Friday, August 31, 2007
Phillies 11, Mets 10
Feels like a punishment to have to even consider yesterday's debacle, unearthing memories of a painful afternoon in the Bank that I'd buried by the time the momentous William & Mary vs. Delaware college football premiere kicked off. Of course, that game went swimmingly for my rooting interests as well. Bad day for the man who wears my shoes.
Whereas the Tribe simply seem overmatched and rolling downhill towards the nadir of an unfortunate era in their I-AA history, the Mets are underachieving in new and different ways on a daily basis. The enjoyment of watching the Mets has evolved into some sort of masochistic horror movie viewing; much of what you can see on SNY nowadays is cover-the-eyes material. And yet we keep watching.
Billy Wagner is not someone we've had to worry about for most of the season -- nor should we have to. It's an area in which the Mets floundered for some years, and one they addressed. Now . . . as if there were available seats on our worry-boat, we've picked up another rider. Slide on over, Utterly Pedestrian Middle Relief and First Baseman With Misplaced Swing. Suddenly Ineffective Closer is coming aboard.
Willie's getting some heat for calling upon Wagner for the two-inning save. He shouldn't. It was the right call. I was a little unhappy with him leaving Met janitor Aaron Sele in the game once mop-up time had ended when the Mets came back from five down to tie it. But Willie looked like the greatest tactician to ever enter a dugout compared to Crazy Charlie Manuel. His "decision" to walk Jose Reyes was indefensible at the time and idiotic in retrospect. I have a whole lot of confidence that he'll cost the club down the stretch, and that's the only good thing I can say about this series. Add him to the list of Charlies, Gheorghe. He's certifiable.
Off to Atlanta, where the weekend could provide more nightmarish results. But it's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up game, this baseball, and there's every chance that after looking hapless against the Phillies' fourth-string rotation and Grade E bullpen, our lads will shine against the Braves' stellar arms. And if the Metmen can take two of three, the confidence comes right back.
Sounds stupid, doesn't it? It works. Sounds improbable, right? Okay, then, go ahead and tell me with any accuracy how this season is going to write its last chapter. You can't, and that's why I'll continue to tune in despite all good judgment. Sometimes in the movie theater you stop trying to figure out what's going to happen, you turn your brain off, and you sit back and watch, hoping you'll be entertained and that the ending will satisfy. Doesn't make for very insightful blogging, but that's where I am today.
In hindsight, it seems plausible, even likely that the Sox got caught up in the same rush to deemphasize the Yankee series that spread through the Nation like wildfire after the sweep in the Windy City. We’re conditioned to treat each and every Sox/Yanks series like an epic battle for the One Ring - with all the attendant drama, stress, and scar tissue. In this case, the 8-game lead gave everyone on the Sox side - player, fan, and manager - an easy excuse to relax and deflect the psychological trauma, even if none of the principals would ever admit to that. Meanwhile, the Yankees had no such choice, as they entered the series chasing the playoffs from the wrong side of the table. Couple those divergent psychological approaches to the series with the injury that sidelined Manny Ramirez for the final 2 games in the Bronx, and the result is nearly preordained.
The question now is how the Sox rebound, given that they just took a 3-day vacation and that Manny remains sidelined for at least the near future. And that, my friends, is a question for which I haven’t the answer. The offense looks extraordinarily middling without No. 24 in the cleanup spot – the Manny Being Manny detractors would do very well to remember that the next time they’re inclined to call for his job.
As for my colleague, well, this little blog probably couldn’t be more aptly named at the moment.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Yankees 5 (and counting), Red Sox 0 (and no chance for even a single tally)
I'm in the middle of a doozy of an argument with myself right now. On one shoulder, I've got Kevin Bacon in a military uniform yelling, "All is well. Remain calm". On the other shoulder, Bill Paxton's whining, "Game over, man. We're screwed." And, of course, the former viewpoint is correct, with a 5-game lead and 28 to play - and 18 of those 28 at home. The 4-game annihilation of the White Sox, as it turns out, offered a desperately needed cushion for the Sox. That doesn't make me feel any less like taking a Louisville Slugger to J.D. Drew's kneecaps.
