April 2008

The Second Game In Town

Aside from Patriots’ Sundays, there have been very few times over the past few years that a Red Sox game at Fenway Park can be looked at as the second game in town. But let’s face it, all the attention is on the team in Green, as it should be.

Big, big game over at the TD Bank tonight. I kind of wish I was there to be honest with you, but being here isn’t so bad either.

Dice-K is taking the ball here on 11 days rest. Thus far, he’s looked sharp, though as the esteemed colleague to my right said, this Toronto offense hasn’t exactly been on their game lately.

Very quiet pre-game here at Fenway. Bryan Corey has elected to stay in the organization after clearing waivers. He’ll report to Pawtucket. Drew and Ellsbury are both day-to-day, leaving Lugo as the only option should one of the starting outfielders get hurt.

How big a breakthrough did Lester make last night? We’ll find out on Sunday, when he chucks again against Tampa Bay. Young, talented pitchers are always capable of the gems here and there, but it’s when the consistency starts happening that you have a pitcher taking his game to the next level. He’ll be facing Kazmir in the 2008 debut of the highly talented Tampa Bay lefty, who has been on the disabled list.

The Red Sox went into this game without an extra base hit in 33 consecutive innings. Is that really possible?

And I would love to hear from anyone who was at Boston’s last 1-0 walkoff victory, won on a homer by Dave Stapleton in the bottom of the 10th on July 18, 1980.

Remember good old Stape? He did an above average job defensively at all four infield positions. That’s impressive. While he’s remembered as the guy who should have been inserted for Bill Buckner in the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea in Game 6 of ’86, I remember how versatile he was. I also remember that completely upright batting stance he had. And I also remember how his batting average went down each season he was in the Majors:

Check it out:

1980: .321
1981: .285
1982: .264
1983: .247
1984: .231
1985: .227
1986: .128.

We haven’t had this much good Dave Stapleton talk in a while. Tomorrow, we should break down Glenn Hoffman. Does anyone remember Ed Jurak?

On that note, I’ll be back.

Ian.

Lowell back in the fold; Celts under pressure

Could there be a better time for Mike Lowell to come back? The offense has been sputtering and the team –entering tonight — had lost five in a row.

Timing is everything. Lowell isn’t just a productive player, but he is a presence on this team.

Ortiz was back in there tonight after getting a couple of days off to rest the knee. I’m sure he had to be beating himself up over the dive into first on Friday night. I know the guy was trying to win but the pure fact is that the head first dive doesn’t get you to first any faster than the straight-out sprint.

This is one of the few times in recent memory that the Red Sox could actually have a little bit of a slump and for it to be glossed over around town. All anyone was talking about today was the Celtics’ loss last night. And it was a very bad loss. But I wouldn’t jump off the bandwagon just yet.

All of a sudden,  a bunch of naysayers are talking about how Garnett never took his game to another level in Minnesota. I understand that, but he’s not in Minnesota anymore. He is in Boston, playing for the best team he’s ever been on. I wouldn’t write this guy off after one game. I have a feeling he is still going to have a huge few weeks of playoff basketball. Also, I’d love to see Phoenix turn the tables and put a serious scare into the Spurs. Full confession here. Steve Nash is my favorite current NBA player. I absolutely love watching that guy. He plays with tremendous heart.

I’d be surprised if the Celtics don’t take the next two and end this thing in six. If this thing does get to a Game 7, that would be frightening considering that just about everyone — including yours truly — expected this thing to be a sweep.

Anyway, you can expect plenty of Celtics talk from me over the next few weeks.

Ian.

Staying home

I’m sitting this weekend at out, chilling at home rather than making the trip to Tropicana Field. Tough loss tonight, for sure. Let’s face it, this week has been difficult with all the illness and injuries and it’s starting to take its toll.

David Ortiz showed the kind of warrior he is when he went diving into first base to try and stay out of that double play. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite get there. But mark my words. That man will hit, and will hit a lot this season.

At any rate, keep the game comments coming all weekend while I’m off. I enjoy reading them. And it’s nice to see all of you building a nice Red Sox community on the blog for another season.

