Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dancing in the Dark

Game 2 - Red Sox

Rangers 10, Red Sox 4
W: Padilla (1-0)
L: Wakefield (0-1)
Record: 1-1

Josh Bard is no Doug Mirabelli. And last night's Tim Wakefield bears little resemblance to the inning-eating workhorse of the past 10 years. The open question, unanswerable based upon the limited sample size of 3.2 innings, is whether those 2 statements are linked.

Wakefield was just plain bad in the game's opening frame, missing the strike zone repeatedly, and leaving balls over the heart of the plate when he found it. The Rangers led, 4-0, after 4 batters, courtesy of 2 singles, a walk and a Phil Nevin moon shot. That the scoring was not impacted by the first of 3 Bard passed balls was partially because Nevin's bomb ensured that the runs would score anyway. Bard balls get by him in the 2nd and 3rd innings, as well, and generally seem ill-equipped to handle Wake's flutterballs all game - jabbing and reaching like a spasmodic game fowl looking for dinner.

Backup catcher is arguably a more important position on the Sox than most clubs, as the no. 2 guy is Wake's de facto caddy. One of the underrated values Mirabelli brought to the Sox was better than average offensive production (in relative terms, compared to most defense-first receivers) in combination with his comfort with Wakefield - and Wake's comfort with him. I have no illusion that Bard (he of the .655 lifetime OPS) will replace Mirabelli's bat, but if he can't field the position he provides absolutely zero value to this team. And if his inability to catch the knuckler reduces Wakefield's confidence in throwing it, Bard will be a significant liability.

It's certainly too early to tell, but my eyebrows were raised early and often last night. Wake's next start takes on more importance than most early-season tilts.

On a positive note (and there weren't many last night after the Sox fell behind 7-0), Coco Crisp is on pace to score over 300 runs this season, and looks really good rounding 3rd at full speed. Wily Mo Pena got his first hit in a Sox uniform, singling in a run in a pinch-hitting role. And David Ortiz pulverized a double to right after coaxing walks from a very cautious Vicente Padilla in first 2 trips to the plate - Papi is clearly the most-feared bat in the Sox lineup, as the Ranger staff went right at Manny last night. Switching the 2 in the order may be a wise move.

I'm geeked up to see Josh Beckett's Sox debut tonight in Texas - so much so that I'm just moving past last night as a necessary bump in a long, long road.

No comments: