time to catch it, but the ball somehow bounced in and then out of his glove. The result was two runs crossing the plate and a second and third situation for Toronto. The next hitter was Vernon Wells who quite predictably singled, plating both those runs and effectively turning the game into a lost cause.

Mike Lowell hit another homer, but other than that the Red Sox offense was pretty silent, as Roy Halladay held them in check.

AL East: With tonight's loss the Red Sox have lost two games in a row. The Orioles lost again to Oakland, allowing the Sox to maintain their 1.5 game lead on the division. With the win, the Blue Jays pulled to an even .500 on the year, and are now 2.5 games behind Boston. The Yankees lost to the Devil Rays 6-4, their fifth loss in a row. At 8-11, NY remains 4 games behind the Sox. With the win, Tampa pulled ahead of NY to 3.5 games behind the division lead.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox begin another two game series, this one in Baltimore against the Orioles. Curt Schilling will pitch against Daniel Cabrera, who has been surprisingly effective this season.

Looking Past Tampa

In football, you are never supposed to look past an opponent. Any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday, as the saying goes. The same could be said for baseball, with the saying elongated to include any day of the week. Especially in April, the goal is just to pick up wins and it almost doesn't matter whom you beat because we just don't really know who is good and who isn't yet.

Still, nobody can deny the electricity that exists when the Red Sox and Yankees get together. Last weekend's series was just that: electric. The games were all close, and if not always well played, extremely exciting. So in that vein, I wanted to jump the gun and take a look ahead at the potential pitching match ups for this coming week's three gamer in the Bronx.

NY's pitching staff is in a state of flux. They are finally caving and bringing up the highly touted Phil Hughes (who apparently grew up a big Red Sox fan) to fill one of many holes in their starting rotation created by injury and ineptitude. Hughes will make his first start against Toronto on Thursday. Since he'll be pitching the night before Boston comes to town, he won't be available in the series unless Torre brings him back on two days rest in a relief capacity, and this is highly unlikely.

Mike Mussina is on the disabled list and it is unclear if he will be available for the series or not. The Yankees website doesn't list when he was put on the DL. Carl Pavano was put on the DL on April 15, so he won't be eligible to return until after the series. In fact, there is some concern about whether Pavano will ever come back. From Bronx Banter:
Pavano told ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe Monday that he was unsure if he’d pitch again this season – Pavano and the Yankees, despite there being a transcript of the interview, are denying the report and planning a throwing session Wednesday.

The MLB.com website doesn't have all the probables listed through Sunday yet. However the listing as posted now for next weekend's series are:

1. Daisuke Matsuzaka v. Jeff Karstens
2. Tim Wakefield v. Kei Igawa

Its possible that both Yankee starters could change, given how well both have performed. Igawa got lit up again last night, and now has as many bad starts as decent ones. Karstens didn't fare well against the Red Sox last weekend, giving up 7 runs in 4.1 innings of work.

As for game three, Chieng-Ming Wang has just come off the DL and will pitch for NY in tonight's game (Tuesday). This would seem to put him in line to start the series finale on Sunday. Wang has had three starts in the minors to shake the rust off after getting hurt before making his first start of the season. He hasn't been that effective, though I'm sorry, I can't find the link to his rehab stats.

As the Red Sox have no off days before the series, Matsuzaka and Wakefield are set. Sunday's game calls for their fifth starter, who currently is His Craziness, Julian Tavarez. If Tavarez gets shelled tonight, and we all know there is a decent chance that could happen, Kyle Snyder and Jon Lester are possibilities.

Last weekend's series featured Boston's best three starters vs. NY's best starter and two scrubs all in Boston. This series is shaping up to be more even. The Sox will throw their numbers 3, 4, and 5 starters in New York. The only thing that won't change is the Yankee starting pitching which will probably be worse, at least on paper.

Right now, have to give the pitching edge to Boston again, even with Tavarez in line to start. If the Sox can go into New York and win two out of three, you would have to call that a big success.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just one of the 50

"Aww... crap."

Theres an old saying in baseball about how every team will win 50 games and every team will lose 50, its what you do with the remaining games that determines how good you are. Tonight was one of the second 50.

After holding the yankees virtually scoreless over the weekend, the Red Sox bullpen imploded tonight. Tim Wakefield was good enough, giving up four runs (three earned) through six innings. However, the bullpen combined to give up three more runs pretty much eliminating any chance for a win.

The leader-in-implosion was Mike Timlin, though Joel Piniero did his part too. In particular was Timlin's performance in the ninth inning. After giving up a leadoff triple in the top of the ninth inning to Vernon Wells - no particular shame in that as Wells is a very good hitter - Timlin got the next two guys. He admittedly got a bit lucky when on an 0-2 count, Gregg Zaun hit a line drive right at his head which he was just able to catch. The next hitter was Aaron Hill. Timlin quickly jumped ahead by throwing two fastballs both of which Hill swung and missed at. On the next pitch Timlin gave up a towering three run homer which gave Toronto a commanding 7-3 lead and just about sealed off any chance the Red Sox had of a comeback. You hate to give up a homer like that, but you really hate to do it on an 0-2 pitch. That stings a bit.

