August 2007

Trying time

Not only do the Red Sox get swept in the Bronx, but they come home to find out that their hottest pitcher can’t go because of a bad back. It’s too bad. Tim Wakefield has been unhittable lately and it would have been one of the feel-good stories of the season to see him get 20 wins.

Also, no Manny. We all know this team can’t go where they want to go unless Manny is in the lineup and raking. He underwent an MRI today.Red Sox Nation will hold its collective breath until that test comes back.

Has September 1 ever come at a better time for the Sox? Ellsbury, Lester, Buchholz and who knows who else will be here shortly.

The games in New York were great theater, as always. I must say that the baseball purist in me absolutely loved taking in those great pitching matchups. Love or hate Roger Clemens, it’s astounding still watching him get it done at age 45. And Schilling had his A game going yesterday.

As for the Chamberlain thing, how does anyone honestly know what happened? Watching it live, I did not think the kid had any intent of trying to hit Youkilis in the head. I think the kid was jacked up and wild. Let’s face it, adrenaline rises to another level in these games.

The Red Sox were pretty cold when asked about it after the game. My personal thought? They are trying to get in the kid’s head. He just might be the difference-maker in this rivalry right now, so the Red Sox are trying to get in his head and let them know that perhaps retribution might be in store.

September 14 at Fenway is going to be must-see TV for sure.

All for now. I’ll be back at Fenway on Sunday and laying low the next two days.

Ian.

No more no-no

Less than 24 hours after Roger Clemens no-hit the Red Sox through 5 1/3 innings, Chien-Ming Wang no-hit the Red Sox through six. I think Derek Jeter got Wang out of rhythm with his throwing error to start the seventh. Mike Lowell stepped right up after that and slammed a single to right. Perhaps the momentum will carry the Red Sox to a late-game comeback.

It looks like the umps got the call right on Youk being out of the baseline. 

So far, I guess you would have to call today the Cano Show!

More later,

Ian.

Manny out for a bit

The Manny injury is a strained left oblique. I’m not sure when we’ll see Manny again. He told NESN reporter Tina Cervasio — one of the nicest people in the Boston sports media by the way — that he’ll be out for roughly 10 days. It makes sense because oblique injuries tend to linger.

Kielty is also day to day with his back ailment. So it’s Hinske and Hinske for the Red Sox tonight in left!

Also, it is all but certain to be Tavarez on Saturday and not Buchholz.

Meanwhile, Roger Clemens has a NO HITTER at 8:58 p.m. ET. He is 12 outs away! Wow, that jinx thing worked. Two minutes later, Big Papi put one over the wall. I didn’t pat my back the other day so I guess I will this time.

This is the second time in the last four days I’ve called a home run. I also called, believe it or not, on Sunday that J.D. Drew would end his homerless drought of 51 games and 166 at-bats. This shot — though not quite as unlikely — did snap a no-hitter bid. Roger Clemens, perhaps the best pitcher of all-time, has never thrown a no-hitter. It just shows how hard it is — or maybe how lucky you have to be — to throw one.

Terry Francona told a great Clemens story before the game. Back on September 30, 1988, Francona guessed fastball against Clemens and slapped a double. Next time up, Clemens put Francona on his back. "I cheated on a fastball in that I probably shouldn’t have
got to. Next time I came up, he about took off my helmet," said Clemens.

Rob Bradford of Bradfordfiles fame and I bumped into a very insightful man named Kazuhiro Takeda before tonight’s game. Takeda is a former Japanese professional pitcher and also served as the pitching coach for Japan during the World Baseball Classic.

Takeda was not impressed by the way Dice-K was throwing the ball Tuesday night.

“His level will rise up next year. When he gets into bad
habits, he lowers his shoulder and his elbow, like more pushing instead of
throwing," said Takeda. "The season is long over here and he’s getting quite tired
but I think he’s trying to save himself for later also.”

Of the loss to the Yankees, Takeda offered this: "That’s not even half of what he can do.”

That’s all for now. Later.

Ian.

Back in New York

My headline for this blog was going to be Back in the Bronx, but my fine colleague Bryan Hoch over at Yankees.com came up with it first. Oh well, I’ll give it to the rookie this time. But next time, I want some veteran respect. And only because he had a very long weekend in Detroit. Bryan was in Detroit covering a 16-0 Yankees loss last night while I was comfortably resting at my hotel in Times Square, which had a fine view from the window by the way. Bryan had a 4:15 a.m. wakeup call this morning from his hotel in Detroit. I rolled out of bed at, oh, around 11:30.

It’s too bad this series didn’t take place eight days ago when the standings were at four games. The atmosphere would have been positively electric. As it is, the atmosphere isn’t so bad. After all, it’s Red Sox-Yankees. It’s Dice-K and Pettitte.

The first interesting thing that happened tonight was Dice-K belting A-Rod on the back with a heater. Remember back in April when Dice-K hit A-Rod the first time he ever faced him and then tipped his cap as to A-Rod as an olive branch? That is commonplace in Japan, but not in MLB. There was no cap tip from Matsuzaka this time, who is obviously blending in more each passing week.

