April 2009

Back at the Trop

IN case you haven’t noticed, Matt Garza has a PERFECT GAME THROUGH six!!! He looks electric. This guy has developed a real swagger against the Red Sox.

Good to be back here at Tropicana Field. Hearing those cowbells gave me instant flashbacks to last year’s ALCS. It’s still stunning that the Red Sox lost Game 7. Is there anybody who thought they were going to the way they rallied to force it to Game 7?

Of course, it was Garza who was most pivotal that night. And here he goes again.

Anyway, on to more positive matters, this team comes in here playing torrid baseball. They are not only winning, but seemingly finding a different way to do it every night. Jonathan Van Every? Whatever it takes, right?

One thing the Red Sox truly need is more innigs from the starting pitchers.

Here is the breakdown:

Beckett: 7 innings, 6 innings, 6 innings, 5 innings, 4.2 innings.
Lester: 5 innings, 6 innings, 7 innings, 6 innings, 6 innings
Wakefield: 6, 9, 7, 7.
Penny: 6, 3, 6, 2.2
Dice-K: 5.1, 1.
Masterson: 5.1, 5.1..

Obviously Wakefield has been huge and Masterson gets a free pass because he is still getting stretched out. But the bullpen is being counted on too heavily.

The situation is weighing on the manager so much that even as the Red Sox were coming back from 5-0 down last night, he was worried the game would go into extra innings and what that would mean to the ‘pen.

 

Sunday night special

ESPN is here, the Red Sox and Yankees are here, one more game in this marathon series.

The first two games had the exact same time of game. A nice four hours and 21 minutes.

Those games are literally exhausting, but riveting, all at the same time. Tonight should be a little more crisp with Masterson and Pettitte on the hill. These are two guys who just go after the opposition. No nibbling.

The Red Sox have a very short bullpen tonight. No Papelbon, no Delcarmen, no Ramirez. Michael Bowden is here tonight in the event he is needed for long relief, or extra innings.

Julio Lugo is all but certain to be activated for Monday night’s game in Cleveland.

I won’t be in Cleveland. I’m taking three days off, so you guys and gals will have to make do without me until the four-game showdown at Tropicana Field, which starts Thursday.

Epic ending

In case you were wondering if — from a Red Sox stnadpoint — Friday’s ending was one of the best you’ve ever seen in the long, storied history of the rivalry, it was.

Check out this nugget from the Elias Sports Bureau.

It was the first time the Red Sox have ever hit a game-tying homer against the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, and then a walkoff home run in extra innings.

Baseball Armageddon — 2009 style

What a spectacular night at Fenway. The weather could not be better. First of 18 meetings between the Sox and the Yanks.

The reception for Mark Teixeira in his first at-bat was a little disappointing. They booed, but they did not give him the A-Rod treatment. I thought it would be far louder and more passion-filled. And after he made an out, the folks behind the third base dugout didn’t even react when he came back in.

Holy frustration for the Red Sox tonight. Four DPs against Chamberlain over the first five innings.

Anyway, chime in with your thoughts as the night develops

Look for Julio Lugo to start Monday night In Cleveland. Kotsay isn’t far behind. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw him by the series at the new Yankee Stadium on May 4-5.

Game 2, and some fun with Ortiz

They will play baseball tonight, it appears. Scheduled first pitch for Brad Penny in the nightcap is 7:55 p.m.

Mike Lowell gets his first game off of the year tonight. Jeff Bailey is batting eighth and playing first. The rest of the lineup is all the regulars.

The bullpen didn’t pitch at all in Game 1 and there is a day off tomorrow, so this is about as well as you can be set up for the second game of a doubleheader.

David Ortiz was in a jovial mood in between games. And why not? He is hitting, and so are the Red Sox.

“We play good at home, dog. Everybody is in a good mood. Everybody is locked in right now,” Ortiz said.

Is Papi purposely trying to hit the ball to left field?

“I don’t know, man. I’m just swinging, just in case I hit it.”

What does Ortiz do during a rain delay? For starters, he listens to the rants of his most talkative — and smallest — teammate.

“Just hang around and chill,” said Ortiz. “I was pretty much on my computer and watching the guys talk trash. Pedey screaming. Longest three hours ever when you’ve got that little man screaming. Just hanging out and making sure we’ll be ready for the next game.”