With the loss Boston falls to 11-6. The Orioles lost too, so the Sox lead on the division is still 1.5 games. As of this writing, NY is losing to Tampa, 10-6. Kei Igawa started and, typically, got pounded. [Update: Despite two homers from April-Rod, the yankees couldn't beat the Rays, losing 10-8. They remain 4 games behind first place Boston.]

Tomorrow: A rematch of Roy Halladay vs. His Craziness, Julian Tavarez. Tavarez somehow managed to get the better of Halladay and the Jays last week, but lightning doesn't often strike twice. The Red Sox had better get the bats moving tomorrow if they want to avoid a mini-sweep at home at the hands of the ever-bothersome Jays.

OH MY GOD! STEVE PHILLIPS MIGHT BE WRONG!




To Whom It Won't Surprise:

Steve "the Genius" Phillips, as I like to call him, just said that Roger Clemens is more likely to go to the Yankees than the Red Sox. OK, sounds plausible, but wait to you get to the part that "The Genius" has trouble with: the part that requires reasoning. Phillips said on Baseball Tonight, a show I enjoy watching so much I haven't watched it yet this season, that Clemens is more likely to join NY over Boston because NY's bullpen is better.

Now, if that was true, you would expect the Yankee bullpen to have good... oh, what are those called again? Ah, yes, 'statasticks.' During the just completed series between the two teams (in which the Yankees lost all three (ha ha ha!)), the Yankees bullpen gave up 8 runs over 10 innings. To math-retarded me, this works out to be an ERA of 7.20.

Now as a 'statasticks', this is bad. During this same series, and facing what is renowned to be (and likely is) the best lineup in baseball, Boston's bullpen threw 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run. To math-retarded me, this works out to be an ERA of 1.42. This is counter-intuitive though, because even though the Yankees got the bigger number, in this case, its not good. This is one of the things that makes 'statasticks' complicated: sometimes you want a big one, and other times you want a small one.

In any case, whatever, Steve Phillips is a douche.

-Matt

THE SWEEP!


It sure feels good to sweep the Yankees, even if it is this early in the season. Often times a sweep is much more one-sided than this one was, which is to say that this series was pretty even despite one team winning all the games. The Red Sox only out-scored NY by 4 runs.

The Yankees lineup is just incredible, and its only going to get deeper if not better when Matsui comes back. One would think that A-Rod will come back to earth at some point, and he didn't hit homers in the last two games of the series, settling for a single single (ha!) tonight. Once Wang and Mussina come back this could get interesting.

But enough about the losers, lets talk winners. The Red Sox had quite a spectacular game between Mike Lowell's two homers and Dustin Pedroia's terrific diving stop to save the tying run from scoring in the eighth. Of course there was also the little thing about hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 advantage. The first to homer was Manny, followed by J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and finally Jason Varitek. A couple odd facts about that... well, odd happening:
  • The '07 Red Sox became the fifth team to hit four consecutive homers. No team has ever hit five in a row.
  • Each hitter who homered did so for the second time this season.
  • Chase Wright became the first pitcher to give up four consecutive homers, as all previous happenings had been divided between pitchers. {Wright actually became the second pitcher to give up four consecutive homers. The NY Times has the story.}
  • The last time four players homered consecutively was... [drum roll]... last season, when the L.A. Dodgers pulled off the feat against San Diego.
  • Oddly enough, one of the four Dodger hitters who homered last September 18th was J.D. Drew. I have no confirmation about this, but Drew has to be the only guy to ever participate twice in hitting four consecutive homers.
  • By my back of the envelope calculations, on average, hitting four homers consecutively happens once every 121,000 games. Ish.
So, anyway, a great sweep by the Sox. Tonight's win was Boston's fifth win in a row, and with that win we pull four games ahead of NY, 4.5 ahead of Toronto and stay 1.5 ahead of Baltimore. Tampa Bay is 5.5 behind. Boston also has the best record in Major League Baseball.

Tomorrow: The Blue Jays make their first visit to Fenway in 2007. Its Wakefield vs. Tomo Ohka.

Go Sox!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

COUNTER ARGUMENT

Hey Yankee Fans! Remember this guy?

I love reading yankee blogs after the Red Sox beat them. The over-rationalizing is terrifically entertaining. Usually I just enjoy it and let it go. To be fair, I understand how they feel. My team has lost to their team from time to time.

However, sometimes I do take issue with some of the rationalizing. Take for instance the notion that the yankees would have won game two if they weren't so injured. After all, the Red Sox only won by two runs. If Mussina was pitching and Damon, Matsui, and Posada weren't hurt the yankees would surely have won. ("No they wouldn't, and stop calling me 'Shirley.'")

The reason this kind of thinking gets under my skin is I could turn around and do the same thing. What about if Manny wasn't hitting .200? He's not going to suck all year, right? If Posada is a Hall of Famer, then Manny is a Double Hall of Famer (editors note: no such thing).

The Yankees are undoubtedly more beat up than Boston is now, but (news flash!) they have an old team (so does Boston). Injuries and missing players are part of the game. I still believe the Red Sox would have won the division last year if they hadn't had the most incredible run of injuries I've ever seen in my time on this planet. Feel free to disagree with that if you want, but the point is that the Sox got really beat up and as a result weren't able to hold their lead in the division. The players who filled in weren't good enough to compete with the yankees or, as it turned out, the Blue Jays either. Yet I don't recall any yankee fans feeling unsportsmanlike about sweeping an injured Red Sox team last August.