What a shitty, shitty display by the Sox for the entire 3-game set in the Bronx. I've tried for 2 days to work up an equanimity that fits with the still-true facts regarding the Sox' commanding lead in the division, but goddammit, I'm failing miserably. I'm a cranky, disgusted, scowling bastard.
Nice work, motherfuckers. You've managed to make a 5-game lead piss off the entire Nation. That's quite an accomplishment. I'd say that Baltimore should be ready to bear the brunt, but that would mean I was saying something I didn't believe. Douchebags.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh. That feels sooooo much better. Glad I didn't wait to vent. Now you, gentle reader, get to bear the brunt of my lunacy, rather than my wife and kids. Thanks kindly for your service on behalf of stability on the homefront.
Phillies 3, Mets 2
Today's title refers both to the vulgarity of all language I am steadily using in reference to the New York Mets as well as the 2-run ceiling through which the Mets cannot seem to break. Add in elements such as the critical nature of these games and the fact that they are playing in perhaps the most moronically small ballpark not engineered for WIFFLE purposes, and it's stupefying.
Add into the mix how they lost last night, with Marlon Anderson's right-idea, wrong-execution interference play costing them Endy's tying run . . . it's maddening. Add in the fact that the Mets are unable to do a damn thing against a bullpen even worse than their own. Add in that Jose Reyes has reached base twice in this series, and he's been picked off both times. Add in his malaise in the field and down the first-base line. It's double-fist-clenching time in the Township.
Add in me parting with 50 bucks, even for the right reasons. Add in a lead dwindling away to nothing. It's the new Mets, a team finding new (and creative) ways to lose ballgames when it matters most.
Total all of that frustration. Add it up, as Gordon once crooned/whined, and it's a number far larger than 2 on the scale of "How pissed are we?" Until the Mets can muster more than two runs in Ballpark By Fisher-Price, that number's only going to skyrocket. As opposed to my word count, which is going to remain right here.
Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
It’s been quite a while since my wife actually left the room because she couldn’t stand to be around me during a Red Sox game. Roger Clemens taking a no-hitter (even a relatively bogus no-hitter) into the 6th inning against the Sox tends to make me a little bit of a raving wackjob, as it turns out.
Both of the first 2 games of this series have served as microcosms of the Sox’ season to date, with the pitching staff doing a solid to quite solid job (holding this Yankee offense to 9 runs in 2 games counts as an accomplishment in my book), the offense failing to deliver when it matters, and J.D. Drew flailing ineffectually. Josh Beckett fought his ass off last night, shaking off terrible situational fortune and his own self-inflicted wounds to give the Sox more than a fighting chance to win. And I’ll give the offense a bit of a break – the rumors of its’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Hell, the Sox still have the best record in the league. Drew, though, makes me want to commit various unpleasant acts.
Among the non-Texas Con Man things that irritated me the about last night’s game was the Sox reversion to, well, to just damn dumbness on several occasions. For a really good team, they tend to space out way too often at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field. Exhibit A last night was Dustin Pedroia’s attempt to bunt for a basehit with Julio Lugo on 2nd and 1 out in the 3rd. Pedroia’s been pressing a bit in this series, but he’s still a dangerous bat and he’s not proven himself terribly adept as a bunter. Predictably, his bunt turned into an easy play for Clemens and gave the Yankees an out on an evening where Clemens was struggling with his command.
Beckett’s wild throw to first in the bottom of the 2nd was another example of valor getting the better of discretion on this team. As Derek Jeter’s swinging bunt squibbed up the 3rd base line, Beckett ran to the ball, then turned and fired a submarine-style tailing bullet past Kevin Youkilis at first. Only Johnny Damon’s inattentiveness kept the Yankees from scoring on the play.
Finally, Coco Crisp made a terrific effort on Hideki Matsui’s 3rd-inning fly to left center, diving fully extended…and missing the ball by 4 feet. There’s that whole discretion/valor equation again – one that the Sox have completely mangled. Crisp’s misplay (truthfully, one of very, very few such occurrences this season) turned Shemp’s double into a triple, though Beckett was able to pitch out of it.
In all 3 cases last night, the Sox didn’t pay for their boneheaded acts, a series of fortunate events that balanced at least a slightly the extreme good fortune that shone upon the Yankees. Four infield singles contributed to the Bomber hit tally, and none of the 6 walks issued by Yankee pitchers came around to score. That stuff tends to even itself out over a season – not sure if today’s sample size will be large enough to count on a quick regression to the mean.
