Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Six More Outs

Derek Lowe has pitched himself one helluva game tonight. He brims with confidence. The Cards flail away.

I can no longer pace. I just stand in front of the TV, yelling with every out. 3-0 going to the 8th.

Credit to the Advance Scouts

As Edmonds lines one at Mueller, I am recalling a significant number of line drives that Card hitters have hit right at a Sox fielder. That tells me the Sox did a great job of scouting the Cardinals, and positioning their fielders appropriately. Being in the right place is at least as important as having great range when it comes to playing defense.

Way to Go, Trot!

The pride of Wilmington, NC (home of my in-laws) crushed a two-run double. It still doesn't feel like enough, but it is so great to see every guy in this lineup make a contribution.

I am having trouble typing because I am having trouble sitting still. I am doing some pacing in my room here at the lovely Hilton Garden Inn in Irving, Texas. Almost as surreal as watching the Sox beat the Yanks in Fargo. Almost.

Cards Give an Assist

Having their best hitter in the Series, Larry Walker, bunt a runner along, succeeded in doing nothing more than moving the Cardinals one out closer to ending their season.

That helped give D Lowe a confidence-building scoreless first. But the Sox will need more than one run to win tonight; I don't see the Cards going quietly this night.

The Time Is Now

Johnny Damon has got me almost too excited to type. This team is so confident at the plate right now. I just need to see if Lowe is feeling confident, too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Thank You, Pedro

I cannot believe what I am seeing. My Red Sox getting great pitching. My Red Sox getting big hits. My Red Sox turning two of the more unusual double plays (7-2 and 4-3-5) you'll see. My Red Sox winning seven games in a row in the postseason.

Pedro, you did it. You emptied the tank and pitched one hell of a game. These Cardinals have no confidence with the bats now. If D Lowe pitches like he did in NY last week, his team will have a chance to win.

As close as the Sox are, I have seen them get closer and lose. The world now knows 0-3 comebacks are possible. For now, I will just keep the faith.

A Crucial Rally

Not only did Suppan not survive the inning, he also forces LaRussa to use another player and pitcher because Suppan's spot comes up third in the bottom of the inning. Every bit of attrition helps.

Another Run

After Suppan seemed to have settled down, Mueller and Nixon hit two balls hard. The Cards could easily have a two- or three-run lead, but instead trail 2-0 in the 4th. It's a crazy game ... and the Cards are unlikely to stay quiet all night.

Yes, That's David Ortiz with the Assist

The Cards ran themselves into another double play, letting Pedro wriggle off the hook. Ironic that the throw from first to third was easier for the lefty Ortiz than for the righty Millar, who is now on the bench.

And a nice scoop on the throw from Mueller, too. How long can this good karma last?

Saved by ... Defense?

Pedro looked incredibly shaky out there; thank goodness for the terrible decision to send Walker. The Sox have gotten out of every jam so far. Maybe Pedro will settle down now, with the weak bottom of the Card order coming up.

Thank you, Manny!

Three hard hit balls, and the last one lands in the seats. That quiets the crowd, gives Pedro the lead, and keeps the Sox rolling for now. Great start, Manny!

I Need You, Pedro

I know you want out after the season, and frankly I will not weep if you leave. I think your arm is suspect, and you'll want more money than the Sox will be willing to spend on you and your risks.

But Pedro, is there not a more glorious way for you to leave than as a world champion? Could you possibly maximize your value at this point in your career than to carry the label 'winner' with you wherever you go? Even the Yanks need some of that mojo right now.

I know your arm is sore, and you may not have a full tank of gas. All I ask is that you suck it up for one night, pitch like it's 1999, and back the Cards into a corner only the Sox could get out from.

Pedro, it's time to make some history for yourself, your teammates, and the Nation that has embraced you for six years. Seize this moment!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Takin' Care of Business

The bullpen did its job, although Timlin looks like his arm is just dead. Foulke is incredible; he really does seem to thrive on the work.

The Cards have been phenomenal at home, and this will not be easy. They will have their crowd, their weather, and their pride. The Sox will have confidence, Pedro, and a slightly better-rested bullpen. I'm not sure what the Cards are going to do about Game 4, since they used Jason Marquis for an inning tonight. I expect him to start, but not to be expected to pitch more than 5 innings or so. I thought it was a bit desperate of LaRussa to use him tonight. Now his team has to win four of five with a slightly weaker pitching staff.

