Thursday, April 06, 2006

The New Kid

Game 3 - Red Sox

Red Sox 2, Rangers 1
W: Beckett (1-0)
L: Loe (0-1)
Sv: Papelbon (!) (1)
Record: 2-1

The header on this post could refer to either of the young, hard-throwing righties that led the Sox to a thoroughly enjoyable win last night. Josh Beckett scuffled in the game's early innings, giving up a double to Brad Wilkerson to lead off the game, and allowing him to score on Michael Young's infield single. After 3 innings, Beckett had thrown nearly 60 pitches and pitched out of a couple of mini-jams. From that point, though, he showed what all the fuss was about, dominating a very strong Ranger lineup, and leaving the game after 7 mostly strong innings.

Beckett pitches like the Texas farm kid he is, rearing back and firing gas - many of his fastballs reached 96 mph on the radar gun - and not backing down from hitters. He's got an easy motion, really good leg drive, and - as evidenced by an inning-ending primal scream/fist pump - he's got a nasty competitive streak. I can't wait to see him and Schilling feed off each other this year.

After Trot Nixon's 7th inning homer finally cracked the Kameron Loe riddle (I'd be perfectly happy not to see the Rangers' tall young sinkerballer again this year, as would Papi and Manny, who combined to go 0 for 6 against him with 2 Ortiz double plays) and gave the Sox their first lead, Mike Timlin pitched an, um, adventurous 8th inning. The Rangers' 3rd base coach, Steve Smith, gave the Sox a huge boost by inexplicably sending Mark Teixiera home from 2nd on a smoked single to left by Kevin Mench. Even with Manny's accurate but weak throw requiring a cutoff to get to the plate, Teixiera was Texas toast. Guess those pictures of Smith with young livestock came in handy.

I began to get mildly nervous - well, as nervous as you can get in the 3rd game of the season - when the Sox were retired in the top of the 9th, knowing that Keith Foulke's form is less than top-notch at the moment. I was more than surprised, then, to see Jonathan Papelbon on the hill with the telecast returned from the commercial break. Ballsy move by Terry Francona, and one that had lots of potential to backfire if Papelbon didn't deliver in his very first major league closing opportunity. As it turns out, the move had lots of potential to lift the team, too, as Papelbon was more than dominant in sandwiching 2 strikeouts of overmatched Ranger batters around a weak pop to short. Francona's emotional reaction to the game's final pitch was telling, as he yelled loudly and high-fived everyone in his immediate vicinity. Boldness rewarded, and a possible new era dawning.

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