Monday, April 24, 2006

7 Worlds Collide (Distant Sun)

Game 19 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 3

Record: 12-7

Hi, everybody! I'm back from the ledge, vacationing for a spell here in the land of reason and perspective. Took me a while, though, what with yesterday's game tying a record for Least Comfortable Relatively Easy Win.

By rights, the Sox should have pasted the Jays after sprinting to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd inning. Through a combination of untimely hitting, dumb baseball, poor defensive execution, and a clutch pitching mistake, the Sox let the Jays hang around and nursed a 4-3 lead into the game's late innings.

Of note, the Sox left the bases loaded in both the 5th and 6th innings, stranding a total of 14 baserunners - Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta each came to the plate 6 times in a game where the Sox only scored 6 runs. Tremendously efficient. Jason Varitek helped by trying to bunt for a basehit with runners at 1st and 2nd and 1 out in the 5th - his failure not only handed the Jays an out, but it allowed Jays skipper John Gibbons to walk Mike Lowell to get to Willie Harris. Brilliant. Prior to that, Mike Lowell tried to give a fan a souvenir after fielding a grounder to 3rd, throwing a ball 10 feet over Youkilis' head. Matt Clement compounded Lowell's error by grooving a 2-strike fastball to Greg Zaun, and nearly broke his neck turning to watch it land in the cheap seats.

The Sox bullpen picked up the rest of the team, with Keith Foulke defining high-leverage and retiring all 5 men he faced with the Sox clinging to a 1-run lead in the 6th and 7th - that's truly what the Sox' braintrust had in mind 3 years ago when they were derided for their bullpen-by-committee approach. The approach is right, but the personnel weren't in 2003. Mike Timlin recovered from his recent struggles to post a scoreless 8th, and Jon Papelbon...well, let's examine young Papelbon for a moment, specifically his hair.

Papelbon "won" a bet with Youkilis by stringing together 10 scoreless innings to start the season. His prize - a brand new haircut styled after California Penal League MVP Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn. I'm all for paying homage to a solid baseball film, but after Papelbon let the first 2 Jays reach in the bottom of the 9th, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of scorching hot Vernon Wells, my thoughts ran to the Granddaddy of all baseball films.

"Never fuck with a streak," cautioned Crash Davis way back in 1988, and his advice is as sound today as it was then. By trimming his hair, Papelbon was fucking with a number of streaks, including his goose-egg run and his consecutive save stretch. The Baseball Gods let young Jon know, forcing him to work for his supper, but he took a deep breath and stoned the Jays, striking out Wells and inducing a game-ending 5-4-3 off the bat of Troy Glaus to save the Sox from an ugly sweep. Thus endeth the lesson.

A well-deserved off day before the Sox head to Cleveland to face the Indians, who are sure to be highly irritated after dropping 2 straight to the Royals. Manny seems to be rounding into form, increasing his OPS by nearly 200 points in the Toronto series. Youks continues to make me look good, reaching base 3 times yesterday and sparkling in the field – makes a guy wonder why the Sox need J.T. Snow as a defensive replacement, especially since Hee Seop Choi’s lefty bat is languishing in Pawtucket. If we could solve the Dustan Mohr/Willie Harris centerfield black hole (as it looks like Coco Crisp won’t return before mid-May), all would be happy in my little mental ward.

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