The Sox are halfway, but each step is that much harder than the previous. But they are half the way there!!!!

Cabrera's Turn

Wow, all 6 runs scoring with two outs. I do not understand why Cabrera did not head for second; that cost the Sox a run when Ramirez blooped a single. Let's hope that run is not costly. Here comes the Sox bullpen.

Damned Lucky

All the talk about the great Sox D since the Nomar trade, and they have made 8 errors in two games! Last night the Cards made them pay, but tonight Schilling has had the answer. This generosity needs to end soon, because the Cards will take advantage of additional outs soon.

I hope the heart of the order only gets one more chance for St. Louis.

The Babe Strikes Again

Bellhorn hit an absolute rope, as did Mueller. Pitching on three days' rest is risky, and perhaps Morris is getting a bit tired.

Schilling is not as sharp as in New York, but he's doing enough; the one run was due to Mueller's error. What a gamer.

Good Start

Great job by most of the Sox hitters of laying off bad pitches, even when they are behind in the count. Nixon swung at the first pitch, after watching Morris walk three guys in the inning. And what a throw by Rolen to get Damon, too--I thought that throw was 10 feet off the bag. And Varitek--what a man! Another reason to throw Arroyo and not Wakefield in Game 5 would be to keep the Fastidious One in the lineup.

It's Up to Schilling

Curt appears to have no problems with the ankle here in the first; however, Renteria did a great job of making him throw a lot of pitches. Nice to retire Walker after his big Game 1.

If Schilling can stay in the game for a while, giving the bullpen some rest, it will work to the Sox's advantage. As Fox pointed out, they won Game 1 without either of their big two pitchers. But Arroyo was probably supposed to be Schilling insurance, not Wakefield insurance, so there is some risk tonight.

Pujols went down and got a really low pitch and turned it into a double. Now a full count to Rolen--this is a long inning for Curt. Liner right to third. Another bullet dodged. A bit of a limp coming back to the dugout. Swing the bats, men!

Huge

Both teams had a chance to win this game; both bullpens were used extensively. To deplete so many resources and win feels great; to deplete those resources and lose feels empty.

The key tomorrow: the status of Schilling's ankle.

Three wins to go. Awesome!!

Babe Bellhorn

Wow, Bellhorn has gone from effigy to World Series game-winner in less than a week. Three straight games with a dinger, hit off a girl in left field, and two off the right-field fair pole. Amazing.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

St. Louis Is Just Too Good ...

... to give this many outs to. The Sox are so lucky to be tied at this point.

If there is justice in this world, Manny will hit a dinger to win it. What an embarrassing display of fielding inattention.

Another Strategic Error ...

... was throwing a strike to Walker with first base open. I know Pujols is incredible, but Walker had a single, double, and dinger already. Alas ...

Kelly Clarkson? A town full of legendary singers, and that's the best the Sox can do? OK, I'm feeling a bit surly.

Now Varitek?

So you don't want to waste the move with two on and none out, but you pinch-hit with him with two outs and the bases empty. With their gloves and these moves, the Sox are handing this game to St. Louis.

Where's Varitek?

I realize Francona doesn't want to burn his bench early, but in a two-run game, with two on and none out, he let Mirabelli hit. No runs scored. Hope that isn't important ... .

Arroyo Saves the Day

Well, the Cards used up two outs to get another run, but the Sox also handed them two runs with four walks and an error. Hmmm, should Arroyo pitch well in relief, will that earn him the Game 5 start?

Yeah, I'm Greedy, But ...

Kevin Millar has now left six runners on base. I have no right to complain about a 7-2 lead after three, with the Cards' starter gone and the whole lineup chipping in (yep, that was Mirabelli denting the Wall with a hit), but the Cards are a dangerous team who can score runs in bunches.

Earl Weaver Said It Best ...

"Play for a run and that's what you get--a run." I know this game has a long way to go, but the Cardinals used up two outs to get one run. With a 4-0 lead, that's an exchange I'll take every time. And Williams has shown no signs of keeping this game close yet.

I know the announcers love "little ball," as if it takes more skill than mashing a ball for extra bases, but all this inning did was make sure the Cards would still be down three with 7 at-bats to go.

Setting the Tone

That was a great first inning. Only Mirabelli did not hit the ball hard. Nixon's out was a flyout, but it carried pretty well.