After the past two games, it seems the shoe is on the other foot now. The yankees have some very good players hurt right now, and their team would undoubtedly be better if those players were healthy. The yankees also have one of the worst benches I've seen an AL team have in a long while. One wonders why, with the payroll they have and the catche they carry, Brian Cashman didn't feel the need to sign a legitimate first baseman or a back up catcher who could hit better than a fifth grader (now on ABC: Can You Hit Better Than A Fifth Grader?! Something for Wil Nieves to do after the yankees cut him). These are problems that could easily have been remedied before the season started, and they would have helped limit the damage caused by these recent injuries.

So, make excuses if you want, yankee fans. Maybe if those players hadn't been injured or your GM decided to dedicate some of the $200 Bazillion payroll to someone besides the starters, you'd have come into Boston and beaten the Sox senseless. But the reality is, that didn't happen. The reality is you're on the verge of being swept.

BEST OF 18: BOSTON 2, NY 0


I didn't see the game today. I'm finishing up graduate school and one of my classes has a huge presentation to give on Monday. As a result, I spent the day hunkered over Photoshop, Illustrator, and a bunch of other fun programs. Actually, they're not that bad, but not nearly as fun as watching the Sox beat the Yankees. Again.

As for today's game, Big Papi was the difference. Again. This time he hit a double to drive in two, and a two run homer to put the Sox up by three. The Red Sox did what they should have done and beat up on Jeff Karstens, an inferior pitcher just coming off the DL. The Sox got to Karstens for two runs in the first and second innings (matching the Yankees scoring in both) and then for three in the fourth, topped off by Big Papi's homer around the Pesky Pole.

Beckett wasn't dominating like he as been in his other three starts, but like Schilling yesterday he battled effectively.

With the win, the Sox (11-5) took a three game lead over NY (8-8), a 3.5 game lead on Toronto (8-9), but only a 1.5 game lead on... Baltimore (10-7)? Well, one battle at a time.

Tomorrow: The Sox go for the sweep. Matsuzaka takes the mound for the Sox against Chase Wright. Go Sox!

And Round 1 Goes to Boston BY TKO!


Great comeback by the Sox today. Schilling didn't have his best stuff, but battled and was able to almost get by. Unfortunately the amazingly hot Alex Rodriguez was able to hit two homers and a double, single-handedly putting NY up 6-2. A-Rod's first homer was just launched, but his second one, while hit very well, was almost caught by a sprinting Coco Crisp at the wall in right center field. Just as Crisp reached up to grab the ball, he hit the wall and went tumbling into the bullpen, falling on his back. Just another few inches and he would have had it. So close, good try Covelli!

I'm not sure of the rule on that one (in a post-game interview, A-Rod said he wasn't either). If Crisp catches that ball and falls over the outfield fence is it a homer or an out? I'm going to guess its a homer, but I'm not sure.

In any case, Crisp didn't catch it and suddenly the score was yankees 6, Boston 2. Well, actually at that point the yankees had five runs, but they added another in the top of the 8th inning.

In the bottom of the eighth the Red Sox made their move. They got a double from Ortiz to start off, followed by a walk to Manny, a ground out from Drew to advance the runners, a single from Lowell, a single from Varitek (facing Rivera at this point), a triple from Crisp to tie the score, and then a single from Cora to bring in Crisp with the lead run. 7-6, Boston, and the lead held up in the ninth with the excellent work of Hideki Okajima, who has been quite impressive so far. I suspect he's not really this good and the league will start to catch up to him after seeing him a bit, but give the guy some credit, he's looked filthy so far.

Once again, I think Terry Francona managed circles around Joe Torre. For a guy who will probably go into the Hall of Fame as a manager, Torre makes some horrendous in-game decisions. For instance and probably most importantly, pinch running for Jason HGHiambi with a four run lead in the top of the eighth. That came back to bite him in the ninth when HGHiambi's slot came back around at the end of the game and Kevin Thompson who pinch ran for HGHiambi struck out to end the game with the tying run on first. Come to think of it, why was Thompson even hitting in the ninth? Don't the yankees have anyone on the bench? Anyone at all? Hello...?

I applaud Francona for not using Papelbon, even though the situation called for him to come in. He'd thrown a ton of pitches over the past two games, both of which the Red Sox won at least in part because Papelbon was used correctly both times. Its the yankees, but its also April and you don't want to blow your closer's arm out until at least July.

I find it interesting that, while Ortiz and Manny both had a hand in the rally in the eighth inning, it was Varitek, Crisp, and Cora who won the game for Boston. Cora especially came through for the second night in a row after turning an amazing double play and then tripling home the tying run against Toronto last night.

Varitek finished with 3 hits in 4 at-bats, and all were well struck balls. Great news for Sox fans who were getting a mite bit antsy about Tek's struggles at the plate so far this young season.

Conversely, the yankees catcher, Jorge Posada who I think should be considered for the Hall of Fame when his career ends (and it can't end soon enough for me), hurt his finger sometime in the middle of the game and was removed from the game. X-rays were negative, so there is no break, but the LoHud yankees blog has Posada saying that he'll miss "a couple of days."