Ortiz fully supports Kevin Youkilis being on the All-Star ballot at first base instead of him. IN fact, Ortiz might have had some input in the decision.

“We talk about it, we talk about it,” Ortiz said .”He’s the guy that plays out there. They always come to me because I’m out here longer. This is like the Army. The guy who has the longer time, that’s the guy who has the first choice. But I have no problem with that. He deserves it, man. He’s been a hell of a player since he’s been there.”

Ortiz knows he hasn’t gone deep yet this season. He’s also not worried about it.

“Hitting my first homer, I don’t want to let that get in my head because it will just make it worse. At some point, one is going to come, and then the next one and then the next one. Next thing you know, you’re right there with everybody. That’s something that you can’t really control. You just have to keep on playing and swinging, make things happen. That’s one part of the game that I tell you, us as players have control over it, and we don’t. We really don’t. You know? That’s how it goes.”

Papi pounds Orioles; Pedroia gets in swing

David Ortiz came into the day hitting .170 with no homers, four RBIs, 14 strikeouts, a .255 OBP and a .191 slugging percentage.

In other words, he came into the day with the scrutiny of Red Sox Nation all around him. What is the matter with Big Papi?

It was a New York Times writer that broached the subject with Red Sox manager Terry Francona before the game. And Tito, per usual, was fiercely loyal to his veteran.

“I think right now, you’re seeing a guy that’s in between. Fastballs getting by him and he’s ahead of the breaking ball. Hitting is such a .. it can be intricate when it’s going bad and it can be easy when it’s going good, or simplified. When you hear every hitter … just about … when they’re going really well, they’ll tell you the same thing. ‘Boy, I’m just seeing the ball good.’
And they don’t think about a whole lot else.

“When you’re not going good, you can see where the umpire is behind the pitcher, you see the resin bag, you see the scoreboard, you see the camera, you see everything but the ball. And everything looks fast. And once you get to a position and you can hit a ball and you’re in a good position and you square it up, everything seems to slow down. I don’t know exactly why that is. We’ve all been through it and it can be awful and it can be really good. And just as awful, it usually gets that good. That’s kind of the, I don’t know, the uniqueness of hitting is. Guys get to their level. They just don’t always do it in the most consistent manner.”

Then the questioner wondered if Ortiz, because he is approaching his mid 30s, could be well, heading for his own type of Heartbreak Hill.

“Oh. Oohhh. You would be ahead of me on that one,” Francona said. “I think last year, his start, it wasn’t good. Whatever his first 50 at-bats were, weren’t good. I think I was answering similar questions last year at this time. I don’t even know how to answer that. I think he’s got so much more offense left in him.  He’s just having a tough time right now. I remember last year watching a game on TV and the announcers were wondering aloud why Carlos Delgado hadn’t been let go yet. They were pretty vocal about it. That’s probably you guys are doing your jobs and we’ll try to do ours. That’s just the way it is.”

And wouldn’t you know, Ortiz drilled a double off the wall today and a two-run triple to center.

I wondered if Francona would sit him this morning given the early start time and the fact the Red Sox were facing a 6-foot-10 lefty in Mark Hendrickson. But Francona thought that challenge would be good for Ortiz’s timing, and it wound up working out.

At any rate, Ortiz is a player who figures to be under the microscope for much of the year. But if today is any indication, there are still some hits left in that bat.

Speaking of revived hitters, Dustin Pedroia looks as if he is ready to resume his annual laster show. The little second baseman banged out four hits today and is now hitting .286.

Beckett, Sox made the right call

Give the Red Sox and Josh Beckett credit for not belaboring the appeal process. One Boston officials spoke with the league and found out they could go from a six-game suspension to a five-game suspension, they immediately talked Beckett into accepting it.

The timing couldn’t be better for the Sox. With Thursday’s off-day, the rotation now lines up perfectly. Jon Lester can now step into Beckett’s original spot on Friday, and make that turn on a regular four days of rest. Beckett will simply pitch Saturday, and get six days rest.

The rotation against the Yankees will be Lester-Beckett-Masterson, though the Red Sox do have the option of pitching Wakefield on Sunday if they choose. I have a feeling they will keep things as is, and give Wake the extra day.