I will reserve judgment for the moment about the decision not to start Varitek. He did catch every inning of the LCS, and Mirabelli does a good job catching the knuckler, but the Fastidious Catcher belongs on this field. The early lead takes some pressure off this decision.

A Brother Blogger

For pithy comments from another New Englander transplanted to the Triangle, check out Ed Tremblay's page at http://home.earthlink.net/~edtremblay/index.html. When the Series is over we may start a blogotherapy support group, championing the ability of blogs to reduce stress.

Carpe Diem!

How wonderful it is to be watching the Sox in the Series, instead of finding other things to do so as to avoid watching the Yankees. How great for the fans at the Fens, and for all of us scattered throughout Red Sox Nation.

Last Saturday I was certain the Sox's season was a day or two away from ending. One week later I feel certain they will win the World Series. These guys are just absolutely fearless. Their play since Sunday has emboldened me enough to believe--really believe--they can win this World Series.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A New Day Dawns

How appropriate that the final out came just past midnight, because regardless of what happens in the World Series, a new day has dawned in the history of Boston baseball.

They not only beat the Yankees. They beat the Yankees in the most historic, epic, gut-checking, odds-defying way. In their house. In the most humiliating way possible: down 0-3, one inning away from being swept, they somehow picked themselves off the mat and won four Game 7s, draining their bullpen, crippling their best starter, and getting both clutch hits and lights-out pitching. They did not fear their destiny, they grabbed it.

The Boston Red Sox engineered the greatest collapse in the history of baseball, committed by the game's most legendary franchise, one that has tormented it for nearly nine decades.

The Red Sox are American League champions. The Red Sox will host Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday. I am so grateful to them. Four more wins to go.

Game on!!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Six Outs Before Six Runs

In about 27 hours, Mark Bellhorn has gone from being hanged in effigy to being the front-runner for mayor of Boston. What a delightful sound that drive made off the fair pole!

That was a nightmare inning of watching Pedro; I am relieved to see Timlin out for the 8th. Just throw strikes, baby; go get these guys!

Why Pedro?

Why make him endure the fans again? Why give the fans a reason to wake up? I cannot believe it! Three pitches, and Matsui is on second!

My theory is that Pedro was going to throw on the side anyway, so why not give him an inning of work in lieu of that? But he does not look like an inspired guy out there; he looks more like how the Yankee hitters looked through six innings of D Lowe.

Another double by Bernie, and bringing in Pedro this year is looking as bad as leaving him out there last year.

I Hate to Sound Greedy, But ...

That's two innings in a row they've had guys in scoring position that they left there. The good news is they are making the tired Yankee arms throw lots of pitches. But D Lowe is pitching on just three days' rest, so pretty soon the tired Sox pen will compete against the Yankee bats. I would love to have an even fatter cushion ... but that is the paranoid, been-here-before-and-came-away-unhappy me talking.

What Is Jim Leyritz Wearing?

Man, that is one ugly leather jacket, from the Journeyman Collection at The Leatherman Store. And the matching chapeau, too. Nice.

Meanwhile, Damon comes up huge again, but I hope the Sox do not regret not getting another runner home from third with one out. Instead, bases left loaded, with plenty of time for the Yanks to claw back into this game.

Way to Go, D Lowe!

I did not expect him to throw a shutout, so the great thing about the 3rd inning was that Lowe did not let A-Rod and Sheffield keep a rally going, keeping the crowd quiet, the score 6-1, and the Yankees three outs closer to the end of the game.

Thank you, Johnny Damon!

Wow, Brown is chased and Damon greets Vazquez with a grand slam. These runs are a bonus; while the Sox do not need a huge lead early, they needed to not fall behind big early. So far, so good.

Damon's ball did not appear to be well hit. I say this to warn my fellow Sox fans that more runs may be scored tonight, so it would be great if the Sox would score some of them, to keep the lead comfortable. This is another advantage to starting D. Lowe, who throws sinkers and induces many grass-cutters.


What the F--- Is Dale Sveum Thinking?

Ortiz's dinger does not let Sveum off the hook; this is not going to be a 2-0 game, and that lost run could still make a huge difference. It is the friggin' 1st friggin' inning, and the two best hitters on the team are coming up, and you send him when he did not even get a clean break off of second. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I Am Not Sure What I Have to Say

Last year I was so nervous for Game 7 that I had to blog my way through it. Right now, with this year's Game 7 two hours away, and with all the emotions I have had to produce, from despair to excitement, in the last seven days, that I do not think I have anything left to say.