I don't ever wish for injuries to opponents, but this is definitely a huge advantage for the Sox now that it looks like Posada will miss the rest of this series. The yankee backup catcher is Wil Nieves, who is a fine catcher and judging on his performance tonight, has a good arm (right, J.D.?), but the guy can not hit. Can. Not. Hit.

Without Posada, the back end of the yankee lineup looks like this:

7. Melky Cabrera (who was good last year, but has looked awful this year; current average: .207
8. Doug Mientkiewicz (who's name I just copied and pasted)
9. Wil Nieves

Compare that with the back end of the Sox lineup:

7. Varitek
8. Crisp
9. Pedroia

OK, probably not the greatest 7-9 hitters ever assembled, but for a game or series, I'd take the Boston three over the NY three.

The Red Sox have now won three in a row, and have come from behind in the eighth and ninth innings to beat Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte. Not bad.

The Sox are all alone in first place in the AL East at the moment. They've got a two game lead on NY, 2.5 on Toronto, and 1.5 on Baltimore. Does it even matter where Tampa is? Well, fine, they're in last, four and a half out.

There was a point in the middle of the game where the camera caught Torre in the dugout doing what looked like sleeping. I'm sure he was conscious (he must have been... right?!), but he had his head in his hands and despite the shot staying on him for multiple seconds, he never moved once. There is a scene in Michael Lewis' fabulous book Moneyball in which Lewis recounts A's GM Billy Beane's insisting that his manager at the time, Art Howe, stand on the step of the dugout, like Washington crossing the Delaware, with his knee up and his chin propped on his fist. Beane said it gave Howe a distinguished look and made him appear more like a leader. Torre might want to consider that the next time he decides to take a cat nap.

The yankees are throwing a couple quasi-rookies at the Sox today (Saturday) and then Sunday night. The Sox will have a big advantage in the starting pitching department for the rest of the series now with Beckett and Matsuzaka scheduled to go. Still, no guarantee of a Boston victory though. Beware the reverse lock!

Today: Jeff Karstens vs. Josh Beckett, 3:55pm

Friday, April 20, 2007

REVERSE LOCK!

"Don't taunt me like that, ball!"

Julian Tavarez and the Sox 'B' lineup on the road to face Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays. Thats a recipe for disaster if I've ever seen one. But, His Craziness held the Jays in check for almost six innings before falling apart, and then Manny and Cora (Cora?) took care of business in the later innings. In the end, after Papelbon was finished embarrassing the Jays in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox were declared victors by a score of 5-3.

As great a comeback win as it was, and it was a great comeback win - raise your hand if you though the Sox were winning this one after seven innings down 3-1 with Halladay dealing - it wasn't the best comeback win of the day in MLB. No, unfortunately that title goes to the Yankees, who overcame a 6-2 deficit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and nobody on base! I'd love to see the win expectancy chart on that game. Actually, no, I probably wouldn't.

After watching the Yankees come from behind win/the Great Joe Borowski Hit Giveaway (get yours today!) I penned the following email to a friend of mine:

So, after the Red Sox won, I decided to watch the Yankees lose. The Indians were up 6-2 with two outs in the ninth and nobody on base. I was celebrating. The final out was one pitch away. You'd have thought I'd have learned my lesson with Grady Little and countless other examples, but, sadly, no. Of course the final score of the game was Yankees 8, Indians 6. Borowski just kept throwing meatballs. He was unbelievably terrible. And the Yankees kept hitting them, right up until A-Hole ended it with a three run homer crushed to straight away center. The sequence of events went thusly: 6-2, Indians. Out (Cano), Out (Cabrera), Solo Homer (Phelps, 6-3), single (Posada), walk (Damon), single (Abreu, 6-4), single (Jeter, 6-5), homer (A-Hole, 8-6). I can't remember such a horrendous meltdown. Just f'n awful. At no time did Wedge get anyone else up in the pen.

So, its pretty plain from that email that the yankee win is my fault. That and Joe Borowski will likely be thrown into Lake Erie, where he will surely burn to death (obligatory 'lake on fire' joke).

Tomorrow: You-know-who comes to town. Its Andy Pettitte vs. Curt Schilling at 7:05. I won't tempt fate by saying anything stupid, like, you know, guaranteeing a Sox win, but this looks like a good match-up (wink! wink!). Go Sox!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Idiot Speaks (Again)


Its that time of year again. Its the time that the Yankees and Red Sox renew an old rivalry, the time the fans of said franchises freak the F out about it, and the time the media tries to stir all this up even more than it already is, if thats actually possible.

To wit: Some media member (and I do mean member) asked former Red Sox star and current Yankee nobody Johnny Damon about his former team. The standard answer from ol' big mouth is how amazingly super happy he is in New York and how much better it is there than in Boston. Well, the traitor didn't disappoint us, letting fly about how the Red Sox fans "turned their heads to me." Apparently we Red Sox fans "believe what we believe in."

Leaving aside the fact that both those comments seem, well, ill-formed, for a moment, I'd like to address the tone of the comments. But, in a typically ridiculous journalistic tool, I'd like to address Johnny D himself. Because, you know, he reads this blog all the time.