Fortunately for my wife (and somewhat unfortunately for my employer) today’s game starts at 1:05, so my lunacy will be muffled by my ostensibly more professional environs. Worst case, the Sox limp out of the Bronx with a 5-game cushion. I don’t want worst case.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Mets play five more games this week, a pair more against Philly and three in Atlanta. For them not to utterly shoot themselves in the foot and blow this lead, they're going to have to rely on the bullpen. We're probably not going to see too many complete game victories from the staff. Gonna need to lean on you, fellas, so get it done.
For each of these next five contests in which the Met bullpen throws at least two innings and doesn't allow a single run to score (either inherited or surrendered on its own), I will give $50 to the Virginia Beach cancer research charity A Dolphin's Promise. No strings attached -- of course I'll be disappointed if the mop-up relievers shut out the opponent in a 7-2 loss, but a deal is a deal.
My interest in the project was sparked by being given the generous top prize in this year's auction by a family member. I'll be at Shea Sept 8 to enjoy what they provided; here's hoping I can give a little back next Sunday night. $250 won't save the world from a dreaded disease, but it could mean just a little something to the foundation, to me, and to the Mets.
Yankees 5, Red Sox 3
Call me Ishmael. Wait, no, wrong story.
Call me crazy, but I was a bundle of nervous energy throughout last night’s game. Even as my head knew that it didn’t matter all that much, my gut still tightens when I see those pinstripes. And despite the fact that the game itself was a pretty entertaining one, the result – and the winning blow – left me more irritated than the situation perhaps warranted.
Once again, Daisuke Matsuzaka was victimized by a handful of ill-timed bad pitches. His lack of command in the first inning cost the Sox 2 runs, but they quickly erased that deficit. Then, he left a fastball up in the zone to Derek Jeter, who snapped a recent slump by ripping it into the rightfield seats. Sox got that run back courtesy of a Jason Varitek homer, and I was feeling pretty good about their resiliency. And about the good-luck squirrel that had taken up residence atop the right-field foul pole - the very same foul poul that signalled the Yankees' death knell in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS when Mark Bellhorn's homer clanged into it.
And then, in the 7th inning, Johnny Freaking Damon hit a popup to right that carried 315 feet, just enough to drop over the fence and give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. He got a curtain call for that one. Of course, the denizens of Yankee Stadium award curtain calls to groundskeepers who tie their shoelaces in a single motion, so I suppose that’s not worth much.
Instead of Damon, Yankee fans should be bathing J.D. Drew with flowers and chocolates this morning, because he was the wrench in the gears, the sugar in the gas tank, the annoying governor on an otherwise lightning-quick golf cart for the Sox offense last night. Several months ago, I took up Drew’s cause, preaching patience and the season-long view in support of his potential. Sorry, dude, last night was the final straw. And more precisely, the impotent wave you made at Joba Chamberlain’s 3-2, 2-out slider in the dirt with men on 1st and 2nd was the final, meager straw. Coming as it did on the heels of your impotent, hopeless, ass-out, foot-in-the-bucket pass at an Andy Pettitte slider in the 4th and the rally-killing double-play you hit into in the 6th didn’t help matters much.
The season is 132 games old – at this point you are what your record says you are, in the words of Bill Parcells. Drew’s .749 OPS says he’s basically Aaron Hill, or Kaz Matsui, or…Johnny Damon – damning both overpaid outfielders in the comparison. Drew’s 7 HR put him on pace for the lowest total in that category in his career – and that includes 4 seasons in which he played fewer than 110 games. Feh. I’m done with watching your languid swing sweep over breaking balls in the dirt, done with saying, “C’mon, J.D., make ‘em love you”, frankly, done with the J.D. Drew Experience in 2007 – which makes me just about the last guy out of the room. I’m turning out the lights and locking the doors. Pity.
Beckett against Clemens tonight with Manny’s back a question mark. You think the ESPN HypeMaster 2000 will get any work?
Phillies 4, Mets 2 (10 inn.)
