Monday, September 13, 2004

Games 139 through 142 - Red Sox

Mariners 7, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 13, Mariners 2
Red Sox 9, Mariners 0
Mariners 2, Red Sox 0
Record: 86-56

In most cases a road split on the West Coast is entirely acceptable. This weekend's halve against the Mariners was disappointing, especially given the fact that the Sox won 2 of the first 3, and that Derek Lowe gave up 2 earned runs in 7 innings yesterday - and, not incidentally, the fact that the Mariners stink on ice.

I can't really work up a good lather, though, because the Sox are now back on the East Coast for the season's final stretch. 20 games to play against Tampa Bay, New York, and Baltimore. One of these things is not like the other is a vast understatement. Hurricane Ivan permitting, this weekend's 3-game set in the Bronx is shaping up as a season defining tilt. The Sox are 3 1/2 games back at the moment, with 3 games at home against Tampa in preparation for the Yankees. New York, meanwhile, plays 4 in Kansas City. Barring something bizarrely good (the Royals play out of their minds) or horrific (Tampa Bay wakes up from their 3-week slumber), the Sox will probably be 4 games out when they get to New York on Friday. In that situation, 2 of 3 is a flat-out must if the Sox want to have a chance at winning the division.

No real point in making predictions, though, because mine generally aren't worth the bytes upon which they're printed. Despite the stumble against Seattle, I can't remember a more enjoyable August/September, even as it sets up another wrenching October. The Sox are 5 games up on the Angels (and 3 up on the A's) with 20 to play, largely on the strength of:

1. Pedro, Curt, Derek, and Bronson. Note that Tim Wakefield is conspicuously absent from the list of starting pitchers who've shouldered the load over the past 6 weeks.

2. Consistent offense from just about every slot in the order.

3. Vastly improved defense, especially at shortstop and first base.

(Knocking furiously on wood) Frankly, the Sox are playing more complete baseball at the moment than any Sox team I've ever followed. If Scott Williamson returns to his form, and Trot Nixon rounds into shape, the Sox almost have too much depth. Almost. At the very least, Terry Francona is faced with some pleasant problems in terms of lineups and late game replacements. Bellhorn or Reese at 2nd? Nixon, Kapler, Millar, or Roberts in right? Timlin, Williamson, Embree, Leskanic, or (dare I say) Mendoza to get to Foulke? How do we get Millar into the game without hurting himself or the team in the field? Better Francona than me to make those decisions.

As a complete non-sequiter, I note with interest that Kyle from East Coast Agony shamelessly plugged his own blog recently in SoSH (it's in a password-protected forum, so no link), but failed to do the same for MLC. A more insecure Soxblogger might wonder if he still loves us.

The NFL season started yesterday, and I found myself not only agreeing with my wife to take the kids to a local farm (and by so doing, ensuring that I'd miss the first half of the Redskins/Bucs game) but actively looking forward to the experience. Thinking about that stuns me just a little. Even with the return of the legendary Joe Gibbs, my level of intensity regarding the 'Skins pales in comparison to my interest in the Sox. If nothing else, this blog's taught me that I love baseball before all other sports, or at least care more about it.

Husbanding energy (and hoarding canned goods) in preparation for this weekend's series. Let's hope the Sox aren't overlooking the D-Rays as much as I am.

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