Saturday, April 08, 2006

Wild Night

Game 4 - Red Sox

Red Sox 14, Baltimore Orioles 8
W: Clement (1-0)
L: Cabrera (0-1)
Record: 3-1

If I didn't know better, I'd be inclined to think that Kevin Millar convinced his Oriole teammates to give one to the Sox last night. After several years of pesky play from the Baltimore 9, I'm used to assuming a preemptive Pavlovian fetal position at the start of every Sox/O's tilt. Yesterday, though, Oriole starter and presumptive ace-in-waiting Daniel Cabrera walked 6 in the game's first inning and yielded 7 runs in his 1 1/3 innings of work to send the Sox on their way to a pleasingly easy victory.

Coco Crisp got the Sox started with a leadoff bunt single, and Mark Loretta (who is quickly taking his place in my pantheon of beloved Sox second-sackers) worked Cabrera for a 9-pitch walk by fouling off several tough pitches. From there, the wheels spun crazily off the cart for the young Oriole righty from that point, as he walked Ortiz, Manny, Varitek, Lowell, and Alex Gonzalez while Kevin Youkilis drove in a run with a fly to right to give the Sox 4 first-inning runs. 3 more Sox tallies in the 2nd chased Cabrera and enabled me to settle in for an angst-free evening.

While geography dictated that I had to listen the O's telecast instead of Don and Jerry on NESN, even that was a pleasant surprise. Jim Palmer and Fred Manfra of Comcast Sports Net are among the few broadcasters that seem to get the new era of statistical analysis in baseball. Palmer spent a lot of time talking not just about OBP, but about why it matters and how the Sox have built their offensive success over the past 3 years around patience, plate control, and men on base. Palmer even cogently explained Theo Epstein's position that a run scored is roughly equivalent to a run prevented, which is a fairly big component of the Sox increased emphasis on defense in 2006.

Alex Gonzalez is Exhibit A for the value of that defense. After watching Edgar Renteria flail his way to 30 errors in 2005, the Sox gladly shed his $11m annual salary in exchange for (ultimately) Coco Crisp, deciding that Gonzalez wizardry with the leather might make up for his limited skills at the plate. The new Sox' shortstop paid dividends early and often last night, turning a sensational double play om Javy Lopez in the bottom of the 2nd by ranging far to his right (far enough, in fact, to get his whole body behind a ball that was ticketed for the hole), snapping off a quick, accurate throw to Loretta to send to first for the quick 6-4-3. He made another silly play on a slow roller, scooping and throwing in 1 motion to make a hard play look nonchalant.

J.T. Snow, another noted gloveman, made a terrific diving pick on a ball headed for extra bases as the O's began to make comeback noises, effectively squelching any such notions. The Sox have made 1 error in 4 games, and while the sample size is tiny, the play in the field looks downright late 90s Metsian.

Matt Clement was stellar through 6 innings before tiring and yielding 4 runs in the 7th. To be fair, he'd have been yanked much earlier in a closer game, but the 11-0 lead the Sox took to the bottom of the 7th doomed him to finish the frame, ERA be damned. Rudy Seanez looked like poop in the 8th, giving up 4 more runs on several rockets, but he was really the game's only negative note, as even Keith Foulke looked somewhat effective in the 9th, cajoling a Jay Gibbons doubleplay grounder to end the game.

Counting on Millar to continue to deliver for his old mates today, as I won't watch a lot of this afternoon's game. The 4:35 start conflicts with a tradition unlike any other, and I'll be damned if I don't get to vegatate in front of the Masters. Schilling's on the hill, and despite the fact the Sox are facing lefty Bruce Chen, I like the vibe.

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