Forget Jose Reyes having two fewer hits than Tom Glavine in this series, or David Wright taking third strikes like I take thirds at Thanksgiving, or Duke's error, or anything else. This space is officially dedicated the the New York Mets bullpen and my unveiling of a suggestion for how to handle them at this point.
P.S. Welcome back, Endy. Don't care if you went 0-for-4, we love you, anyway.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Phillies 9, Mets 2
Braves 13, Marlins 2
Hmmm. Hey, kids, you ever hunker down for a video game and the first few minutes are so wretched that you just hit Restart and scrap it? Let's do that.
I guess "Game on" and the other trifling urges I issued didn't really spark the team. Hell, I couldn't even fire up Jose Reyes enough to cover second base on a pair of plays as this contest was leaking away from the Mets. (Time for another stern Willie talk.)
It was inexplicably ugly in Philth-town last night, from the Mets' inability to hit J.D. Durbin to the Mets' inability to hit the Phils' beleaguered bullpen to the resurgent mastery of Pat the Bat to David Wright having just a horrible night to Mr. Met getting forcibly removed from the scene. A few things made sense, like Chase Utley returning to form immediately to Carlos Delgado holding his bat by the wrong end (or at least it looked that way) to the Met pen surrendering four runs in workmanlike fashion. But mostly it was head-scratching time. (That little itch could be telling you something.)
So the Mets soiled themselves from their seven-and-five-eighths to their sani's. Just keep this in mind, lads. Gary Cohen can say what he wants about the Philly "Phaithphul" being more supportive this year, but if you guys can rattle off a few wins, I can smell a city just itching to turn on its hometown nine. Just put a few cracks in the dam and let the Phillie fans do the rest, flooding the streets of Center City to King of Prussia with epithets and expletives to drown out any voices of hope. Trust me.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Red Sox 11, White Sox 3
Red Sox 10, White Sox 1
Red Sox 14, White Sox 2
Red Sox 11, White Sox 1
Several times this weekend I started to chronicle this series, and each time the voice of Chris Farley as Tommy Flanagan stopped me. Tommy Boy’s earnest recounting of the smothering of too many sales opportunities through his overeager exuberance kept me away, concerned that I’d jinx the whole thing if I talked about it. In retrospect, that’s a pretty silly concern – the White Sox certainly weren’t going to let a little thing like karma stop them from waving the pallid flag of fear and capitulation.
This is a Red Sox blog, so the mood here is euphoric. Were I a fan of the Pale Hose, I’m quite sure that yesterday’s would be the last game I watched this season. Their performance in all four games was as gutless as any I’ve seen from a professional ballclub. From the moment they failed to score the tying run in 6th and 7th innings of the series’ first game, any minor adversity caused the Chicago 9 to turn tail and run. Or in the case of A.J. Pierszynski in yesterday’s game, turn tail and not run out a grounder.
Since I’m not a fan of Ozzie’s gang, another Farley character seems perfectly suited to describe the Sox’ (Red, that is) performance in Chicago: “It was awwwesome”. It was as if the offense had finally had enough of all the (deserved) grief it had received for failing to come through in the clutch this season. Theo Epstein went on the radio in Boston early last week and basically said, “We’ve had our share of bad situational luck this season. The thing with luck is that it tends to even out over the course of a 162-game season.” From Theo’s brain to the Sox’ bats, as they hit nearly .500 with runners in scoring position, and came through in 2-out situations with alarming regularity.
Each of the 4 games in this series proceeded with metronomic consistency; the Sox would struggle to get baserunners for the game’s first 3 or 4 innings, then they’d have a big middle inning to get some breathing room before blowing the doors off the Chisox bullpen. Lather, rinse, re-beat. While the offense was sputtering before finally catching and roaring off the starting line, the pitching staff continued its year-long dominance – the only exceptions being Josh Beckett’s action-packed 5 2/3 inning effort in the series’ first game and Kyle Snyder’s gift meatball to Paul Konerko to keep the Pale (imitation of a major league squad) Hose from being shut out on Saturday. Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Julian Tavarez gave up a total of 8 hits and 2 runs in 19 innings. Wakefield’s now thrown 22 consecutive scoreless frames, though I’m not getting that excited about it, as they came against the Devil Rays and White Sox.
