Monday, August 18, 2003

Games 122-124 - Red Sox, or It's a Game of Inches, and Their Inches are Longer than Ours

Mariners 10, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 5, Mariners 1
Mariners 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 71-53
AL East: 5 GB NYY
Wild Card: Tie - Oak

This weekend's series was both expected and maddening. Expected, because Seattle's a good team, playing at home, and should generally take 2 of 3 from most visitors. Maddening, because I can make a plausible argument that the Sox should have easily swept the series. Equally infuriating was Baltimore's express train to 2003 Twinsville, as the O's handed the Yankees 4 games, three of which the Orioles led in the 7th inning or later. You, Baltimore, are dead to me.

The Sox handed the M's game 1 of the series through a series of godawful defense efforts. Todd Walker continues to cement his status as one of baseball's premier defensive liabilities - his failure to make a simple toss to Nomar to start a 4-6-3 double play started things rolling badly in the late innings of a tie game. Then, Willie Bloomquist's easy grounder took a wicked hop into Nomar's neck, helping the M's avoid an inning-ending twinkilling for the second time in two batters. Finally, Ichiro's foul pop glanced off of Billy Mueller's chest and glove as the Sox thirdbaseman slid to catch it. The baseball gods had seen enough, and Ichiro bowed respectfully to their presence before hammering a gift grand slam to lead the M's to victory. I only exaggerate slightly when I say that I saw better defense in the multiple Little League World Series games I saw this weekend than I did in the Sox game on Friday.

Game 2 was Pedro being Pedro. Very quietly, the Sox' stud has assumed the AL lead in both strikeouts and ERA. His 9-3 record masks the fact that he has been extremely solid all season. I saw a stat this morning that, although it's unconfirmed, is staggering: the Sox are 134-9 in games that Pedro has started and they have scored more than 3 runs. That, boys and girls, is simply otherworldly.

Freddy Garcia pitched a terrific game yesterday to shut the Sox down, but he was aided significantly by a generous third-strike call against Manny Ramirez in the first inning. Conversely, Sox starter John Burkett - who has been magnificent over the last three months, posting a 3.85 ERA over his last 13 starts, averaging 6.1 IP per start, and allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of those 13 starts - was squeezed several times in the critical 4th inning when the M's scored all three of their runs. Those calls even out over time, but they didn't help yesterday.

So, with 38 games left, it looks more and more like the Wild Card will be the Sox' only route to the postseason. As much as I don't want to believe it, making up 5 games against the Yankees - even as flawed as they look right now - is a daunting task. 7 more games this week against Oakland and Seattle - this time in Fenway. 4-3 is a must, 5-2 would be better.

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