My word, has any game offered more in the way of tantalizing me and my Nation than this one? Could any single victory be sweeter? That is why, as a diehard Sox fan, I refuse to imagine it can even happen.

Go get 'em!! Game on!

I Am in Disbelief

I am stunned by what I have seen tonight. Schilling, Arroyo, Foulke--brass cajones all.

Mark Bellhorn--from near-goat to hero.

Three in a row since the debacle that was Game 3. Unprecedented in baseball history.

Yet this is not the history this team wishes to make. You can see it in the post-game lineup; the guys looked happy, but not content. Tonight means nothing--these three gutsy, amazing, epic victories are for naught--if the Yankees go out there and win Game 7. That is the corner the Sox painted themselves into by losing the first three.

Advantages for the Sox: example displayed by Schilling to his mates of what it takes to win at this level; no fear of K Brown; no fear of tired Gordon and tired Rivera; a display of will unprecedented in baseball history.

Advantages for the Yanks: at home; Gordon and Rivera rested in G 6; history, both theirs and the Sox's; expensive lineup includes some guys who have not won a ring; some guys with rings who do not want to be the team that blows the curse; handy access to jackbooted security forces.

I felt at the start of the series that the Yankees' pitching was suspect compared to the Sox's. But their lineup is fearsome; can they stay quiet a fourth straight night? Do the Sox have any emotional reserves on which they can draw? They have, in a way, already played three straight Game 7s; can they win another?

Ultimately, these two old, storied rivals will go into uncharted territory tomorrow night. They will play a Game 7 after one led the other 3 games to none. All bets are off.

And as one fan who gave up after Game 3, let me just say thank you to my Olde Town Team. You showed all of the Red Sox Nation what it truly means to keep the faith. Please, please, just go get one more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I Guess Those Guys Haven't Had Much to Do...

... since the Republican convention left town. Just another attempt to intimidate the candidate(s) from Massachusetts.

Holy Crap! Cops in Riot Gear!

Wow, have those guys been waiting under the Stadium all series? All season? Since 9/11? What an unreal site!

What a Swing in a Half-Inning!

Arroyo goes from looking shaky, to getting ball-tackled by A-Rod, to getting Sheffield to pop up. Incredible! I am so impressed that the umps have conferred twice and gotten it right twice; without those two runs (for Bellhorn, against Jeter) it would be 3-3 with A-Rod on second and one out. Instead, we're going to the 9th with a 4-2 game. A run off Quantrill would help.

How Could A-Rod Do That? Oh, He Couldn't!

How the hell could they say A-Rod could do that? Even the Fox guys see it as an out ... more chatting amongst the arbiters--they should put Jeter back on second and A-Rod is out ... again, justice prevails!! Red Sox karma is 2-for-2 tonight! And now the classy Yankee fans are throwing stuff on the field, the Sox are leaving the field, Torre actually has a pulse, this is wild!

Here They Come

Cairo doubles, Jeter singles, and Arroyo is in trouble. Now the bullpen battle tips to the Yanks, because there is no way Timlin--who is throwing now--has anything left. It has to be up to Arroyo.

Torre, on the other hand, is playing smart. Down in the game but still ahead in the series, he is willing to gamble on Heredia and Quantrill tonight, saving Gordon and Rivera in case it goes to a Game 7 (Are you watching, Phil Garner? Save Clemens for G 7!).

I Have No Sense of Comfort

Just last year in Game 7, the Yanks were down three with five outs to go, and won, so I feel like there are miles to go tonight. This isn't a Sox fan being fatalistic; this is a Sox fan who has watched too many close games, too many leads disappear, to feel remotely comfortable.

And the Fox guys are already second-guessing Francona for pulling Schilling after 7, while mentioning that Grady Little was second-guessed for making the opposite decision a year ago. This is one of the few truly crucial decisions a manager makes in a game, and I think Francona is making the correct one. You don't want Schilling to pitch into trouble and expect Arroyo to pitch out of it; there is much less pressure for Arroyo to start the inning.

Gritty, Gutty Curt Schilling

Even though Bernie's dinger makes it 4-1, Schilling's courage tonight is clearly impacting both teams. The Sox look determined, the Yanks unsure. Even the fans were quieter than usual when Bernie hit it out. No one on the Sox appreciates baseball's history more than Curt, and he looks unwavering in his desire to make some tonight.