With the Tigers playing some gutty ball against the Yankees, the Sox head into this week’s series with their chief rivals no less than 7 games in front. Which turns the 3-game tilt from a gut-grinding exercise in nervous tension to an important but by no means all-consuming set. I reserve the right to whistle (scream?) a different tune if the Sox get swept in the Bronx. The fortunate byproduct of the White Sox' gracious hospitality is to render that worst-case scenario almost bearable.
Mets 5, Dodgers 2
Mets 4, Dodgers 3
Dodgers 6, Mets 2
Welcome to the working week, New York Mets.
The next seven days represent a degree of gauntlet you won't face again this season. Four games in lovely Philadelphia (in a ballpark cozier than Williamsport's) abutted by three in your home away from home that is Atlanta's Turner Field. I feel certain that the Phillies and Braves are looking at this week as their respective best good chances at making a run for the division crown. I think it goes without saying that it's imperative that you quell any such momentum. So long as your A-game isn't plucked from your travel bag along with any gels or liquids sizing more than 3 oz. or not in a Ziploc baggie, you should be fine.
Please remain calm, even as I tense up for what I can only hope is the last time before October. Stay the course, make your pitches, hit your spots, pick one out to drive, make the plays you're capable of making, and be the uber-talented team that you are. In the words my father chose to spur me on to my many successes, don't screw it up, dummy.
* * * * *
The Mets fairly well took care of business over the weekend before leaking one away against the Trolley Dodgers last night. In a game that, as I told Rob, had the kind of putrid baserunning you'd never see at the Little League World Series, the Mets' aimless saunterings 'twixt home and home were perhaps more costly. Meanwhile, after highlight-worthy defensive plays marked the first two games of the series . . . well, Jeff Conine got himself some highlights, I suppose. An ugly one, and that doesn't even include Jeff Kent getting beaned in the helmet with nary a Dodger teammate checking on his well-being.
Meanwhile, Scott Schoeneweis fanned . . . nobody, but he did fan the flames of frustration with the Mets' relievers. I guess it's just a damn good thing the Phils & Braves have bullpen issues of their own. I guess.
But the overriding feeling of the weekend was a positive one, largely in part of the waxings the Mets' opponents in the NL East continued to take. Not that that should carry over into this week. It's strap it on and duke it out time for this division.
Let's go. Game on. Play ball.
Welcome to the working week.
Oh, I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you.
Welcome to the working week.
You gotta do it till you're through it so you better get to it.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Padres 7, Mets 5
Padres 9, Mets 8
Wow, am I getting tired of bemoaning a bullpen that blows . . . leads, if you need to finish that statement. I'm already tired of Billy Wagner letting the leadoff man get on base. I've grown extremely weary of the reliever-round-robin "who can undo the good?" that seems to occur with increasing frequency. I'm just so tired of Errant Heilman giving up the clutch long ball. I'm sick and tired of inspirational hits ("Marlon Moments," as they'll be called for now) meaning nothing. I'm sick and tired of having to eke my way through life as a Mets fan. I'm sick and tired of being a nobody in the Township. But most of all, I'm sick and tired of having nobody (in the bullpen).
Man, oh, man, would I love to have been able to come here today to extol the virtues of Marlon Anderson. To talk about the little sparkplugs that make the big V-8 come to life. To reference, maybe even link to, an old tale from years ago of a send-off in New York made great by an inside-the-park round-tripper and a long bomb. Can't do that, though.
Or maybe I can. These are the dog days of the baseball season, and we're all getting worn out. Rather than discuss Bill Wagner's August WHIP ascending towards 2.00, the Mets' relievers' utter inability to batten down the hatches when most needed, and Omar Minaya's failure to add the bullpen oar that rights the ship, let's do talk about Marlon Anderson.
(Especially since Wagner's outing wasn't as horrendous as his line and Carlob Delobgado left 16 runners stranded in three games, including five last night -- a base knock at nearly any time makes this a different game.)
Back from dining out last night, I turned on the game to a pair of disappointments. I'd forgotten to record it, and the Mets were down, 6-1. I was immediately treated to a huge, six-run rally whose coup de grace was Anderson's transplantation of a low-and-inside into mezzanine-souvenir. It couldn't have been scripted much better, and it underscores what a key pick-up Marlon Anderson continues to be.