Dear Johnny D,

Listen up, son. We didn't turn our backs on you, you turned your back on us. Nobody questioned your leaving the team. It was perfectly within your rights to do so. You could have gone to any team in the league with only one exception. We would have wished you the best and cheered you each time you came back to Boston. Look at Orlando Cabrera and Dave Roberts. Both of those guys were Red Sox for about three or four months and they're still heros in Boston. You, Manny, and Papi were the cornerstones of the Boston franchise. Even if you left, you still wouldn't have ever had to pay for a beer in Boston for the rest of your life.

But, like Dubya, you took all the goodwill that was extended to you and squashed it. What I don't understand is your sense of bewilderment. How did you expect the fans to react? As a Red Sock you knew how Red Sox fans feel about the Yankees, so when you came back to Fenway as a Yankee, obviously we're not going to throw roses at you. No, we're going to boo yr ass. Of frick'n course! You know why, right? I hope I don't need to answer that.

Further, every time you open your yap and babble about how much you love New York and how happy you are there instead of Boston you just sound desperate and lame. It doesn't matter anyway, because we don't want you back, Johnny. You're not welcome in Boston. And every time you set foot in this town you can expect to hear about it from us.

All Red Sox fans hate Jeter, but we all respect him too. We all love to poke A-Rod, but only because he's so sensitive and clumsy about it. But you, Johnny, you are at the head of the line.
The second you put on pinstripes and that ugly hat with the NY on it, you became public enemy number one. You know why? Because we all loved you, and there really is a fine line between love and hate. Its a shame, because it didn't have to be that way at all.

Good luck in New York, I hope you f'ers never win another game.

-mattymatty

Friday, April 13, 2007

Can't we skip this?

His Craziness

Yesterday's rain-out (not featuring snow!) was an opportunity for the Red Sox, that I'm proud to say they seized. The Sox rotation at this point runs four deep. Julian Tavarez is a place holder in the fifth slot, primarily because he just isn't very good (note: nothing against Julian personally; he seems like a terrific guy). The best way to handle this situation is to limit the number of innings that the fifth starter throws until the fifth starter becomes someone better (like a Lester or a Clemens). Yesterday's missed game, which would have featured His Craziness on the mound, provides a perfect opportunity to skip the fifth slot and keep everyone on regular rest. The Sox opted to do just that.

Why do we need to severely curtain Tavarez's innings? PECOTA (the projection system for Baseball Prospectus) pegs Tavarez for a 4.43 ERA on the season, but that is expecting him to pitch from the bullpen. Add about a run on to that projection and you get something resembling a fair expectation of what Tavarez can provide you in the starter role. If Tavarez pitches 5 innings and gives up about four runs, thats about all we can legitimately ask of him, and thats not very good. Basically, unless the Sox offense breaks out each time he pitches, starting Tavarez is pretty close to going into a game with one hand tied behind your back.

So, it stands to reason that you would want to miss his starts if given the opportunity to do so without forcing the rest of the starters to work on a sub-optimal amount of rest. Also of note, this way we get Diasuke Matsuzaka facing the Yankees twice in nine days, on the 20th of April, and then again on the 29th.

Tonight: The Sox start a four game series with the Los Angeles California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels of Coconut Cream Pie. Tim Wakefield The Aged goes for the Sox, to be followed by Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett (who has no blog for me to link to), and then fittingly His Craziness gets the call for Monday's semi-insane 10am Patriots Day start. He will be opposed on that day by Jared "The Better" Weaver, who will be making his first start of the season having begun it on the Disabled List.

Next: I compare the Yankees with ooze I found underneath my toilet seat! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SUPERMAN SMASH MARINERS!


The Red Sox crushed "World Series Superhero" Jeff Weaver and his merry clan of M's today (er.. yesterday, I'm late putting this up). The final was, I think, 6,000 - 2. Thanks, Mike Timlin! Just about everyone on the team including the physicians had at least one hit. Come to think of it, I might have just seen Wally the Green Monster up there somewhere around the eighth inning. Just once I want to see that giant booger hit. I'd love to see the look on the pitchers face when he looks in for the sign and sees this:


Even if Wally had hit fourth for the Sox today it wouldn't have mattered. Weaver was excrement, and Josh Beckett was terrific. Beckett managed to strike out eight guys and not walk a single hitter in seven masterful innings. If he's going to consistently pitch with anything close to this type of quality through the season, the Sox rotation is going to be pretty sick indeed.

So far the Sox have had a terrific outing each from Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, and Matsuzaka. Counting tonight, the Yankees have had a good outing from both Pettitte and Pavano. Advantage: Boston!

Tomorrow: The Most Hyped Pitching Event In The Long Storied History Of Japan That Won't Actually Take Place In Japan (or "TMHPEITLSHOJTWATPIJ" as the kids like to call it) will occur when Matsuzaka squares off against Ichiro and the Mariners.

Personally, I'm more excited to see Felix Hernandez pitch than I am to see Ichiro hit, but to each his own. Fortunately Hernandez isn't Japanese; then the entire island of Japan might just explode. For now they'll have to settle for getting up at 6am to see the game. Happy nappings, Japan!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

BIG PAPI RETURNS

Big Papi at Spring Training (courtesy: me)

Great win in TexAss tonight by our Sox. Some Notes from tonight's series ender vs. the Rangers:

• Last night I noted that David Ortiz finally made good contact on a pitch in the ninth inning, flying out to right field. I noted that it could be the start of Ortiz "finding his barrings" out there. Well, in his first two at-bats Ortiz has found his barrings, making contact solid enough to send the ball over the outfield wall both times. I believe the kids call it hitting a "home run."

