Monday, June 04, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the Queen

Games 53 through 55 – Red Sox

Yankees 9, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 11, Yankees 6
Yankees 6, Red Sox 5
Record: 37-18

Even as the first reaction might be to hurl inanimate objects wildly across the living space, sometimes the right course of action is to just tip one’s cap to an opponent who made the plays when it mattered. Last night, Hideki Ojakima and Jonathan Papelbon each made one bad pitch, and Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez did what elite athletes are supposed to do with those pitches.

Papelbon had Rodriguez down 0-2 with 2 outs in the top of the 9th inning and the game knotted at 5. Though I was alone in my living room at the time, I said aloud, “Don’t throw him anything to hit.” Paps got too much of the plate with a fastball that was supposed to be away, and A-Rod reminded us all why his bank account is so large, drilling the pitch deep into the Sox bullpen. Great hitter making a great play. Shrug of the shoulders from me and Papelbon.

Baseball’s not a game of perfect, even as Okajima and Paps have been as close as nearly anyone in the league over the season’s first third. Though they eventually lost this game, the Sox showed once again a determination and balance that should hold them in good stead for the remainder of the season. Despite falling behind the Yankees, 4-0, heading into the bottom of the 5th, the Sox scrapped back to score 5 in that inning to take a lead that felt like it was going to hold. The bottom of the order keyed the rally, loading the bases for the exceptionally hot Dustin Pedroia, who lashed a 3-run double to left-center to break up Andy Pettitte’s shutout. Pedroia’s batting a cool .500 during his current 13-game hitting streak.

Josh Beckett threw the ball extremely well, but was victimized by bad luck and one bad defensive play. He should be 9-0 this morning. Even as Okajima and Papelbon take the blame, they both pitched well for the most part – Oki especially, who stranded Cano at third after the latter’s no-out triple. Not much to be mad about, except the result, so I’ll save the agita for another time.

I suppose the ancestry of my newfound equanimity can be traced to the double-digit lead the Sox continue to maintain over the rest of the AL East. Despite losing 4 of 6 to the Yankees over the last 10 days, the Sox still head the New Yorkers by 12.5 games. Context is everything – if you’d told me in March that I’d watch Alex Rodriguez hit a game-winning homer in the 9th inning of a June game at Fenway and react by merely pursing my lips and shifting in my seat, I’d have asked you for a nickel bag of the same stuff you’d been smoking. (Editor’s Note: Any drug reference in the preceding sentence is purely hypothetical and in no way implies past, present, or future use or abuse of illegal substances by MLC staff. Certainly not using a potato named after a Japanese outfielder. MLC’s drug testing standards meet or exceed those applied to NORML staffers, rock musicians, Billy Donovan, and/or professional baseball players.)

Tough start to the new week for the Sox, who are probably asleep in a hotel somewhere in the Bay Area after a late-night flight to Oakland. They face the A’s tonight behind Julian Tavarez, and are 50/50 to throw feces all over the place – if not today, then tomorrow. At least I’ll get some sleep.

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