Both starters have done the job, though, pitching through 7 and keeping the score close. Schilling gets Sierra swinging--hat trick for Ruben--and what else can I say about tonight's performance by the heroic Schilling?

Greetings from Fargo

It's a balmy 42 degrees here ... baseball weather. I am getting ready to teach a workshop here tomorrow and Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mark Bellhorn has deepened his hole in Beantown, grounding into a DP with the bases loaded. But now Varitek has picked him up, driving in Millar, and clearly Jon Lieber does not have his Game 2 magic going right now.

Schilling is pitching incredibly well, given his balky ankle. Whichever starter lasts longer in this game gives his team a huge edge.

Bellhorn again, with two more runners aboard. He is swinging with so little confidence ... the bat handle is turning to sawdust in his hands. And now he has doubled--sure looked like a homer to me--and has eternal redemption now. That ball hit a fan--that's a dinger! Get the call right!!!! Why the hell do they put an ump on the outfield line, if not for deep flyballs like this??!!?? Why is the conference taking so long? Alleluia! They got it right! Bellhorn for President!

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Brief Word About October Baseball

While I was typing that last post, the Astros got a walk-off bomb from Jeff Kent to take a 3-2 lead over the mighty Cards. On a night like this, how can you not love playoff baseball? As one of my heroes, John Buccigross, might say, David Ortiz and Jeff Kent are clutch, and in life, clutch is everything.

The only downside to watching all this great baseball is having to sit through ads for The Big Fat Obnoxious Network, telling me way to much about shows I will never ever watch. Oh, and having to listen to Tim ("I Overstate the Obvious, and Could You Guess I Do Yankee Games During the Season?") McCarver. But I should not let such bitterness with the messengers discredit the glory of the play on the diamonds.

Quick note to Phil Garner: you've got the lead, so take a gamble in Game 6 with Munro and a committtee, and let Clemens get his usual rest for a possible Game 7. If you don't need a Game 7, then he's ready for Game 1 of the World Series. Clemens may seem invincible, but he is 42 and has no record of success pitching on short rest. In Game 6, he's mortal for five innings. In Game 7, he will not be denied.

Heroic

What the Sox have done these two nights, these 26 innings (hey fans, buy two tickets, see three games!), is heroic ... epic. But do you remember the ultimate scene in Glory? All those soldiers marching on the beach toward that fort, knowing most of them will not be returning? So our gallant Sox are now marching, heads held justifiably high, into the cauldron of Yankee Stadium. What destiny might they shape for themselves there?

To their advantage: the Yankee pitching is wafer-thin, they know they can get to Rivera, the Yanks have had two shots at finishing them off and came up short, the Yanks have the burden of keeping the "Curse" alive, and a sense that they are playing with house money at this point.

To the Yanks' advantage: home for the last two, the Sox pitching is also thin, still got the best lineup money can buy, and history--not the "Curse," but the inability of any team to go from 0-3 down to a Game 7.

Wild cards: Schilling's ankle, the lack of an off-day, the effects of winning/losing two long games on consecutive nights, and which team can relax, feeling they can shape their destiny. Who comes out flat Tuesday night? The Yanks jumped on the Sox in Games 1-3, but have lacked that put-away ability the last two nights.

I think I read that 25 teams have gone down 0-3. The Sox are the fourth to force a Game 6. So what has happened so far is no small accomplishment. I am delighted for those fans who got to see the Sox win the last two home games of the series. I revel in their ability to keep the faith.

In Game 6, most of the pressure is still on the Sox. If somehow it goes to Game 7, most of the pressure would be on the Yanks. Forgive my fatalism, but I will be one shocked Sox fan if I am watching the Sox play again on Wednesday. They have to be running on fumes at this point. But I am so happy for them--for Damon, who scored the winning run, for Wakefield, who got the win, for all of them (since these have been two total-team wins)--for being so, so clutch in these two amazing victories. The only problem is, moral victories is not what they intended to gain in this series. Their heads are now high, but they are still having to attack that fort, not defend it.

If They Can't Get to Quantrill ...

... then they deserve to lose this game. His arm is dead and he is only pitching because Torre is out of options.

I do not recall a series which punished pitching like this ... maybe the '93 Series when the Blue Jays and Phillies had a couple of softball-score games.

I Appreciate Their Persistence

While I have recorded all of Game 5, I have only begun watching as Jeter's double emptied the bases, putting the Sox in a tough spot and possibly ending Pedro Martinez's Red Sox career. I was at my son's last fall baseball practice, and his best of the season. His season is ending on a more optimistic note than the Olde Town Team's.