• Manny has yet to follow Ortiz's lead exactly, but he did make some very solid contact himself. He hit two to the base of the wall in dead center field, both of which were caught by Kenny Lofton who, I believe, is eight hundred years old.

• Through seven innings, Curt Schilling looked like the Curt Schilling we were expecting a week ago in Kansas City. He spotted his fastball, and his splitter had some bite on it. He missed a few spots and hung a curve or two, but he didn't put himself in position to really get hurt. He did give up a first inning homer to Frank Catalanatto, but that was it. Overall, a very impressive performance by Schilling

• In contrast to yesterday, the Red Sox offense was pretty unimpressive. It was Big Papi or bust.

• Maybe its just me, but Jason Varitek seems to be settling in at the plate a bit. He doesn't look great, but he seems to be putting a better swing on the ball than in the first few games.

• A key decision in tonight's game was whether or not to bring Curt Schilling back to pitch the bottom of the eight inning. Schilling hat thrown just over 100 pitches and had retired the side in order in the seventh, but Francona decided to bring in Joel Pineiro anyway.

• So, Pineiro came out of the pen in the eighth inning to face the 8, 9 and 1 hitters in the Rangers lineup. Not exactly murderers row, but he walked the first two hitters he faced anyway. Kenny Lofton followed with a bunt base hit to load the bases. Pineiro was yanked after loading the bases and while not recording an out. Just unbelievably bad. A guy who does that deserves to be cut. Of course he won't be, and he shouldn't, but how do you justify yourself as a major league pitcher when you can't throw a damn strike?

• Because Pineiro screwed up so bad, Francona was forced to bring Papelbon into the eighth inning. As bad as Pineiro was, Papelbon was the polar opposite, only better. While Pineiro came in to face the bottom of the Rangers order, Papelbon came in to face the Rangers two best hitters, Michael Young and Mark Teixeira. Young, who is one of the better contact hitters in baseball and had made solid contact in every at-bat all night, struck out on four pitches. Teixeira popped up on the first pitch weakly to Mike Lowell at third. Five pitches, inning over, rally squashed, thank you very much.

Its easy to second-guess Francona's decision in retrospect. Schilling needed eight pitches to get through the seventh and the bottom of the Rangers order was up in the eighth. I'd have liked to see Schilling go out there and see if he could get the side in order in the eighth. If he couldn't, they could have gone out there and got him mid-inning. Of course, if the Sox are going to do anything this season they're going to need Schilling.

So, in the end, Schilling got "saved" from extra work, Papelbon reminded us why we consented to put up with Julian Tavarez's craziness every five days, and Big Papi's season of crushing began.

Off on Monday, and then the home opener vs. the Mariners at 2:05pm.

Michael Kay, Todd Helton, and other notes

Stone Cold Homer


• You remember last night's Yankees/O's game right? Its the one that Alex Rodriguez won by hitting a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. I bet you forgot that Jeter managed to draw a walk on a 3-2 pitch (if my memory serves) a few batters earlier. Well, Yankees announcer Michael Kay didn't. It took Kay just half an inning during today's broadcast to give Derek Jeter credit for being “clutch” in the ninth inning of last night’s game. You'll remember from two sentences ago, that A-Rod hit the grand slam home run to win the game. When Kay finally got to that fact, it was not described as a ‘clutch’ grand slam home run to win the game, and not even a grand slam home run to win the game, just a home run. Silly A-Rod… Didn’t he know he didn’t need to hit a grand slam homer? He should have hit a double. He’s always piling on. Jeter would have hit a double.

• Part of the reason the Red Sox are 2-3 right now is that they haven't shown any power. In fact, the entire Red Sox team has as many home runs as Paul Bako. Who, you say, is Paul Bako? Exactly.

• According to Kay, this season was the first time in Yankees history in which none of the first five starters made it into the fifth inning. That doesn't bode well for the Yankees post-season aspirations. They won’t be able to over-come terrible starting pitching no matter how good their hitting.

• According to Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox are still interested in Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies. It would be interesting to see what the Rockies are asking for to give up Helton. Helton is a good hitter, but he's older and has been on the DL a fair bit over the past few years. Probably even more problematic is the massive contract that the Rockies handed Helton, which has him signed through 2011 at $16.6 Million a season. I'm sure the Red Sox would be happy to have Helton, but not unless the Rockies pick up a vast majority of that contract.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

OVER-MATCHED BY YOURSELF


What happens when the defense and the starting pitching both fail on the same night? Unless you've got A-Rod to hit a grand slam in the ninth (and a post-juicing Jason Giambi to hit a 3 run homer an inning earlier), then things don't tend to work out well.

The Red Sox lost another one in Texas tonight, 8-4 to the Rangers. Primarily, the problem was the Red Sox pitching. Julian Tavarez was good for about two and 2/3 innings and then completely fell apart. He gave up what was an inside the park homer with one runner on, although it should have been a five base error on Drew who ended up chasing the ball down the right field line and around the wall for what felt like a century. J. C. Romero, who I have a feeling is in for a good year, looked utterly terrible today, giving up three runs without recording an out.