Great quote by Joe Torre before the game when asked about David Ortiz, who isn’t hitting nearly as many home runs this year as he has in the past.

"He still scares the [insert appropriate word here]  out of me. He’s a special talent; I like him a lot as a person. I don’t like him facing my pitchers with the game in the balance. I don’t think that, because he’s hit fewer home runs that he scares you any less."

Torre flat-out brings it. I really hope he’s back as Yankees manager next season. There is no more quotable skipper in the game, except for well, maybe Ozzie Guillen. I’m still cracked up by what Ozzie said after Friday’s Sox-Sox doubleheader.

"Twelve hours of my life I wasted and I’m never going to get it back,"
said Guillen. "Tough day for everyone. I think
that’s one of the reasons they’re in first place and we’re in last
place. They hit better than we did, they pitched better than we did."

The Red Sox are keeping it a mystery who will pitch on Saturday, but all signs point to Clay Buchholz. If it was going to be Tavarez, they’d just announce that already. Right?

Lester, who pitched well for Portland Monday night, makes his return to the rotation on Sunday  against the Orioles.

More later,

Ian.

Yankees get ****** punch in Detroit

Is Aug. 24 the day we’ll look back at as the day the American League East at last was wrested away by the Red Sox?

Manager Terry Francona’s nine sweeps a doubleheader in Chicago, scoring 21 runs in the process. Then the Yankees begin their game at Detroit at 11 p.m. Eastern time and lose at 3:30 a.m. on Carlos Guillen’s three-run, walkoff homer.

A day that started with the Yankees five games back ends with them 6 and 1/2 back. Ouch.

Meanwhile, Ortiz rips two homers and Youkilis looks like he’s getting his swing back and Schilling pitches his best game in weeks?

I don’t know. This thing will come to a head in the Bronx next week one way or another, but the Red Sox simply have the better team. To me, the Yankees are the 2005 Red Sox. Overly reliant on the offense. Yes, the Yankees have Joba Chamberlain, just like the Red Sox had Jonathan Papelbon late in 2005. But it wasn’t enough.

I don’t think Chamberlain is enough. I think the Yankees will put up a fight and get to the playoffs, but I’m not sure if they can advance. We’ll see.

The fun is finding out.

later,

Ian.

Let's Play Two

Game 1 is in the books. Boston 11, Chicago 3. As openers to a doubleheader go, this one worked out well for the Red Sox.

Beckett gave them just enough (5 2/3) so that the bullpen wasn’t overly taxed. The bullpen broke it open late so Paps didn’t have to pitch. Gagne also didn’t pitch so Tito should have enough weapons for the late innings of the nightcap.

Varitek blamed himself for Wednesday’s loss in Tampa for stranding runners all night, then he comes out and does the captainly thing today, driving in four runs in Game 1.

When the Red Sox pulled the trigger on the J.D. Drew contract back in the winter, I’m guessing they never envisioned having to pinch-hit Bobby Kielty for him against a lefty in late August. But these are tough times for J.D. and it turned out to be a good move by Tito. Kielty got to the plate twice in the late innings and had two sac flies.

The Red Sox spent last night’s rain delay jamming out to a bootleg song made in honor of Okajima. It’s called Okajima Oki-Doke. I kid you not. Mike Lowell promises that it will be played on the scoreboard when the Red Sox return to Fenway next week. I imagine that this song could be the Kevin Millar rally karaoke of 2007.

I caught up with old friend Mike Myers today — yes, one of the 25. Anyway, Mike has landed on his feet here in Chicago after being DFA’d by the Yankees. The White Sox hold an option on him for next year, and Mike seems relatively optimistic they will pick it up. Myers is a class act. He’s happy to see the way fellow lefty submariner Javy Lopez has developed with the Sox. If the Yankees win the World Series, Mike would have rings from both sides of the rivalary. Who is the last person to accomplish that feat? Anyone since Babe Ruth?  Well, John W. Henry would qualify given his past stake as a minority owner with the Yankees. Anyone else?

Here is the lineup for Game 2:

Lugo SS
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Lowell 3B
Youkilis 1B
Kielty RF
Crisp CF
Cash C

Schilling SP

Ian.

Live from the Windy City

Rain, rain, rain. The most electrifying thunder and lightning I’ve seen all year. Alas, no baseball tonight.

But I was back at work after a lengthy hiatus. To quote the great Steven Tyler, it’s good to be "back in the saddle again."

I came back to some news. Jon Lester is going back to the Minor Leagues — Portland — for one game. Javy Lopez will join the team, starting tonight. Julian pitches Sunday in Lester’s spot.

The motivating factor in all this was so that they could have Lopez ready to face Thome and Erstad here the next four days, not to mention Damon, Abreu, Matsui and Giambi in New York.

Lester will start at Fenway on Sept. 2 against the Orioles.

Also, Royce Clayton has been signed to a Minor League deal and will join Pawtucket tomorrow. Presumably, he will be a September call-up.