I will comment briefly on the Sox's clutch performance in Game 4, avoiding the sweep while getting to Rivera again and getting a walkoff dinger from Ortiz. I only wish the game's significance was greater than saving face.

Beyond this, I have maintained my silence since Saturday deliberately, because I continue to feel none of the tension I had anticipated at the series' start. And as Manny bounces into a 5-4-3 DP here in Game 5, my silence is justified. Six outs away from diving into my Netflix wish list. Ugh.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

One Last Thing: There Is No Curse

Whether it comes tonight or tomorrow or Tuesday, when the Yankees finish off the Sox, there will be much invoking of The Curse. But as the Turnstile of Futility clicks from 85 years to 86, it will not be because of the sale of Babe Ruth in 1920. It will be because the Yankees, often so corporate and dispassionate in their approach to the game, were the more aggressive and emotional team in this series. While it's easy to see Jeter and Bernie and Posada and think this team is the same bunch that won in '96, guys like A-Rod, Matsui, and Mussina have not won a Series yet. They have won two pennants but no Series since 2000. That is not exactly 86 years of emptiness, but in Steinbrenner Years it is eons. They want another ring bad. This is not to discredit the commitment of the Sox, but in a short series it is hard to counterpunch. They gave it two good shots--cutting the 8-run deficit to one in Game 1, and taking a lead after falling behind early in Game 3--but the Yankees answered each time.

The Sox had a great season. They were first in runs and second in wins in the league. They have some important decisions to make about Varitek (keep him!) and Pedro (let him walk!), but compared to the Yanks, they have some wiggle room in the payroll. The minors are not exactly stocked right now, but under Theo Epstein the Sox have become an organization that pays attention to the right things (pitch counts, on base percentage--the Moneyball approach). They will develop the right players, and find guys like Arroyo that less astute teams dump. They have the most passionate fan base in baseball. One of these years, it is all going to come together. I thought it might be this year. Instead, I am just keeping the faith.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I Am Taking a Hiatus

I started this blog to ease my tensions while watching this series. But with the score 12-6 in the 5th, and the Sox down 0-2 in the series, I am feeling no tension at all. So I see no reason to continue writing at this point.

This is not a sign of giving up on my team or being a fair-weather fan. There is just nothing for me to say right now that is worth recording, even for my own eyes to read. Meanwhile, it's now 13-6. And you know what's crazy? A week ago I would not have been surprised if the Sox would be up 2-0 and ahead 13-6; I was that sure this was the Sox's year, and that sure that the Yankees' pitching was suspect. It's a crazy game, baseball.

And if I start writing this blog again, it will be a crazy night indeed.

So Far, No Relief

Mendoza, Leskanic, Wakefield ... and there's one out in the fourth. We are losing the bullpen battle to this point.

I do like the Sox's thinking for Game 4 and, perhaps, Game 5. Throw Lowe out there Sunday, then Pedro Monday at home, back to Arroyo for Game 6, then Schilling in Game 7. I would like that thinking even more if there appeared to be a chance that the Sox can get somebody out. Right now, of course, the idea of a Game 7 is highly illusory.

A New Ballgame ... Again

What a great at-bat for Cabrera, laying off some close pitches and then lacing one to right. I can't say that I blame Dale Sveum for sending Mueller. Cairo was about 100 feet from home, and the throw didn't look like it was particularly hard or accurate. But it got to home quickly, and the Sox now have two base-running mistakes they can look back on ... or forget about, if they win.

Battle of the Middle-Relievers

Mendoza vs. Vazquez ... I am not sure this favors the Sox. A-Rod is just a great player to watch ... it is hard not to imagine what it would feel like to see him doing all this great hitting for the Sox. The Fox guys--surprise!--are overhyping his glove work tonight, but he is such a terrific hitter.

Varitek singles ... he and Ortiz have been the offensive stars so far.

Hanging On

Nixon has come up big, and Varitek drawing the walk makes the dinger a big one. Varitek is the Fastidious Catcher. His sox always have just enough red showing and, on a team of atrocious haircuts and Amish Linebacker facial hair, his appearance is impeccable.

And for the first time in the series, the Sox are getting to a Yankee pitcher early. The game is tied--Damon comes through with his first hit--and the crowd is back into it. My mood has shifted from Despairing to Mildy Non-Pessimistic.