You can't necessarily fault the Dodgers for releasing the utility IF-OF; he was hurt and hitting at a .541 OPS clip this year after a great finish to '06. And last night's was his 61st career homer, this for a guy whose career began when Google was not yet founded (and Roger Maris was the single-season HR leader). But like Endy Chavez, he's just one of those guys where his statline tells but a fraction of the story. Joe Morgan is a dunce because he rejects statistics of most any kind, but those kinds of measurements -- traditional or modern -- fall short of depicting Marlon Anderson's worth. And God bless Omar for seeing through it all and bringing him back into the fold.
And here's where we seep back into the negative. I really felt like the Mets were going to land an unsung pitcher in the July/August time frame. The pitching equivalent of Endy or Marlon, some cast-off with a ray of resurgence that would, against logic, become the galvanizing element in Mets relief. Hasn't happened so far. Joe Smith's return in September could serve that purpose, and we've been intentionally mum about a fellow named Pete in the Port St. Lucie clubhouse, a fellow who could send someone pen-ward to trigger some adequacy. Feels like I'm grasping at straws, but I don't think I'm the only one who is exhausted at the prospect of watching this team regurgitate leads on a nightly basis.
Maybe to Ladysmith, but not to the Red Sox, who face the unpleasant possibility of back-to-back doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday immediately in advance of their midweek series with the Yankees. Got to, got to, got to get at least one game in today – and the prospects of that are fair-to-middling, at best.
Going into yesterday, the Sox had their rotation set perfectly for the 3-game set in the Bronx, with Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Schilling slated to take the hill. After last night’s rainout and today’s threatened storms, all bets may be off, other than Danny O’Malley still getting the ball in Tuesday’s series opener. At the back end of the staff, this almost assures meaningful innings for Gagne and Snyder over the weekend. The shuttle from Providence to O’Hare will be packed with Red Sox farmhands.
Of lesser worries have Red Sox fans carved ulcers in otherwise healthy gastrointestinal tracts.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Devil Rays 2, Red Sox 1
Daisuke Matsuzaka, it appears clear now, is not Irish. Nor does he own any rabbit’s feet or carry upside-down horseshoes. The Devil Rays hit one ball hard against him last night, and that ball off the bat of B.J. Upton landed in the right-field bleachers to plate Tampa Bay’s only runs of the game. Matsuzaka went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, and took yet another hard-luck loss.
Meanwhile, Matsuzaka’s teammates were in the process of hitting a half-dozen “at-‘em” balls, getting thrown out at the plate, failing to deliver in clutch situations, and generally not supporting their pitcher, who lost for the third time this season to the Rays. The Sox are 9-0 when anyone not from Japan starts against Tampa, and 0-3 in Matsuzaka’s outings.
Maybe he’ll take the mound as Danny O’Malley in his next start.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6
Weird, weird game at the Trop. Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts weird. Matthew Lesko weird. David Ortiz tripling and legging out an infield single weird.
The Sox tried diligently to give this game away, but the Rays, God bless their scrappy little souls, were such gracious hosts. After Ortiz tripled in a run and scored on Manny’s sac fly, the Sox led, 2-0 in the top of the first. Jon Lester recorded 2 outs on 5 pitches, then inexplicably walked B.J. Upton on 4 pitches before allowing a game-tying moonshot to Carlos Pena. Ahh, the 2-out walk – it’ll make you want to beat your wife. (Just checking to see if she’s still reading.)
The Sox rallied for 5 runs in the top of the 4th on a series of timely hits from the bottom of the order. Jason Varitek singled in a run and Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo followed with 2-run doubles to break the game open. Seemingly, anyway.
Lester couldn’t stand prosperity, though, giving up another 2-out homer in the bottom of the 5th. Akinori Iwamura’s 4th longball of the year brought the Rays to within 2 runs, even as it looked like a popup when it left the bat. Jerry Remy spent the rest of the game scratching his head.