How will Tito manuver the bullpen in the late innings today? Papelbon pitched the last two days; Saito pitched last night and has yet to go back to back. Okajima worked the last two days. My deductive reasoning leads me to believe Ramon Ramirez will get the ball in the ninth today.

We should finally learn Jed Lowrie‘s fate by tomorrow. Will he or won’t he have surgery?

Good to see old friend Mike Timlin back at Fenway today. Mike’s wife Dawn is running the Marathon tomorrow. Timlin spent a lot of time in the clubhouse this morning speaking to his old teammates. It appears he is retired, as no teams were interested in him over the winter. Today, Timlin is taking in the game from the Monster Seats.

A-Wake-ning

OK, there you have it. Tim Wakefield reeled off a gem on Wednesday. Not only a gem, but a CLUTCH gem.

So perhaps it is time for people to stop sending me e-mails wondering why Wakefield is in the rotation, and why his spot isn’t filled by a more glamorous pitcher who throws hard.

Why is Wakefield in the rotation? Let’s start with the fact that he is one of the top bargains in baseball and has been for the last several years. The man — who signed a contract that was all about loyalty to a city and to a team — makes $4 million a year. That is $4 million for double-digit wins and 150 to 180 innings every year.

Even at 42, Wakefield remains a rock for the Red Sox. After the 12-inning game on Tuesday night, when Dice-K only lasted an inning, Wakefield wandered into his manager’s office before Wednesday’s game.

Basically Wakefield told Terry Francona, “I know what you need from me today and I’m going to give it to you.”

That is a veteran player who understands his responsibility to a team. Wakefield was determined to give his bullpen a reprieve and he wound up giving them an entire day off. He came five outs away from a no-hitter, and it would have been a golden moment for a man who is among the club’s all-time leaders in several categories. He became the oldest pitcher to notch a complete game in Red Sox history.

We know that Wakefield has a SLAP tear in his labrum, and has, since 2007. This means that at some point during the year, his shoulder will get cranky and he’ll need a two to three week break. We also know that at some point, Wakefield will get into one of those ruts that will have many of you e-mailing me and asking me why he is still in the rotation. And most of all, we know that Wakefield will get out of that rut and resume the quality pitching he has displayed so many times since first coming to Boston in 1995.

Dice done

The Red Sox’s worst fears are being realized. Daisuke Matsuzaka, after pitching Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, has come back not looking anything like the guy who finished fourth in last year’s Cy Young Award voting.

Matsuzaka labored against Tampa Bay last week, and much more tonight in Oakland, when he fired one 43-pitch inning (22 strikes) before having the ball taken away from him by manager Terry Francona. To be frank, Matsuzaka appeared to have nothing out there.

Out of the 43 pitches Matsuzaka pitched, only five were in the 90s. He topped out at 91.

Dice-K left the game with what was described as “arm fatigue”.

He gave up five hits, five runs and walked two, throwing 43 pitches. He walked two and struck out nobody, only getting two swings and misses.

Beckett appeals six-game suspension

Red Sox ace Josh Beckett was surprised by his six-game suspension for the pitch that buzzed Bobby Abreu off the plate on Sunday. He is also surprised that Angels manager Mike Scioscia criticized him for not showing remorse:

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to go give him a hug? I wasn’t really in a hugging mood right then.  I don’t really know what he wanted me to do,” said Beckett.

As for the suspension itself, which Beckett appealed on the spot?

“Yeah, we were pretty shocked. I think the appeal kind of speaks for everything that we feel,” Beckett said.

On how a pitch can go somewhere other than you want it when time is called at the last minute?

Every pitcher does that. I’ve seen guys that I’ve played with, they throw balls to the backstop. It’s just, it’s what we’re taught to do. We have to kind of protect ourselves in those situations. Stopping is not a good way to do that. It can end your career. One bad slip or something like that.”

“Like I said the other day, that ball could have wound up anywhere. It’s unfortunate where it ended up. That’s the only reason I’m standing here dealing with all this stuff. We’ll just see where it goes from here. Obviously we don’t agree. I respect the job that everybody has to do but I don’t agree.”

In other news, Julio Lugo could start his rehab for Triple-A Pawtucket as early as Tuesday.

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