Friday, June 08, 2007

Mr. Big

Game 59 – Red Sox

Red Sox 1, A’s 0
Record: 38-21

There are wins, and there are wins. Curt Schilling’s been pretty vocal about wanting to be the man. Yesterday, he put his money where his mouth has been, taking the ball with the Sox mired in their worst stretch of the season and slamming the door. Shannon Stewart’s 2-out single in the bottom of the 9th broke up Schill’s bid for his first career no-hitter, but #38 retired Mark Ellis to preserve the shutout and give the Sox a much-needed win.

The 100-pitch outing marked Schill’s first shutout in Sox flannels, which could not have come at a better time. As my colleague almost certainly knows, even when you’re pretty sure your team is good, four-game skids start the demons dancing at the corners of overactive imaginations. For all the grief he gets from those who like their star athletes dumb and obsequious, Schilling’s never shirked from the big stage. I hope that the Sox’ young arms were paying close attention yesterday.

From the sublime to the below replacement level, we’re beyond the small sample size excuse-making for Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo, and J.D. Drew. The Sox have now played five consecutive one-run games, losing four for the want of a single tally. It certainly doesn’t help when a full one-third of the batting order is putting up OPS+ marks of 56, 58, and 74 (OPS+ is essentially a league-adjusted OPS comparison. 100 is league-average, and each point above or below implies a percentage point better or worse. Lugo’s 56, then, is 44% below league average out of the leadoff spot. Gack.) Doug Mirabelli’s OPS+ is 54. The Sox are essentially leading off each game with Doug Mirabelli (and batting Jason Bartlett in the fifth slot, for kicks). Again, gack.

The fact that the Sox are 4th in the league in runs scored and 3rd in team OPS (.798) while carrying the lifeless bodies of Crisp, Lugo, and Drew is actually heartening in some small measure. All three are markedly down from their respective career OPS+ levels (94, 90, 130, respectively), and if yesterday’s regression to the mean lesson was worth anything (questionable, I understand) the Sox should see improvement from all three. At this point, a shrubbery made of baloney casings would be an improvement – and we could give it a cool nickname, like Meat Shrub.

Sox get to see two more lefties this weekend, as they face sizzling Diamondback starter Doug Davis and sizzle-faced Randy Johnson. Praying for two of three – we’ll see tonight if the erstwhile Ebby Calvin was suitably impressed by the senior senator’s work yesterday. And keep our fingers crossed that the bats that have been lost at the airport since Sunday will finally catch up to the Sox equipment bags.

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