Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Games 36 through 38 - Red Sox
Hands on Knees, Gasping for Air

Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 3
Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 0
Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 22-16

The Sox just finished one of the most brutal stretches of schedule any team in the bigs will face this season, playing games on 20 straight days, with 3 post-midnight arrivals in town in an 8-day stretch (thanks to SoSH's Eric Van for the details). Hopefully they spent yesterday curled in the fetal position sleeping it off and arrive at Tropicana Field refreshed and ready for tonight's game against the Devil Rays.

Of note over the last several days:

1. Bronson Arroyo was dominant against the Jays, pitching 8 innings of three-hit baseball. The Sox' once and future No. 5 starter replaced the ineffective B.H. Kim in the rotation, and continued his stellar pitching. In his last 5 appearances (after scuffling through his first three starts) Arroyo is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA, allowing only 11 hits and 4 walks in 23 innings, while striking out 20. And he's the No. 5 starter. Those are sublime numbers.

2. Kevin Youkilis made his major league debut in Arroyo's gem, homering for his first hit in the Show. Youkilis was 4-for-8 after two games, sending legions of Sox fans scrambling aboard the bandwagon. It's like the salmon flocking to Capistrano - Sox minor leaguer bursts on the scene with a handful of great games (see Burkhart, Morgan and Merloni, Lou, et al) and becomes cult hero. Youkilis has the added juice of being featured in Michael Lewis' Moneyball as the prototypical new-school ballplayer - high on-base percentage, sees a lot of pitches, knows the strike zone - so the Nation has been eagerly awaiting his arrival. I doubt he'll hit .500 for the season, but if he can add some near-term punch to the heretofore sluggish offense, he'll be worth Billy Beane's weight in gold.

3. The Sox finally lost to reigning Cy Young Roy Halladay in Sunday's game. It's one of the 35 auto-losses, so I'm not losing any sleep over it.

4. Sox posted 6 runs in the top of the 8th on Friday to win another game in which Derek Lowe was somewhat less than effective. He's now walked 20 batters in 38 innings - a dreadful rate for a guy who doesn't strike out very many opponents (only 17 thus far this season). His command seems to be on hiatus, which means he's throwing a ton of pitches, and not going deep into games. He's only thrown as many as 7 innings in one game, and he's only averaging 5.4 innings per start. Will the real Derek Lowe (or at least the 2002 Derek Lowe) please stand up?

5. More important than any of this Sox-related nonsense was my encounter yesterday with one of the truly mythic figures of my adolescence. When I was 16, I was crazy insane for this girl with whom I worked on the high school newspaper. (You know what did it for me - wait, I digress) Very long story short, she and I watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series together in hotel room in Charlottesville, VA. Between the Sox being one strike away from winning the World Series, and me being a massively horny teenager alone in a room with a pretty girl, I was a mess of pent-up energy. To say that the subsequent events (Sox-related and otherwise) were a letdown is to defame all letdowns in history.

Over the years, she's become legendary in my circle of friends, so yesterday was a lollapalooza of converging threads. First time I'd seen her in almost 15 years. First time any of my friends, save one, had ever met her. Time has a way of wearing away memories, making details fuzzy and long-ago feelings and events lose their sense of immediacy, but I was truly a 16 year-old boy again the instant she gleefully hugged me when we saw each other. It was one of the great unexpected moments of the year for me - and, who knows, maybe it's the end of a cycle - and the beginning of a new cycle of Sox' championship baseball. Too much? Probably.

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