While the pitching was pretty bad, I can't say the same of the hitting. The Red Sox did manage eleven hits while drawing five walks. As you might guess for a team that scores only four runs with sixteen baserunners, they missed a bunch of opportunities. Chief among them was David Ortiz's meek ground out with the bases loaded in the second inning. J.D. Drew also wasted an opportunity with a couple guys on, although he had a couple hits and scored a run or two.

The last two games the Red Sox have had one of good pitching and good hitting, but never both.

Some Quick Notes:
  • David Ortiz still looks lost at the plate. He did take a walk, but every time he hit the ball it was weak contact. Even his single in the first wasn't too impressive. As I'm writing this in the ninth inning, Ortiz managed to fly out to deep right-center field, almost to the warning track. Maybe he's starting to get his barrings out there. One can only hope.
  • Coco Crisp hit the ball hard just about every time up and came away with only one hit. Well, I thought he had a hit... I'm looking back over the box score and they have him at 0 for 4 with a run scored. In any case, just a few feet in either direction and Crisp could easily have had three hits. Its good to see him coming around a bit, even if the box score won't show it yet.
  • Despite his modest success as a starter at the end of last season, Julian Tavarez is not the answer to the Red Sox fifth starter problem. Primarily this is because he's just too wild, walking five guys in four innings. I think he is best suited to come out of the bullpen.
  • Manny struck out looking twice with runners on. Of all the hitters to worry about, Manny is last on my list.
Hopefully Schilling can prove Opening day a fluke tomorrow night.

TOUGH LUCK FOR TIMMY-TIMMY

Maybe next time we consider using some of these

Good News:
  • Timmy-Timmy Wakefield has still got it. Yesterday, he gave up only two runs (only one earned) to a pretty good hitting Rangers team, though they haven't showed it yet this year. Still, Timmy-Timmy held the 'gers to just two runs over six innings, K'ing four and BB'ing two.
  • The bullpen kept up their impressive streak, throwing two innings of no-run ball (the Rangers were at home and were leading, so the Sox pen didn't have to throw in the ninth inning). Still, Okajima pitched very well, despite one walk, and Kyle Snyder who is reminding me more and more of Bronson Arroyo (its probably the height) was particularly impressive, getting a good number of swings and misses to his pitches. He was consistently ahead in the count, and all his pitches had movement.
  • Mike "Mikey Doubles" Lowell didn't make any errors.
  • Coco had a nice hit, over the head of the left fielder for a double. Of course he was stranded there.
  • The Yankees lost and looked bad doing it.
Bad News:
  • Where to start... Robinson Tejeda didn't impress me. His velocity wasn't impressive, his location wasn't impressive and he walked three guys in seven innings while only striking out one. Once again, not impressive. Given all that, the Red Sox should have smacked him around a bit. Or maybe scored a few times. Or got more than three hits. Three hits? Sheesh...
  • Ortiz looks lost at the plate. Twice in a row he swung at the first pitch resulting in a pop up to right field and a ground out to second base. Of course, he's not worried.
NEXT UP:
The anointed 5th starter takes the ball today in Arlington vs. the TexAss "Don't Call Us NY" Rangers. It should be a dandy!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hmmm... What Should I Write About?

Just another day at the office

Daisuke Matsuzaka made his official debut in Kansas City today. I didn't get to see him pitch because I was in class, but I did follow the game online. This was his big chance to show us all what he can do and he did not disappoint. Hopefully this is just the first in a series of great starts for Daisuke.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

THE STOPPER

Yeah!

It wasn't perfect. It wasn't even what we all hope to get out of Josh Beckett this season. But when the smoke cleared, tonight's box score said that Josh Beckett had pitched effectively enough to earn the win against the Royals.

Beckett threw 94 pitches in five innings and walked four batters. He also struck out five and only allowed two hits. He struggled with his command a bit, but did not allow himself (or Varitek didn't allow him) to lapse into his old fastball-only habits. To his credit, Beckett stuck with the curve, or the slider, or whatever off speed junk he kept trying to throw, even when it wasn't in the strike zone. He managed to get a good number of swings and misses tonight on both the fastball as well as the off speed pitches.

Unfortunately, he was forced to throw a bunch more pitches as Mike Lowell came down with an acute case of A-Rod-itis. Lowell had a good day at the plate, and even made some adept plays in the field, but somehow he managed to make three errors, with two coming on consecutive plays. Still, the KC hitters weren't able to take advantage of Lowell's kindness, mostly due to Beckett's stinginess. While he could have taken the opportunity to get upset and try to blow it by the hitters, Beckett kept his composure when it mattered most and was able to retire the remaining KC hitters without giving up any runs.

Hopefully not lost in the positive display tonight was the performance of the Sox bullpen. Javier Lopez, Kyle Snyder, JC Romero, and Joel Pinero collectively pitched four innings allowing only one hit and no runs. There weren't even any walks given out. Pinero and Romero particularly looked filthy. If the pen is going to throw like this, or more realistically, if the pen is going to throw close to this on a nightly basis, the Sox are going to be very formidable this season.

It feels good after three days to finally get in the win column and get this season going. Did you know before the Sox game was over the Orioles had already finished their third game? (They're 0-3.)

