Friday, April 16, 2004

Game 8 - Red Sox
I'm Gonna Get Some Perspective if it Kills Me, Dammit

Orioles 12, Red Sox 7 (11)
Record: 4-4

As I watched last night's game with my father, I reverted to really bad Sox fan form, foaming at the mouth with end-of-the-world, what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-these-losers invective. It certainly didn't help that we were flipping back and forth between this debacle and the Bruins' failure to show up against the Canadiens on an adjacent channel. Just a really bad karmic evening for Boston sports fans (and one that I believe I predicted just yesterday in the wake of a the hysterically overblown previews of this weekend's Sox/Yanks series). In the bright daylight that follows in-the-moment anger, I'm trying hard to remember that there's a lot of baseball left to play.

Will the real (new) Pedro Martinez please stand up? After the stellar performance he authored against the Jays on Sunday, it seemed as though the persistent Pedro fears had been assuaged. Last night, though, he a) gave up a leadoff homerun to Brian Roberts (!), b) failed to hold 5-2 and 7-4 leads, c) and only managed 5 innings of work. All of this while looking nothing like any Pedro I've ever seen, save for a few otherworldly changeups. His fastball wasn't, his curve didn't, and his change, well stayed the same to a far greater degree than normal. In his defense, it was a cold, wet, miserable night in Boston, and he's never pitched particularly well in those conditions. He's also had an April stinker in each of the past several years and rebounded to post his expected sublime numbers. Mike Mussina's ERA resembles a New York movie ticket price at the moment (8.22) but I don't see Yankee fans poised to leap from the Triborough. So, once more into the breach with deep breaths and forced calm.

On the bright side, the meat of the Sox bullpen (Timlin, Williamson, Foulke, and Embree) was dominant last night, going 4 scoreless innings with help from Mark Malaska. I have extreme confidence in those 4 guys - so much so that when any of them gives up even a baserunner I get puzzled. If they stay healthy, the Sox will resemble the Rivera/Wetteland era Yankees in their ability to end games by the 7th inning. The offense also showed up, at least in the first 4 innings (hear me now and believe me later, B.J. Ryan will be the Orioles' closer before year-end, and be really good). Billy Mueller hit his first tater of the year, Manny and Ortiz seem locked in, and Mark Bellhorn got two more walks (that's 12 in 8 games. Zoinks.). 7 runs with Pedro on the hill should be enough to win. Every time. The offense gets a pass even though they went scoreless in the final 7 frames.

Tonight brings the first of 19 world-changing, era-defining, cripple-healing, rotation-of-the-earth-stopping contests against the (gasp!) New York Yankees. Or, if you prefer, the Sox play the Yankees in the first of 19 regular season games between the two rivals. The national and Boston media would have you believe the first of those two sentences. I sure as hell hope the players are focused on the second. As I wrote to Whit and loyal blog reader T.J. Doyle:

"the games certainly "matter", in the sense that all 162 count equally in the standings, but when a 5-4 team squares off with a 4-4 team with 150 some-odd games left to play, unless one team sweeps the other, steals their wives, and leaves their opponents' body parts strewn about Fenway Park like so many shards of Aaron Boone's ACL, then this series can't possibly have the historic implications so many in the media wish it to have. Frankly, I'm a hell of a lot more worried about why Pedro Martinez can't hold the O's to fewer than 7 runs than I am about the results of this series."

Which pretty well encapsulates my view on the matter. Two of four in this series, especially with the pitching matchups tilted in the Yankees' favor would be plenty fine with me. Worse than that will piss me off, but won't be the end of the world, regardless of what Dan Shaughnessy writes. Nomar, Trot, and the heretofore unremarked-upon B.H. Kim are just around the corner 'til the light of day.

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