More tomorrow, where we may or may not have a doubleheader depending on what Mother Nature has to say.

Ian.

Hi again

Hi to one and all,

I’m in the midst of a family vacation that started in Pennsylvania and has continued into Michigan and will complete itself early next week in Niagra Falls. I will return to active duty on Aug. 23 for the start of the Red Sox-White Sox series in Chicago.

It looks like it’s been an eventful day at Fenway. I didn’t see one pitch from Buchholz but it seems like it was a pretty good debut. Mirabelli getting hurt certainly makes things interesting for a while. It sounds like Kevin Cash has some experience with the knuckleball so perhaps Varitek can stay in his regular routine.

This is also a good experiment going into next year to see how well Wakefield can survive without the security of Mirabelli.

The Wily Mo trade: Well, what can we say besides inevitable? I don’t think it’s fair by any means to say that WMP was a bust in Boston. The guy never had a chance. He needed at-bats and he never got them. I firmly believe that this man will hit between 30-35 homers a season as soon as he gets sufficient at-bats to do so. He is just too raw but he has so much strength. He’s also a better athlete than people realize. I like the guy. He was never anything but a class act in the time he was in Boston.

So what’s the deal with Ellsbury? He’s here for the weekend and then Kielty will replace him in a couple of days? I’m a little out of the loop on this stuff during my extended absence so perhaps you guys can fill me in.

Anyway, flood the comments section over the next few days to keep me in the loop. I’ll probably post again shortly before I return on Aug. 23, but until then, so long. The time with the family has been great. I also miss the job. So I do look forward to returning, but until then, I’ll enjoy the R&R.

Until then, Ciao,

Ian.

The Race is On

For the first time all season, the Red Sox will play games at Fenway Park — beginning tonight — with true urgency in the air.

The lead, which seemed miles long in May, is down to a miniscule four games. The Red Sox have Wakefield going against a very talented young pitcher in James Shields, albeit against a very inferior Tampa Bay Devil Rays team. A couple hundred miles to the south in the Bronx, the Yankees have their best pitcher going in Chien-Ming Wang. Red Sox fans can take heart in the fact that the Orioles counter with the very solid rookie arm of Jeremy Guthrie. Maybe Millar can torture the Yankees this time.

Two absolutely gutwrenching losses in Baltimore over the weekend. Gagne, a standup guy if ever there was one, basically prevented the Red Sox from sweeping that series. But Gagne will be there for this team. Am I the only person who remembers that Orlando Cabrera struggled mightily in his first two or three weeks with the Red Sox? I think revisionist history is at work a little here, as people think that Cabrera immediately took to his new environment. Look, it takes time. You have a guy like Gagne who has been a star closer for years and the competitive side of him wants to show his new teammates how good he is. Once he starts relaxing and just being himself, he’ll be fine.

Did you guys/gals hear that Gabbard left his start with the Rangers the other night with forearm stiffness? Hopefully Gabby will be OK. He’s had a lot of arm problems in his minor league career.

As for the Yankees, yes, they are a very scary team right now. And they now have something they haven’t had in a while — a couple of electric young arms. One in the rotation in Phillip Hughes, who is at last healthy. Another in the bullpen by the name of Joba Chamberlain. All he’s done in his first two outings is strike out six batters over four innings while not allowing a hit.

This is a major character test coming up for the Red Sox. In the old days, Kevin Millar would proclaim that it is time to Cowboy Up! Who will take the bull by the horns for the 2007 Red Sox?

A gut check awaits, and we’ll see if this team can start building something for October.

Ian.

Rookie talk

Dice-K takes the ball tonight in Bird-land, going for win No. 14. And to me, that brings up a very compelling point. If the Rookie of the Year comes from the Red Sox this year, which is a very good possibility, who should it be?

My friend/colleague Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram has the vote for Rookie of the Year and will not vote for Dice-K or Okajima, just as he did not vote for Matsui in 2003. Bill’s point, and it’s a good one, is how you can consider someone a rookie when they’ve been playing professional baseball for years?

While I agree with Bill’s thoughts, the fact of the matter is that Dice-K and Okajima are still eligible for the award by the letter of the law, so should they be penalized for that mistake? You make the call.

Pedroia, a true rookie in every way, is hitting .326 and has been terrific on both sides of the ball.

I want all of you comenters this weekend to let me know which of these 3 you would vote for?

Is it the steady everyday player who is a true rookie?

Is it the Japanese icon who has, in all but a few of his outings, lived up to the enormous expectations?

Is it the other Japanese pitcher who has come out of nowhere to become one of the best relief pitchers in baseball?

P.S. — I wanted to express a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who expressed support and sympathy to my family and I in the comments section during what has been the most trying time of my life. It means a lot.

I’ll be laying very low until Aug. 23, when the Red Sox go to Chicago. I had already had some vacation time scheduled before the personal tragedy that took me out of work last week. But I will be monitoring the team either through MLB.TV’s archived games or even the comments section on the blog.

thx a lot,

Ian.

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