Tomorrow afternoon we get the circus that is Matsuzaka making his big league debut. He'll be opposed by Zack Greinke, a young guy with a lot of talent. Should be worth watching. Unfortunately, I'll be in class, so I'll be following along on the ol' interweb. Thank God for the "series of tubes."

I WATCH BASEBALL AND RIP OFF GAMMONS


I am lucky enough to have satellite television at my house. I rent and DirecTV was here when I moved in. Since it was already installed we just left it in, rather than go through the hassle of switching to cable. Now, MLB's ill-advised decision to limit its Extra Innings package to DirecTV while excluding cable means I'm the only Red Sox fan here in Philly (there are more of us than you think - we're like roaches in the walls (there are more of them than you think)) that I know who can watch the Sox games. I mention this because if any other Philly-based Red Sox blogs try to tell you they "saw" a game on TV, now you know they're lying.

On an off-day for the Sox, here are some MLB notes from around the league:
  • If you thought things were bad for the Washington Nationals, well, they're only getting worse. Opening Day, or "Opening Week", saw two Nationals players go down. Today they were both placed on the disabled list. Welcome to Washington, were even shitty things are shittier than they seem.
  • Good Cardinals News: Your "World Champion" St. Louis Cardinals got their World Series Bling yesterday. The more I think about the fact that an 83 win team made the playoffs, let alone saw the fates align to hand them the softest World Series win in my 31 years on this planet, the more I get like this guy.
  • By all accounts, the Yankees had an emotional day at the Stadium, before wupp'n the Tampa "Don't call us 'devil'" Rays bullpen for their first win of the year. Still, there are some high points for us yankee-haters out here in cyber-land. Can't-Pitch-Carl Pavano reminded us all that, oh yeah, he can't pitch very well. Also, not only did he pitch badly, but he lost out on this.
  • Bad Cardinals News: Potential Cy Young contender and only decent Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter is hurt. Carpenter may miss his next start due to a "sore elbow." Carpenter, you'll remember, wasn't so stellar against the Mets on Opening... uh, night. Maybe theres more going on here than just a sore elbow. Cardinals fans better hope not.
  • Yanks v. Jesus Rays, 1pm, Pettttitttte vs. Whothehell Knows
  • Red Sox @ KC, 8pm, Beckett vs. Odalis Perez
Go Sox!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

TIME TO KILL MYSELF!!


HEY EVERYONE!! THE RED SOX LOST!! THEY'RE NOT GOING TO WIN A GAME THE WHOLE SEASON!! MAYBE EVER! THEY SUCK! CURT SCHILLING IS OLD! YOU KNOW HOW OLD HE IS? HE'S SO OLD HE WON'T EVER WIN ANOTHER BASEBALL GAME! MANNY RAMIREZ SHOULD BE CUT BECAUSE HE DOESN'T CARE! I KNOW HE DOESN'T CARE BECAUSE HE DIDN'T GET A HIT!! IF HE CARED, HE'D HAVE HIT A SEVEN RUN HOMER TO WIN THE GAME!!

ALSO THE ROYALS ARE THE GREATEST TEAM EVER!! GIVE GIL MECHE THE CY YOUNG NOW!! HE WON ONE GAME!! THATS ONE MORE GAME THAN CURT SCHILLING AND HIS SUPPOSEDLY "GOOD" BOSTON RED SOX WILL EVER WIN AGAIN!!

Monday, April 02, 2007

AWW WELL... ITS ONLY OPENING DAY

SOMEONE didn't have it today.

After a good spring training, Ol' Curt had his first bad start of the year. Unfortunately, it was on the first game of the year. After the first inning it was never close. Schilling actually got a fair number of swings and misses, but his control was off, often forcing Varitek to reach across the plate to glove his offerings.

I guess if your ace pitcher is going to have an off day you'd rather it be early on in the season and on a day when your offense falls asleep. And fortunately (?) for the Red Sox, that's exactly what happened. The Red Sox offense was just as lousy as Schilling was. Just to illustrate the point, the Sox had two guys get thrown out at second base by at least ten feet each.

Three years ago, the Red Sox started the season by losing 7-2 on opening day. Curt Schilling took the loss in that game too. As everyone not living on Mars knows, the Red Sox went on to win the World Series.

Every year as baseball season starts I have to pull myself out of my football game mindset. In football every game is vitally important because there are only 16 of them. But in baseball there are one hundred million games (OK, actually 162), so you can afford to lose one once in a while. You'd like to start the year off on a good note, but there are still 161 games left to rectify this one.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY'RE NOT PRINTED ON

See what living in Philadelphia will do to you?*

Its opening day again, and thank God for that. I'm not sure I can deal with one more prediction. Every blog, website, radio show, and newspaper has run articles or posts or what ever predicting the outcomes that the upcoming season will reveal. I'm afraid even I am guilty of putting my 100%-guaranteed-to-be-wrong picks out there via this very site. I'm almost regretting it at this point. How many predictions can one person possibly digest? I understand predictions based on something, like PECOTA (the statistical projecting tool that Baseball Prospectus uses), and I understand that predictions are supposed to be fun... I guess the fault lies with me. In my anticipation for the season to start, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on that sounds informative, whether it is or not.

*Thanks to Jere for the screenshot above.