The Sox got one back in the 7th when Josh Wilson allowed Manny’s easy 2-out grounder to slide through his legs and score Dustin Pedroia from 3rd. Pedroia returned the favor in the bottom of the same inning, dropping a line drive with 2 gone that handed the Rays their 6th run – Tampa Bay scored in the bottom of the 7th on a hit batsman, a walk, and an error, and wound up tallying 6 runs in the game on 4 hits. As I said – weird game. Hideki Okajima whiffed B.J. Upton with runners on first and third to quell the Rays’ last threat.
Okajima and Papelbon mowed the Rays down in the 8th and 9th, recording 4 of the 6 outs by way of the K. The bullpen provided the only semblance of normalcy in this one, pitching 3 2/3 hitless innings for the Sox. Note that Gone-Yay! remained rooted to the bench, teaching elementary French to Julian Tavarez rather than elementary celebratory techniques to Devil Ray fans.
One more in St. Pete before heading to Chicago for 4 against the White Sox, as the Sox work their way through the season’s longest road trip, a 10-gamer. After the roadie, which ends with a 3-game set in the Bronx (cue the ESPN and FOX hype machines and Jaws music) 18 of the Sox’ final 28 games are in Fenway, where the Sox own the 3rd-best home record in the bigs. (And, for what it’s worth, they’re the 2nd-best road team in MLB, behind the…New York Mets.) Knocking wood, crossing fingers, and biting fingernails – not necessarily in that order.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Mets 6, Nationals 2
Mets 7, Nationals 4
Mets 8, Nationals 2
Mets 7, Padres 6
Just a quick duck-in as I prepare for an early-morning flight to Maine so I can then drive right back over the next two days. It's a long story. Like my colleague at MLC Inc., I myself am just now getting back to lucid after a bit of a bender with a beachy backdrop.
The Mets have gone 9-4 this season during four of my summer jaunts to the Outer Banks; I'll be looking to head back down if they need a pick-me-up down the stretch. Yeah. I'm fan enough to make that sacrifice.
Don't look now, because these things change at the drop of a hat, but the Mets are quickly -- and somewhat quietly -- steadying their legs and playing up to capabilities and expectations. Nothing like a series against the Nats to do just that; as much as the D.C. Follies have exceeded my (extremely erroneous) pessimistic predictions for their haplessness this year, you can't confuse them for a team to whom the Mets should drop games. The Mets finally managed not to play down to the level of their competition.
And then there are the Padres, no slouches they. I'd begun mulling why it was slightly okay for a letdown after swatting the Nats, why yet another bullpen failure wouldn't necessarily deserve the barrage it might get from these parts. I'd nearly convinced myself, even to the point of deleting a vague Keystone Kops reference. And then Marlon knocked in Milly, Reyes singled, and the bullish Luis Castillo grounded one sharply back through the box. Off Trevor Hoffman. A comeback win in dramatic fashion -- as the Braves blew one to the Reds. I know I shouldn't be so surprised, but I'll be coming around quickly if they keep this up.
Got a plane to catch soon -- pleasant dreams enabled by your New York Metropolitans. Sleep well.
Red Sox 8, Angels 4
Angels 7, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 10, Angels 5
Angels 3, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 0
Talk about stealing my sunshine. I leave the bucolic and sun-splashed environs of Nags Head, NC for rain-plagued Northern Virginia. On top of that, I go away for 4 days and return to find Bobby Kielty batting third and somebody named Kevin Cash playing chase-the-knuckler behind Timmy Wake. I realize that I was probably overserved during the past several days and nights, but these hallucinations are a bitch. Next thing they’ll tell me is that the Sox roughed up Scott Kazmir.
The Kielty experiment wasn’t a ringing success, but the Mike Lowell & Tim Wakefield Show continued to play to boffo box office in St. Pete. Lowell’s murdering the Rays this year to the tune of .500/.568/.894/1.462 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS), 4 homers and 12 RBI – his 2-out, 2-run double kicked things off in the top of the 1st last night. Lowell remains the Sox’ RBI leader, which is a bit amazing. Wake’s now 19-2 lifetime against the Rays, and 9-0 at the Trop. That’s the kind of easy, peasy win that makes recovering from a hangover so much more pleasant.
