October 2009

Five years ago today …

For those Red Sox fans — and there are a lot of you — bummed that you are not watching your team play in the ALCS, keep this in mind:

Today is the five-year anniversary of Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. I think that was the second most significant win in Red Sox history, right after Game 4 of that 2004 World Series.

Think about it, the Red Sox were down 3-0, which used to be a death sentence in a postseason series. The Red Sox are still the only team in either baseball or basketball to overcome a 3-0 series in any postseason series.

And how it became possible? They came back against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 4. Millar walked, Roberts stole, and Big Papi sent everyone home in the 12th.

That set the stage for an even wilder Game 5. Papi again started the trek back with a Monster Mash against Tom Gordon. Millar again drew a walk. Roberts again pinch-ran. Trot Nixon — who had made two game-saving plays defensively earlier in the game — came through with a hit-and-run singe to right, making it corners and nobody out, Sox still down by a run in the 8th. The Yankees went to Mo again. Varitek came through with a sacrifice fly to tie it.

Three white-knuckle innings out of the bullpen by Tim Wakefield — with Varitek catching him — and finally Papi sent everyone home again, this time a “little flair” as Jerry Trupiano called it. Then Joe Buck proclaimed, “Damon is running to the plate, he can keep on running to New York … Game 6 tomorrow night.”

And yes, Game 6. The bloody sock. The A-Rod slap. The Bellhorn homer off the chest of a fan that was originally ruled a double. And pure guts by Keith Foulke, who finished his three-day, 100-pitch stand by blowing a fastball by Tony Clark to set up Game 7.

Game 7, the Red Sox sent Derek Lowe to the mound on two days rest. And he was brilliant. So was Johnny Damon, clocking two homers.

By the time it ended, the Red Sox were spraying each other with champagne in the very same clubhouse they were crying in one year earlier after the Grady/Aaron Boone fiasco.

Remember five years ago. It is probably one of your greatest sports memories ever.

Medical updates

Not much news to report since it all ended for the Red Sox last Sunday, but there are a couple of minor medical updates.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, as first reported by WEEI.com, will have his back surgery on Wednesday at Massachusetts General Hospital. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Lawrence Borges. Once the procedure is over, the Red Sox can officially decide if Wakefield is back in the fold for the 2010 season.

Unless there are any complications, I fully expect Wakefield to embark on a 16th season with the Sox. I fully don’t get people who think they should commit that $4 million to a younger, healthier player. Wakefield fully earned his $4 million in the first half alone, making the All-Star team. If you need prove, then check out what Brad Penny did for $5 million of the Red Sox’s money and what John Smoltz did for $5.5 million.

Ever since agreeing to annual $4 million extensions every year, starting with the 2006 season, Wakefield has proved to be worth all of that money.

While Wakefield does need surgery, it apears that Jed Lowrie does not need another procedure on his torublesome left wrist.

Lowrie consulted with Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona shortly after the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs.

“The prognosis is good,” Lowrie wrote in an e-mail to WEEI.com. “With rest, strength and conditioning it should be 100 percent.”

What is hardly 100 percent certain is who will be the starting shortstop for the Red Sox next season.

Live from The Bronx

The Red Sox might be done, but I’m not. Here I am in New York, ready to be your humble servant — as the late, great Will McDonough used to say — for this American League Championship Series.

Today at Yankee Stadium was dreary with a capital D. Just disgusting out there. Players seem fairly confident Friday night’s Game 1 will go on as scheduled, but we’ll see.

Everyone seems to like the Yankees in this series. The one reason I like them is because their bullpen is better than the Angels. That’s the one thing the Red Sox really messed up in their Division Series. By their utter inability to hit, they could never exploit that Angels’ weakness — the bullpen.

This is going to be a great series though. I fully expect it to go seven.

Blah

Is it me, or is this the most hollow feeling at the end of a Red Sox season since 2003?

In ’05, they had Matt Clement pitching Game 1. Enough said. That, and they had just won their first World Series in 86 years just before that. In ’06, they were out of it for the last month, so there was plenty of time toe prepare for the end. Last year, I think everyone was proud of what the Red Sox did, overcoming all those injuries — not to mention the comeback from 7-0 down in Game 5 of the ALCS — and coming within one big hit of the World Series.

This year? They had all the pieces in place to make a strong run. They just didn’t put anything together in the postseason. I imagine this is how the Braves used to feel after one of their traditionally strong regular seasons would turn into nothing in October.

What changes should they make for 2010? I’d like everyone to chime in with their comments.

Thanks for all the comments and keeping the blog chats lively all year. I will continue to post in the offseason.

Ian.

Game 3 of the ALDS

Big Sunday here at Fenway, with the Red Sox in a win or go home scenario.

Not much else to say at this point. Will the bats wake up? If not, the playoffs will be over before they started.

In other news, Dice-K has been keeping himself ready in relief if needed, particularly with Lester a lock for Game 4.

“Well, what we’ve done is he’s gone out and long tossed early and we told him that we’re not going to bring him in in the middle of an inning, bases loaded,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That’s not in his best interest. I’m sure he has some anxiety about that, but we’ve re-assured him, ‘hey, if we use you, it will be clean innings’, things like that.

“The biggest thing and, again, we were pretty open about what we wanted to do in this series. We wanted to use Lester [in Game 4]. But again, we wanted to protect ourselves in case Lester had a ball off his leg or a long outing. And we told Dice that going in. He knew kind of what to expect. What it does, it does a couple of things aside from him pitching. It frees us up to use some other guys because he’s sitting there maybe behind somebody with a lot of length.”

As for the schedule, which included a 7:43 a.m. ET landing in Boston on Saturday and a noon game Sunday, Francona basically said it is what it is.

