Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Black Hole Sun

Games 46 through 50 – Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 4
Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 4
Red Sox 5, Devil Rays 4
Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6
Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 5
Record: 30-20

I’m gonna hold off on the 50-game update for a few days, wait until game 54 and the 1/3 mark, because I’m in a foul, foul mood at the moment, and I really don’t think the Sox’ .600 record warrants the bile that I’d likely spew if I had to contemplate their season right now.

That won’t stop me from ranting about the events of the past few days, though. It seems that ownership of the Sox has been transferred from the Baltimore Orioles to the Toronto Blue Jays, with custodial rights to Vernon Wells. The Sox are 3-7 against the Jays thus far, largely because the pitching staff keeps throwing him fastballs middle-in and Wells keeps crushing them into the stands. Wells has 8 homers against the Sox this season after hitting 3 last night. He’s carrying a 1.449 OPS against his personal gimps on the Boston staff, chief among them Josh Beckett, who’s surrendered half of Wells’ longballs. Mayhaps a fastball to his ear today, gentlemen?

The Sox’ continued inability to beat the Jays is an annoyance, but the systemic meltdown of the last week is cause for grave concern in the Nation, masked as it was by the quiescence of the Devil Rays competitive spirit. (As an aside, perhaps the Rays should consider a more fitting moniker, like the Bunnies, or the Smiley Faces. They could establish a Stuart Smalley-inspired support group with the Kansas City Sleeping Dogs.) Exhibit the first is Matt Clement’s continued and excruciating lack of…hell, fill-in-the-blank: stones, skill, control, heart, etc. Like many Sox fans, I had high hopes when the Sox acquired Clement before last season, and those hopes seemed rewarded after his blistering start in 2005. Since then, perhaps influenced by the wicked liner he took off his head against the Bunnies, he’s been simply one of the very worst starting pitchers in baseball. His 6.91 ERA and 1.76 WHIP this season are bad enough, but his mental fragility compares unfavorably with that of long-departed Derek Lowe – like clockwork, the moment he faces moderate stress, Clement turns into a pumpkin. A pumpkin that gives up a ton of walks and puts an inordinate amount of strain on the bullpen.

Clement’s struggles exacerbate the Sox’ sudden pitching depth problem, especially since David Wells suffered a freak injury in his first start back from nearly season-long shelving. (Come to think of it, Wells was also hurt by a liner off the bat of a Bunny – those fuckers are owed some serious payback.) In addition to Wells, Mike Timlin is on the DL with shoulder tightness, meaning that the Sox will be counting on Jermaine Van Buren and Manny Delcarmen in increasingly high-leverage innings. Rookie David Pauley makes his major league debut this evening after never pitching an inning above AA – conveniently against the majors’ best offense. Couple that with back-to-back punchbowl turds courtesy of Beckett and Clement, and Mark Loretta may be asked to pitch in a mop-up role tonight.

Except that Loretta’s also on the list of walking wounded, missing last night’s game with a deep bruise after being hit on the toe with a pitch on Monday. Wily Mo Pena’s on the DL with wrist troubles, Manny’s missed a handful of games with nagging injuries this week, and Alex Gonzalez still can’t hit his way out of a paper sack. (Sorry, reflex)

And the real pisser here is that I can’t complain all that much about the Sox’ injury issues because the Yankees’ aches and pains are comparable. That’s another thing that’s chapping me at the moment – the Sox have had a chance over the season’s first third to gain some separation from a limping Yankee club, and every time they’ve found themselves with breathing room, they’ve handed it right back. Now that the grind of the regular season has caught up to the Sox, so have the Yanks – and asking David Pauley to rectify that circumstance was probably not part of the blueprint Theo drafted in March.

Luckily, in a way, I’m playing softball tonight, so I won’t get (have?) to watch as Tito sacrifices young Pauley to Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus. Traveling for work tomorrow and Friday, so you’ll have to wait for my reaction – the wounds won’t be as fresh by the time I get back here.

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