"That's Not the Point"

OK, so Manny should not have run. OK, so it was a close play. But the vacuous Tim McCarver said that even though the umpire got the call wrong, "that's not the point." First-and-third with 2 out vs. inning over: that's the point! It's OK for an ump to blow a call because the runner is not supposed to go; great logic, Tim. Where's the mute button?

Not the Script

So now the Sox have to score at least one, to show this is not over already. Arroyo has some movement but fell behind to the first guys, then Matsui showed--again--why I fear him. I don't understand why he doesn't hit .350-35-125 every year. He thrives in the playoffs--well, I didn't watch him in the Series last year, as a matter of personal taste. I don't like spending my emotional energy wishing for a team to lose.

Manny has run the Sox out of the first; am I boycotting the Series again?

Do or Die

Sure, it's only 0-2, but we all know there is no way the Sox win this series if they lose tonight.

There has been much said (because there's not much else to say) about yesterday's rain; somehow it "slows the Yankees' momentum," whatever that is; it lets the Sox start Pedro at home for Game 5 (if there is one); it gives Schilling another day to rest his ankle; etc. I do think the Sox have a better pen, and losing the off-day Monday could work to the Sox's advantage if they can get into the Yankee pen. But if they don't hit, it won't matter.

I feel great about Arroyo. He has great stuff, definitely does not fear the Yankees--he hit A-Rod, leading to Varitek's hit to the chops this summer--and he has pitched very well in the second half. And the Sox rocked Kevin Brown last time he pitched at the Fens. Game on!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Now It Gets Really Difficult

I know the Sox will say all the right things about getting the Yanks back in "our yard," and I know that Fenway will be rocking Friday night, but this is not going to be easy. The Sox now have to take four out of five from a very proud team, a team that expects to win. This means the Sox must sweep at home and win one of two in New York, or win two at home and sweep a pair in the Bronx. If they get the bats untracked, anything is possible. But except for two innings in Game 1, they have simply not hit. Oh, and their ace may not pitch again. This team was supposed to be different--deeper pitching, equal hitting to the Bombers. So far, the pitching has not done well, the hitting worse.

The motto is, Keep the Faith. And so it shall be kept.

A Big Out

Nice job by Foulke of battling with A-Rod. Now the Sox get their 2-3-4 hitters to come up with the game's outcome uncertain.

One Hope for the Sox ...

is that they work the Yankee pen, because it is thin. Gordon has pitched in more games this year than any in his career (or so Fox said last night), and he pitched in a tight situation last night, too. It would be great to see Damon get untracked right now ... and gets to face Rivera, also coming in for the second straight night. He's not as overworked ... see, Torre is using his best guy for the most important out of the game, something Francona did not do last night.

Full Disclosure: I've Been Watching the Debate

I monitored the game via the Web, and it doesn't look like I missed much. Damon had a great at-bat, but made an out. Ortiz is hitting well. Everyone else is not. Meanwhile, Pedro battled hard, but he is just not capable of throwing 112 quality pitches any more, and all the evidence I need is seeing John Olerud hit a dinger off him. I am disappointed that the Sox have done so little offensively, because if you had told me before the game started that Pedro would hold the Yanks to three runs in six, I would be feeling pretty good. No surrender yet, though ... just got to use these last six outs well.

Pedro, on the other hand ...

has thrown twice as many pitches, 72, in four innings. I understand walking Posada--more defensible than walking Cairo last time--and this time through Pedro took care of the bottom third. But he has his team in the game; now it's up to the bats to be patient, then attack.

Late to Catch a Plane?

Lieber has thrown 36 pitches in four innings. What's the rush? Ortiz walked, but everyone else has been up there hacking. This is not how the Red Sox led the league in runs scored.

So Much for the Groove

Why did Pedro overthrow against Cairo? A walk to the #8 hitter, a single by the #9 hitter, and here come Jeter and A-Rod with runners on. Pedro may throw 100 pitches in four innings.

It Could Have Been Worse

Pedro got off to a horrible start, but then he really came around. He threw a bunch of pitches, but had two great Ks. Now I wish the hitters would do what Ortiz did; take a few pitches. They are making this too easy for Lieber.

Game 2: Must-Win?