“It’s part of the postseason. Thankfully, we’ve kind of become accustomed to it.” Francona said. “Life is crazy. If you’re fortunate enough to get all the way through the World Series, by the time you’re done, there’s no time schedule. The one thing I think we did learn, and we’re so routine oriented, is you have no routine in the postseason. If you understand that, you move on. I was thinking about that getting on the plane the other night. There were all these people getting on that I didn’t know. We’re such creatures of habit. You get on, you claim your own territory and spread out, we all have our thing. It was like, who are these people. That’s just the way it is. It’s not bad, it’s just different. If you can accept it, it helps. And we’ve been through it a lot, so just get used to it.”

Lineup today:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Martinez C
Youkilis 1B
Bay LF
Ortiz DH
Lowell 3B
Drew RF
Gonzalez SS

Buchholz SP

Game 2 of the ALDS

Sounds like Red Sox manager Terry Francona is leaning heavily toward Jon Lester on three days rest in Game 4, followed by Josh Beckett in a potential winner-take-all Game 5.

Dice-K is available out of the bullpen again tonight.

Lineup is the same as last night, but the Red Sox hope to get much better results tonight.

Tito is feeling a lot better after yesterday’s horrific food poisoning experience in which he said players could hear him from the clubhouse, well, getting sick in his office bathroom.

Game 1 of the ALDS

Finally a gameday! It feels like we’ve been waiting a long time for this one.

Some interesting nuggets from the day so far. Red Sox manager Terry Francona has been feeling under the weather the last two days. He did not come out for pre-game introductions but was in the dugout for the start of the game. Francona was joking around on Wednesday  about a  bad experience with Del Taco. “I like Del Taco, but it doesn’t like me,” Francona quipped.

Pedro Gomez of ESPN reported that Francona had food poisoning. We will try to get that confirmed for you after the game.

In other news, Hideki Okajima, who has pitched just once since Sept. 23 because of a strained right side, seems to be doing much better.

“I think we’re really pleased with how quickly he’s come and how strong he feels. They cranked him around pretty aggressively yesterday. He didn’t feel anything,” Francona said.

The Sox will have a loaded bullpen tonight, one that includes Paul Byrd and Daisuke Matsuzaka as long men, and the usual crew of Okajima, Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Ramon Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon.

Here are the lineups for both teams.

Red Sox
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Martinez C
Youkilis 1B
Ortiz DH
Bay LF
Lowell 3B
Drew RF
Gonzalez SS

Lester

Angels
Figgins 3B
Abreu RF
Hunter CF
Guerrero DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Mathis C
Aybar SS

Lackey

Varitek will help in any way he can

Always at the forefront of recent Red Sox postseason runs, Jason Varitek enters this one in a highly uncertain role. More likely than not, Varitek will start most — if not all — games on the bench in this Division Series, which starts Thursdya night against the Angels.

“You can’t really control playing time, but you can control the other parts where you contribute,” Varitek said. “It may not be by playing. It may be on the bench. You can’t really control those things, but it’s not the time of year to be selfish.”

How hard has it been?

“It’s different,” Varitek said. “It’s definitely different.”

Again, Varitek reiterated this was no time of year to sulk.

“I think we’re in the postseason. I don’t know what’s disappointing about being in the postseason. Everybody in this locker room at some point has helped the team win games,” Varitek said.

Delcarmen on bubble

Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, already on the bubble for the postseason roster because of a shaky second half, is now in further limbo after a car crash on Saturday that has left his back and neck stiff and sore.

Delcarmen felt a little better before Monday’s optional workout.

“Still a little sore, my back and my neck a little bit but a lot better than the last two days,” Delcarmen said. “Just the middle of my back and it kind of moved down to my lower back and my
neck feels a million times better than it did yesterday. Just little by
little, we’ll see how it feels and hopefully everything is good.”

The accident was a scary one and Delcarmen feels fortunate that he is OK.

“I hit the median. Car lost control and cut me off and I slammed and went left and went right into the median,” Delcarmen said. “I feel more bad for my Hummer, but I was kind of happy I was in my Hummer than in some other car. I was on my way here Saturday. The rain didn’t help. But I’m here, I’m healthy and just happy to be here.”

“it’s been weird for me this year. normally I start off a little shaky and finish strong. This year was the complete opposite. My velocity was down a little bit and we’re just trying to figure out what was the cause of it. My arm feels great right now. Being in the accident doesn’t really help that much. It’s just been tough for me these last couple of weeks. Hopefully I feel good, get on the mound and my job is to get people out, so hopefully I do that.”

After a solid first half in which Delcarmen posted a 2.41 ERA, he had a fairly horrific second half, notching a 7.27 ERA. What happened?

“I don’t know,” Delcarmen said. “I just really don’t know. One pitch would be 94 or 95 and another one would be at 90. I can’t remember the last time I was that low. I’m working with [pitching coach John] Farrrell, trying to figure stuff out.”

Delcarmen thinks he is healthy, other than the after-effects of the crash.

“Body-wise, I felt good. Shoulder felt fine at times. Just trying to figure it out,” Delcarmen said.

It remains to be seen if it is too late for Delcarmen to figure it out. The Red Sox must set their roster by the day of Game 1, which is likely to be on Thursday.

Wake a spectator for Round 1

One bit of postseason news this morning, as it was officially announced that Tim Wakefield will not participate in the Division Series. However, the Red Sox recommended to Wakefield that he not have immediate surgery on his back in case they need him for subsequent rounds.

“Great,” said Wakefield. “I’ll be ready.”

Other than that, the knuckleballer did not feel like chatting with the smattering of reporters who tried to catch him this morning.

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