Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oscillate Wildly

Game 20 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Cleveland Indians 6
Record: 13-7

I had a good friend over last night with his wife and 3 month-old daughter, which - in addition to the several pale ales I consumed - went a long way in helping me maintain a facade of sanity watching the Sox careen from the sublime to the mind-bogglingly absurd and back again in the span of 9 innings. He's an Indians fan, so I suppose I got the better end of the deal, seeing as how the Tribe deserved to win this one 4 times over. Let me recount the ways:

1 out in the top of the 3rd, score tied 2-2, Indian pitcher Jake Westbrook struggling with his control and the recently hot Mike Lowell at the plate, Manny chose to be Manny, and Varitek thought it looked like so much fun that he joined in. Westbrook wheeled from the rubber, catching Manny mesmerized by the lazy flight of a low-flying bumblebee and snaring the Sox leftfielder in a rundown. As Aaron Boone ran Manny back to 2nd, he suddenly threw the ball over the head of his nearest teammate - just in time to catch Varitek, who was trying to sneak into 2nd on the back end of the play. And since Manny was 3/4 of the way back to 2nd, he was out easily when he headed back to 3rd, giving the Indians the routine 1-5-4-6 double play and killing a rally against a scuffling pitcher.

Varitek played a role in another Alan Quatermaine-esque adventure on the basepaths in the 7th inning with the Sox up, 5-4, and runners on the corners. Willie Harris grounded to 1st, Varitek edged off 3rd but held. After Indian first-sacker Ben Broussard threw to 2nd for the force, Varitek pointed his leaden feet towards home and was out easily on the throw from Jhonny (too easy) Peralta, ending another inning with a runner in scoring position.

That run became important in the bottom of the 7th, as Curt Schilling returned to the hill to protect the slim lead. Schilling had battled his stuff (and the tiiight but consistent strike zone of plate umpire Bruce Dreckman) all night in the 40 degree chill, having thrown 110 pitches through 6. Done for the evening, you'd say, right? Silly mortal. Schill went back out for the bottom of the 7th, throwing 23 more pitches with limited effectiveness, and yielding a run on a Grady Sizemore single and failing to get out of the frame. 133 pitches in the cold in April after 4 straight 100-pitch starts is a great recipe for destroying a 39 year-old pitcher 1 year removed from a major leg injury.

The magical baseball stylings of Willie Harris continue to confound those who wonder why Adam Stern's not on this roster. Harris, presumably in the game for his mastery of fundamentals and defensive capabilities, meekly popped a bunt attempt up to Westbrook in the 4th, and then cost the Sox a run in 8th by dropping a fly ball - yes, he made a diving attempt, but it wasn't a difficult dive, and the ball hit him in the glove. Top that off with his robust .079 average and .349 OPS, and it's hard to imagine a worse option for the Sox in centerfield.

And with all that crap going on, and carrying the dead weight of Alex Gonzalez and the aforementioned Willie Harris, the Sox still managed to plate 8 runs off Indian pitching, because they finally delivered a handful of clutch hits. Mark Loretta backed up Kevin Youkilis in the top of the 2nd after the Greek God of Having an Awesome April struck out with the bases loaded and 1 out. Loretta's 2-out single scored 2 and got the scoring started. After the Indians had taken a 4-2 lead, a Youkilis sac fly (he wound up 2-3 with a walk) drew the Sox to within 1, and then Papi hit Scott Sauerbeck's only pitch of the night waaay into the rightfield stands to tie the game at 4. I knew that Sauerbeck would be valuable to the Sox someday.

After the Indians had tied the game at 5 in the 7th against a tiring Schilling, Youkilis singled and stole second (his first big-league steal - the kid is doing everything for the Sox right now). The open base at first tempted Indian skipper Eric Wedge into walking Papi to face Manny. Cue the Jaws music. Guillermo Mota put the chum in the water, throwing Manny a fastball, and Manny, being Manny, hammered it to right. As he struck his now-familiar I-just-hit-the-shit-out-of-that-so-I'm-gonna-stand-here-for-a-second pose, I shot out of my seat. 8-5, Sox.

The rest was relatively academic, despite Harris' best efforts. Foulke keeps looking better and better, whiffing Sizemore on a sick changeup to end the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon brooked no trouble in the 9th to end things. A 'W' in the standings for the Sox, and the Indians were left wondering how the hell they blew that one.

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