While the Sox can go back to Boston down 0-2 and still win, I feel like that they need to win tonight. Beating both Schilling and Pedro would give the Yanks a huge lift, especially with Schilling's health in question. I have great confidence in Arroyo winning Game 3, but not as much in Wakefield in Game 4. Unlike Schilling, who spoke of wanting to "shut up" the Stadium crowd, Pedro has admitted the Yanks have his number of late. This low-expectations tactic, prized by presidential candidates entering a debate, may take some pressure off Pedro and allow him to pitch as well as he did in Anaheim. I also expect the Sox bats to pick up where they left off in the 7th and 8th last night. I hope they can score enough to even the series.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Gotta Keep the Faith

The Sox have to build on the positives: they made one hell of a comeback; they made the Yanks go into their bullpen (although the Sox ran almost everyone out there, too) ... that is about it. On the other hand, their outfield defense was awful, the bullpen gave up some runs that looked empty at the time but became very important, and they used their closer after it was too late to close the door.

Let's hope Pedro's got his A game tomorrow night, because the bullpen could use the rest, and he is going to hear it from the crowd at the Stadium. And because he may now be the team's No. 1 starter.

What the Foulke?

Why bring in the closer now, when it's a three-run game, instead of two batters ago, when it was a one-run game? If Foulke is going to pitch, have him pitch when it counts the most. Very frustrating.

Matsui Factors Again

Matsui actually kind of overran Ortiz's hit, reaching back as he jumped up. Now those bases surrendered early are a factor, as is Wakefield giving up a dinger to Kenny Lofton. Let's see what Rivera's got left after a long and emotional trip.

Why the Motto Is "Keep the Faith"

Thank you, Jason Varitek. This team has gone from trying to break up a perfect game to making a run at winning this game. On the positive side, this will force the Yanks to use their bullpen--and expose Tanyan Sturtze. Tom Gordon's got a bum eye from taking a cork to the noggin after the Yanks beat the Twins, and Mariano Rivera just got to the ballpark at 9:00 after flying back from Panama.

What I like so much about this team is the persistence. Other Sox teams blow 6-1 leads (like the Sox did Friday against the Angels) and lose the game; these guys came back and won. They may not win this game, but they have made it competitive. And that is the kind of feeling I want them to take into Game 2.

Thank you, Mark Bellhorn

The Sox might not move toward fulfilling their destiny tonight, but at least they are not going to write another chapter of Yankee history.

From Lousy Loss to Potential Nightmare

I've gone from thinking about how we can get a couple of runs and get back in this, to hoping that someone can make decent contact. Most 6-0 games you say, "OK, let's go get 'em tomorrow night," but when you are simply trying to get a measly hit ... that could cause a lack of confidence to linger for another game or more. This is definitely not the script Red Sox Nation wrote for Game 1.

My Fear Is Justified

Matsui needed just one pitch to break this game open. Schilling is not healthy. Right now the Sox offense is making this irrelevant, but the outfielders have not helped Curt one bit. On Matsui's first hit, Manny did not keep the ball in front of him, going for the circus catch. Maybe Matsui still scores on Bernie's hit, but maybe not. On Matsui's second hit, Nixon falls down, costing perhaps another run. At this point, 3-o or 5-0 matters not, because the Sox are not getting any good swings against Mussina. But it is early.

I Fear Matsui

Gotta give Sheffield and Matsui credit; neither hit the ball hard, but hit it to the right places. Matsui is such a good player; he just doesn't get fooled. Now Bernie, whom I do not fear, makes good contact, and it's 2-0. Schilling keeps retying his cleat; I think that ankle is bothering him more than he'll let on. This is not an auspicious beginning.

Star Wars?

Fox has chosen to open their coverage by comparing the two teams to the Star Wars rebels (played by the Sox) and the evil Yankee Empire. This is a bit of a stretch because the Red Sox have a baseball's second-largest payroll, over $120 million. That said, the Yankees' $180 million+ payroll is nearly half-again larger than the Sox's. That's kind of like saying the Brits have the second-largest number of troops in Iraq.

I tried this last year for Game 7 of the ALCS. You can see it at http://bsox.blogspot.com/2003_10_12_bsox_archive.html#106635242779026187.

Bracing for Impact

Tonight it begins again; the Boston Red Sox take on the New York Yankees, the alleged Curse of the Bambino, and an 85-year reputation as baseball's favorite runners-up. At stake is not just the American League pennant but a chance for this loose, unkempt, hard-playing bunch of "idiots" (as Johnny Damon called them) to immortalize themselves in the hearts of all of Red Sox Nation.

Thanks for stopping by.