Thursday, October 07, 2004

American League Division Series - Game 2

Red Sox 8, Angels 3
Sox lead 2-0

If you're wondering why this post comes so late in the day, you should note that the final pitch of last night's (this morning's?) game was thrown at approximately 1:55 am EST, that I was awake watching it, that I was so amped on adrenaline and anxiety that it took me another 45 minutes or so to fall asleep, and that my daughter woke me up by poking me in the eye with her index finger at 6:05 am. Hell, you should consider yourself lucky that any of the combinations of letters in these "sentences" actually spell real words.

What a weird game, this baseball. By all rights, the Sox should have alternately a) blown the Angels out in the first 2 innings, and b) lost this game handily. The Sox did enough stupid things in the field (Anaheim's 2nd and 3rd runs were set up by a harmless popup that fell to earth between Cabrera and Ramirez), on the basepaths (Bellhorn got picked off at 2nd - by the catcher - with the bases loaded and 2 outs and David Ortiz batting against a laboring Bartolo Colon in the 2nd inning), and at the plate (Trot Nixon swung and popped up the first 2 pitches he saw, Cabrera failed to get a bunt down in three attempts) to easily hand the Angels the win, but Anaheim gave it back through a series of wild pitches, untimely hitting, and fielding mishaps - not to mention the generosity of home plate umpire Jerry Meals (to be fair, he was consistent, except for one really bad call against Troy Glaus).

This game turned on one at-bat by the guy I've lauded before as the Sox' heart and soul. My screensaver is a photo of Jason Varitek rearranging Alex Rodriguez' nasal passages. I love Jason Varitek. And Jason Varitek, when he's off, sends me into paroxysms of vitriolic ranting. His first two at-bats last night were vintage Bad Varitek, waving at pitch after pitch with no real chance of doing anything but jogging back to the bench to don his gear. Then, with 2 outs and a runner on in the top of the 6th inning, with Colon cruising and the vaunted Angel bullpen prepared to get the game's final 9 outs, Varitek launched a Colon fastball deep into the night, tying the game and completely changing the contest's atmosphere. Had Colon completed the 6th with a 3-1 lead, I'm confident that the Angels win this game, probably by a 3-1 score. He didn't, and they didn't, and Jason Varitek adds another exhibit to the people's case for Tek as the 2004 Sox unsung hero.

After the game was tied, the outcome - in my mind, anyway - really wasn't in doubt. Pedro was dominant, and don't let anyone claim otherwise. His line - 7 IP, 6H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K - wasn't vintage, but a closer look at his performance shows that only 2 balls were hit hard against him all night. 5 of his 6 hits could kindly be characterized as flukes - flares, dinks, a popup that wasn't caught - and he had excellent velocity and command. I'm no longer worried even a little about Pedro. He left with a 4-3 lead, courtesy of some patient hitting against Francisco Rodriguez and some poor defense by the Angels. Terry Francona used his bullpen impeccably, getting 6 outs from Timlin, Myers, and Foulke, and the Sox made the bottom of the 9th academic by dinging the (did I say vaunted? I meant haunted.) Angel bullpen for 4 tallies in the top of the inning.

Sox take a 2-0 series lead back to Boston, hopefully wildly aware that a 2-game ALDS lead means nothing if they can't close the deal. See, Oakland circa 2003 for all the reminder they need. That said, I really like the way the Sox are playing now - overcoming mistakes, hitting the ball early and often, and pitching effectively in all phases. A day of much-needed rest (for me - I couldn't care less about them) and Game 3 in Fenway on Friday afternoon. Alrighty then.

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