Talk to you later,

 Ian.

Masterson Theatre

Here we go at Fenway, with Justin Masteron getting ready to make his anticipated debut at Fenway.

We’ve had a few of these the last few years. We all remember when Jonathan Papelbon — then known as Jon — made his first start against the Twins on July 31, 2005. He looked electric from the start.

And who could forget the foggy, rainy day when Jon Lester had to sit through about a five-hour delay before pitching his first game against the Rangers in June, 2006.

Of course, last year, we had the Buchholz debut in August against the Angels followed by the  second start no-hitter against the Orioles.

Now, it’s Masteron’s turn. By the way, great note by Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press-Herald about the seven pitchers who have made their first starts with the Red Sox after starting the season at Portland.

Abe Alvarez, July 22, 2004 (loss to Orioles)
Jonathan Papelbon, July 31, 2005 (no decision vs. Twins)
David Pauley, May 31, 2006 (no decision, vs. Blue Jays)
Kason Gabbard, July 22, 2006 (loss to Mariners)
Devern Hansack, Sept. 23, 2006 (loss to Blue Jays)
Clay Buchholz, Aug. 17, 2007 (win over Angels)

And as Kevin notes, only Buchholz got the win. Will Masterson join him today?

Dice-K scratched; Masterson tomorrow; Hansen back at Fenway

Crazy stuff. Now it’s Dice-K’s turn to call in sick at the last minute. This, just 24 hours after Beckett couldn’t go. Lester will fill in for Matsuzaka. And he’ll be on three days rest.

Who will pitch tomorrow? Masterson? Zink? Wakefield on three days rest? We have our answer, via the Portland Press Herald, fine news gathering organization that they are. And great job by FOBP — Friend of Brownie Points — Joe Haggerty for scouring through sonsofsamhorn and getting this link. Red Sox PR maven John Blake said, “We’re still listing it as TBA”. Take it for what it’s worth. John, of course, isn’t allowed to say anything until the official roster move is made.

Even though Jason Varitek is out of the lineup for the fourth straight day as he recovers from his sickness, the Red Sox opted not to call up another catcher in place of the departed David Pauley. Instead, a familiar face has resurfaced in the form of Craig Hansen. The righty with all that promise has been lights out at Pawtucket. Manny Delcarmen is still recovering from his sickness so it’s not surprising Hansen was the choice tonight.

However, if Varitek can’t catch tomorrow’s day game after the night game, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hansen is sent right back after the game tonight and Dusty Brown comes in to catch tomorrow’s game. They don’t want to run Cash into the ground just yet.

So we’ll see.

A plan is being outlined for Mike Lowell in terms of when he can go on a rehab assignment so I hope to have some info on that shortly.

Hasta La Vista,

Ian.

Beckett scratched, here comes Pauley

No Josh Beckett tonight. The ace has a combination of a stiff neck and a bad cold. David Pauley has arrived from Pawtucket.

Does anyone remember the time Pedro was scratched at the last minute in 2003 with a lat injury and Bruce Chen was summoned and beat the Yankees that night? And great call by BoSox Brian on Casey Fossum coming through in August of that same Cowboy Up season when Pedro got sick.

No Jason Varitek tonight. The captain is still sick. Dustin Pedroia — yes, Dustin Pedroia — is the emergency catcher. To make room on the roster for Pauley, the Sox had to designate Joe Thurston for assignment. By the way, Manny Delcarmen was also sent home sick.

Tonight’s lineup:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 3B
Drew RF
Casey 1B
Cash C
Lugo SS

Pauley SP

Marathon Monday

It is one of the truly unique days of the Red Sox season. Marathon Monday. It’s the only time I truly have to set my alarm clock for a home game. But it also is a day that holds special meaning to me.

The first baseball game I ever went to when I was a kid? Marathon Monday, 1980. The date was April 21, which coincidentally enough, is today’s date? So it was 28 years ago that this whole baseball thing started for me. I was eight years old and my mother still remembers the day as a life-changing event for me. I went to the game with my dad. When my mom saw me, she said I had a look on my face she had never seen before. Yes, I found out what baseball was all about that day.

