Friday, April 23, 2004

Game 15 - Red Sox
Schill (Should Have Been) Out

Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 3
Record: 9-6

Second week in a row the Sox blow a winnable game against an inferior opponent on the eve of a Yankee series. Worked out okay last week in hindsight, but doesn't make it any more fun to lose. Curt Schilling took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning, then gave up 4 straight hits with 2 outs in the inning to lose the lead. After 104 pitches, he's done. Right?


Um, not so much. Despite having a dominant, fairly well-rested bullpen, and the ghosts of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS hovering nearby, Terry Francona chose to bring a tiring Schilling back into the game in the bottom of the 8th. Schilling loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Orlando Hudson, and then gave up a crushing grand slam to Chris Gomez (!) on his 123rd pitch of the night. I don't blame Schilling for wanting to stay in - he's a horse and he would go 9 innings every game if it were his choice. It's not though. The manager gets paid a lot of money to make hard decisions that may not please every player. Francona blew this one. Plain and simple.

Of course, the Sox offense could have rendered the pitching decision moot by batting better than .077 (1 for 13) with runners in scoring position. The 2004 Sox are 19th in the league in runs scored with 70 (4.67/game), 14th in OBP (.347), and - on the heels of the best slugging season in history - 20th in slugging (.404). This is not your 2003 Red Sox, that's for sure, but the impending arrival of Nomar and Trot ought to lift the offense to where it can at least compete with the pitching for top billing.

Three in the Bronx this weekend, where the Yanks lay in wait to try to avenge last weekend's Sox uprising. Joe Torre's already thrown down the gauntlet, telling the press that this series is a big test for the Yankees. As I see it, the Sox have nothing to lose - the Yankees have all the pressure, and the Sox still don't have their entire team in place. And this time, the pitching matchups are roughly even. No predictions, though - I clearly don't know what the hell I'm talking about when it comes to these Sox.

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