April 2007

Fireman

How hard was tonight’s save by Jonathan Papelbon? Enough to leave a Hall of Fame candidate marveling at it.

“The way it finished was frickin awesome. That was just
an unbelievable job. That’s the definition of a tough save. One out, Michael
Young at the plate, runner on third, very few guys can get that result He’s
one of them.”

The author of those words, of course, is Curt Schilling, who has a win next to his name because of an almost superhuman job by Paps tonight.

Wow, how about that 96-MPH pitch on the black that baffled Michael Young. It’s hard to picture what type of state the Red Sox would be in now had not Papelbon gone back to the closer’s role. It stabilizes the entire team having such a dominant closer.

And Terry Francona is not going to let Papelbon sit in the bullpen in the eighth inning when the most important outs in the game are on the line.

A good night all-around for the Sox. Schilling rebounds. Ortiz gets his homer stroke going. And now they come back to Fenway.

Later,

Ian.

 

Texas chili

Yes, it gets cold in Texas too!!! It’s downright freezing here, or perhaps below it, with the temperature around 35 degrees (windchill of about 30) as I sit here more than four hours before game-time.

Hopefully Julian Tavarez’s hand isn’t too cold to pitch well. There’s supposed to be some freezing rain. I’m thinking they’ll get this game in, but who knows.

When you see Victor Martinez pull a muscle in his leg on a frozen, snowy day in Cleveland and then Hideki Matsui do the exact same thing on a frigid day in the Bronx the next, you come to the following conclusion. Baseball is not meant to be played in weather like this.

I tried to glean some insight from manager Terry Francona before today’s game in how you prevent injuries in weather like this, but he didn’t have all that much to say. I just don’t think there’s a lot you can do about it.

"You know what, it’s cold. What are you going to do? I hope
we hit the ball hard enough where we have to run the bases. Yesterday we
prevented it.

Every team deals with it. You deal with it. if you’re
winning, it doesn’t seem like it’s as cold. I don’t know what to tell you. Make sure they stretch."

It was a pretty quiet pre-game. Most of the players were paying attention to the Masters, especially golf nut Tim Wakefield.

Same lineup again today. Mirabelli remains the only reserve to get a start so far. Cora will start tomorrow night, and Wily Mo and Hinske are both likely to get a start at Fenway during the homestand.

I had a great pre-game meal today at a Mexican bakery with my hombre Jesse Sanchez. a few real tasty burritos and an awesome lemon turnover. If you ever get to Arlington, make sure to stop by the Marquez Bakery and Tortilla Factory. Cheap, cheap lunch and tasty. Four stars!!

More later,

Ian.

Hype is real

It’s hard to think otherwise, isn’t it, after what we watched today? David Ortiz doesn’t throw out the Pedro comparison loosely, and Papi mentioned Matsuzaka in the same breath following today’s game. Check out everything Papi had to say. When a great hitter like Ortiz is saying stuff like this, it’s hard not to think it’s valid.

“I’m very impressed with him. He reminds me of Pedro
when he’s pitching. He has total control of the game when he’s out there, you
know what I mean? I saw him in Spring
Training, his first inning he’d start kind of start slow and boom, he’d pick it up
like that. Amazing.

"As a pitcher, I believe when you don’t have it that day,
it’s hard to pick it up. I don’t know how he does it. There might be some
Japanese drink. I’m going to try to talk to him to see if he can get me some of
that. He’s got great stuff man. Every pitch he throws  .. when you watch him on
TV, it’s like a Nintendo game. he throws pitches that normally pitchers don’t
throw for a strike. He’s got pitches that, they just disappear when they get
to the plate."

That says it all. I don’t think any of us would have predicted 10 K’s in the debut. That was something. Imagine when he gets the Fenway crowd behind him. It might be the loudest we’ve heard it for a pitcher since the golden Pedro years — 1999 and 2000.

It says something when the Red Sox really aren’t trying to tone down the hype. Tito pretty much came out and said after the game that this type of pitching is probably the norm for Dice-K. I thought this quote was very revealing:

 

“My guess is after what I’ve seen in spring training and
today, that’s how he pitches. Some pitchers, especially young pitchers, you’ll
see them do it every three or four outings, you’ll see a gem. And the other
outings they can’t command it and they lose. I don’t think you’ll see that with
this guy. I think that’s the way he pitches.”

Also, I thought it was classy that Francona pointed out the two scouts after the game who were most responsible for the signing of Matsuzaka. That would be Craig Shipley and Jon Deeble, a couple of Aussies who have blanketed the Far East for the Sox.

 

“It’s easy for us to take our bows today. I think Ship
and Deebs, I wish I could show you the scouting report, because what they
wrote down was pretty true. That’s a pretty neat day for them. I hope they
share in the fun of this day.”

 
Ian.

 

Schillacked

What a stunner. Of all the things we expected today, Curt Schilling pitching like a fifth starter was last on the list.

With Schilling, there are a a few things you take for granted. One is that he won’t beat himself with poor location. Another is he’ll give you six or seven innings. A third is that on a big stage such as Opening Day, he will come through.

Well, Schilling went 0-for-3 in those usual gimme areas today. As he said after the game, his lack of command with the fastball was the culprit. Mike Lowell put it best when he said he would have bet his house that Schilling wouldn’t have walked in a run. Fortunately, Lowell was too busy playing in the game to place any such wagers, and his family will sleep well, and under a nice roof tonight.

As amped as everyone was for Opening Day — Dustin Pedroia showed his excitement by getting thrown about by a good 10 feet trying to stretch a single into a double — it really is a meaningless gauge on what will happen for the rest of the season.

Take last season. The Red Sox put on a virtual clinic in their Opener in Texas, basically playing a texbtbook game. They finished in third place. Take 2004. The Sox and Pedro Martinez took a beating in the opener in Baltimore. That team won the World Series.

It’s amazing how one bad inning can take the air out of a team. The Red Sox seemed so flat once the Royals rallied in the bottom of the fourth.

Wednesday night will be a much different atmosphere. You won’t have that Opening Day crowd. It will be just another April game. I’m intrigued to see if Josh Beckett can be as good during the season as he was during the spring. I think you’ve all heard me say I’m convinced Beckett is going to have a bust-out year. Let’s see if it really happens.

Anyway, I’ll probably lay low during tomorrow’s off-day, but I’ll be sure to blog away on Wednesday.

Until then, later!

Ian.

For Openers

Two days of the sporting year rise above all others. At least in my mind. One of them is today, Opening Day. There’s no other day like it in baseball. For one day, you feel good about your team, whether you’re a perennial contender or a team down on its luck. Everybody has a shot on Opening Day. It’s a day of rebirth.

My second favorite sports day of the year? The first day of the Baseball Playoffs. But that’s not until October.

So everyone should enjoy Monday to the fullest. Rush out of work a little early to catch the game. Listen or watch discreetly from your office, be it on MLB.TV or on Gameday. Today is the reason you love baseball. All the excitement comes back.

For the Red Sox, it should be a fascinating year. Can Matsuzaka live up to the hype? Can Schilling still get it done at 40? Will Varitek bounce back at the plate?

Can the Cleveland version of Coco Crisp surface? Is this the year that Josh Beckett busts out into an ace? Will Pedroia hold up as the everyday second baseman? Can Papelbon be as good as he was last year?

All of these issues and more will be on your mind just not today, but on a daily basis for the next six  months.

Welcome back, Baseball. If you love the sport, today is your day.

Enjoy,

Ian.

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