Looking back on it, it was a hot, sunny day. It was literally about 80 degrees. I was sitting in the bleachers, which were $2 a ticket at that time. There was non-stop action in the game as a look back at Retrosheet shows.

The Red Sox won the game, 9-8, against the White Sox.

Bruce Hurst started for the Sox, getting knocked out with nobody out in the second inning and allowing four hits and four runs.

Check out the Red Sox lineup from that day:

Evans RF
Burleson SS
Lynn CF
Rice LF
Perez 1B
Fisk DH
Sizemore 2B
Hoffman 3B
Allenson C

It was one of those zany Fenway days. The White Sox had a 5-1 lead by the top of the third.
But back came the Sox with a five-spot in the bottom of the third, to take a 6-5 lead. In that inning, they hit no fewer than three home runs with two outs, as the men of honor were Burleson, Rice and Fisk. Then it was the White Sox scoring three in the top of the fourth to go up 8-6.

The last laugh, however, went to the Red Sox. They scored three in the bottom of the eighth. I wish I could remember how they scored those three runs in the eighth, but the memory was a little fuzzy. All I remember is that I was hooked, and that hasn’t stopped. I also remember watching the runners go by in Kenmore Square. Bill Rodgers was the winner that day, and I remember the crowd roaring when he ran by.

Now, we’re here again today. And on to to current events: Manny (scheduled day off), Varitek (flu) and Casey (lefty pitching) are all out of the lineup.

This is the lineup:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Youkilis 1B
Drew RF
Lowrie 3B
Lugo SS
Cash C
Thurston LF

Buchholz SP

That’s all for now.

Ian.

Youk recovers fast

Some good news right out of the gate. Kevin Youkilis was no worse for the wear today after clubbing a foul ball off his left, big toe last night and he is in the lineup, batting fifth and playing  third base tonight.

Could we please have a baseball game that lasts less than four hours tonight? Please, please, please?

Here are the lineups for tonight:

Red Sox
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 3B
Drew RF
Varitek C
Casey 1B
Lugo SS

Beckett SP

Yankees
Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
A-Rod 3B
Giambi 1B
Posada DH
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Moeller C

Mussina SP

Oh, and by the way, I wanted to give a shout-out to the great Amy Browne — (my wife) — who is a birthday girl today.

More later,

Ian.

Back to the Bronx

I was in Cleveland, believe it or not. But I went on blog strike for a couple of days. I hope you understand. Just need a couple of days to recharge. We’ll be back at full force here in the second greatest sporting venue in Major League Baseball — Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

I’m curious from you readers: Will you miss Yankee Stadium? Does it matter at all to you that this is the last season of it?

Perhaps I have a different perspective. Before this job, I lived in New York for for baseball seasons (1998-2001) and covered a ton of games here from April through October and I’ve always loved everything about watching a game at Yankee Stadium. It seems strange that we will be across the street next year without all the ghosts and all the tradition.

As for the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, I think Joel Sherman of the NY Post hit a home run with his column today saying that it’s mostly hype these days and not even close to what it was in  2003 and 2004, when we saw two of the greatest ALCS’s of all-time.

I think the teams need to have another ALCS to rekindle this rivalry to its peak, or maybe an AL East race in which the winner advances to the playoffs and the loser goes home,  a la 1978.

On to more current events, the roster move has been made. Alex Cora to the DL and Joe Thurston is here.

Ellsbury is in center tonight as Coco has some soreness in his right leg. He said it’s from all that sprinting in the cold.

I had a leisurely flight from Cleveland this morning, leaving at 11 a.m. while all my colleagues rushed out here on like 7 or 8 a.m. flights. I checked into the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and had a tremendous sushi lunch at a place right in the lobby.

Then, I rode to Yankee Stadium the only way how — The D train — along with Rob Bradford, Michael Silverman and Amalie Benjamin. It’s a gorgeous day in New York.

Play ball:

Here are the lineups:

Red Sox:
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Ramirez LF
Youkilis 3B
Drew RF
Varitek C
Casey 1B
Lugo SS

Buchholz SP

Yankees
Cabrera CF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
A-Rod 3B
Matsui LF
Posada DH
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Moeller C

Wang SP

That’s all for now.

Ian.

Big Papi out of lineup

Go back to 2003, when David Ortiz was platooning with Jeremy Giambi and Shea Hillenbrand, and you can remember a time he didn’t start against the Yankees. There was also that Sunday afternoon in early September, 2005, when he sat out against Randy Johnson in Tim Wakefield’s 1-0 loss. But aside from that, David Ortiz plays against the Yankees. Tonight, he is not. Instead, J.D. Drew will bat third, Manny will DH and Ellsbury will play left.

Ortiz was informed by manager Terry Francona last night he wouldn’t be playing today and seemed noticeably relaxed today in holding court with several reporters before the game.

He spoke for nearly eight minutes. Here is what he said:

Ortiz:

 

Having to sit out Red Sox-Yankees game: “It happens. It happened
to me before. That’s how it is, man.”

“You know, just trying to figure things out for a minute so I
can go back to being Big Papi again.”

 
Tito told him last night, so was it refreshing to have good night’s
sleep? “Yeah, you see this in baseball, a guy having a hard time, go home,
chill out, come back with a fresh mind. It happens to everybody. And I guess
that’s when managers know when they need to bring something like that to the
table. I always do what Terry tells me to do. I’m an employee.”

 “This game is very mental. Your mind takes over. I can tell
you myself, I know that in my situation, my mind works more than everything
else because it’s been like that my whole career. I think, mentally, the
percentage is more of what you use in the game than physically. I will tell
you, and it’s because this game, after you get prepared physically, you let the
mind take over. Sometimes when you’re fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting,
this is the time when the mind gets some time off and regroups and goes back to
normal. If you just keep on hitting and keep on hitting and keep on hitting, it
takes longer for you to recover or whatever. I guess that’s why managers make
those kind of decisions with their players. You can see the results later on.”

Fan buried your jersey at the new Yankee Stadium. “Nooooo.
Holy [expletive], I better talk to my witches in there.”

 
“That’s [expletive] up.”

Do you want it back? “God [expletive]. You know what, I’m going to
have to call my people in New York
and take care of it when everybody is sleeping. You’ve got to give me a more
specific location.”

 
Legs OK? “Yeah. I’m fine. I’m not like I would like to be
but I’m OK. I’m just going to really appreciate Manny and Mikey Lowell start
hitting homers, that way I don’t have to score from first base. That bitch
hurts. No, everything is fine. I’ve just got to regroup and pull myself
together and stop thinking so much and fighting with myself. I’ve been there
before, that’s why I know I’m going to be out of it at one point. It happens to
all of us, man.”

 
Experts, i.e., ESPN, showing his stance changing, “If you
guys go to the time I’ve been here, I never stand the same way. I stand,
depending on who is pitching, or how I feel at the time. you know what I mean? But
I always click on to something that helps me and helps me and makes me change
and helps me stay away from chasing a pitch that I’ve been chasing. You know
how it is. You have scouts out there watching you , and what you’re doing, what
you’re chasing, what you’re not chasing, what you’re hitting, what you’re not
hitting. And that’s why I kind of get out of stuff real quick. I always try to
figure out the way to stay away from getting in trouble, you know what I mean?
I know exactly what I’m doing wrong right now and everything is right here
(points to his head). I’ll work on that. I’ve been ****** up before. Big time.
Big time.”

 
Can you tell us what are you doing wrong? “No, I don’t want
nobody to know, man. It’s bad, man. It’s bad. I’ll fix it, guys. I’ll be
alright.”

 
Watch film, day off? “Yeah, today, I’ll just swing later
just in case I have to come in to pinch hit because I never have a full day
off.”

 
“I’m just going to chill and try to get baseball a little
bit out of here [mind] for a minute.”

 Then he closes out interview with, “Alright guys, no problem.”

 

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