All kinds of other doings while Whit and I were away, some good, some bad, and some that fell into that hazy middle ground. Of note:
- The Sox traded Wily Mo Pena to the Nationals for a PTBNL. I’m saddened a bit by this news, despite the fact that I had absolutely no confidence that Pena would ever contribute in a meaningful way. Wily Mo’s had a bit of a raw deal his entire professional career, never finding a situation that allowed him to develop his prodigious but so, so raw talent. And yet he never complained in Boston, even as it became more and more obvious that the team didn’t know what to do with him. If he could ever learn to recognize a breaking pitch and lay off the ones that miss that plate by 18 inches, he could be an All-Star. I’ll be rooting for him.
- Doug Mirabelli went on the 15-day DL with a leg injury, necessitating the call-up of the aforementioned Kevin Cash, he of the lifetime .170 major league average. Cash struggled quite a bit handling Wake last night, despite the fact that he catches Pawtucket knuckleballer Charlie Zink on a regular basis. The obvious conclusion is that this is a big blow – even as Mirabelli’s no Mike Piazza with the bat, he’s also no Mike Piazza with the glove. On the other hand, if Tito gets creative and gives Jason Varitek an opportunity to catch Wake a few times down the stretch, this really gives the Sox some lineup flexibility come October. Wake should pitch several postseason games, and the built-in rest in the playoffs reduces the need to get Varitek as much time off as he gets in the regular season – I’d be all for finding out whether he could handle Wake.
- Clay Buchholz won his major league debut, topping the Angels in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. The highly-touted prospect has been tearing it up at Pawtucket, and while he walked 3 and allowed 8 hits in his 6 innings of work, he kept the Angels at bay and got help from his teammates. With Jon Lester and Buchholz showing signs of living up to their considerable promise, the future for Sox moundsmen looks solid to quite solid.
- I wish I could say the same thing about recent acquisition Eric Gagne, who was pressed into service in the second game of the Friday twinbill and spit the bit yet again, losing a 1-run 9th inning lead and the game. That’s 3 bad, putrid, horrid, gut-punch losses on Gagne’s resume over his first 4 weeks with the team, and 3 games in the standings that would look mighty nice in the other column.
MLB.tv’s Seth Everett made an extremely cogent point regarding the Sox on this morning’s First Team with Fox radio show (so much better than Mike & Mike, by the way, and I kinda like Mike & Mike). Asked whether the Sox needed to worry about the Yankees, Everett snidely and accurately responded that the Sox (and their fans) needed to worry about the Sox and stop obsessing about their New York rivals. As 90% of baseball is famously half-mental, Everett’s thesis is that the Sox are more talented than the Yankees and that they’ll win easily if they can get out of their own heads. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
(Late morning update, with new and improved Wily Mo information courtesy of Mister Irrelevant. On his way out of Boston, Wily Mo left Sox fans the following message:
‘To my sisters, brothers and fans of the Red Sox Nation. I want to take a moment to thank you and the entire Red Sox organization for your support during my time in Boston. Your constant passion for baseball and your beloved Red Sox is unmatched and has touched me deeply. I will always consider you with a special place in my heart. The Red Sox organization deserves only the best and the Red Sox Nation is just that. Peace in life, Wily Modesto Pena.’”
And he's hit 2 homers in his first 11 at-bats with the Nats. I really am rooting for that guy.)
Friday, August 17, 2007
Prates 10, Mets 7
"These flurries of disparaging remarks about the Pirates will surely come back and bite me in the posterior when the Mets drop tonight's game . . ."
Guess that wasn't forceful enough of a cover. Crap. A putrid, horrible loss, but one of 162. And I'm at the beach. Moving right along . . .
Oh, and at least one reader isn't up on his classic thrash hardcore punk bands, so I'll spell it out for you. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Devil Rays 6, Red Sox 5
Quick housecleaning before joining Mr. Met on the Outer Banks. Not sure how happy I am that my wife has joined the ranks of active MLC commenters. Hi, honey! Just kidding.
I experienced just about every baseball-related emotion possible for about 30 minutes yesterday afternoon as the Sox fought back valiantly but ultimately unsuccessfully. On the one hand, there was disgust, as Andy "Walking on" Sonnenstine and his 6.00+ ERA shut the Sox down for 6 innings. Then, a little bit of hope as Jason Varitek homered to get the Sox on the board. Even greater hope followed as Whit's old pal Dan Wheeler entered the game and gave the Sox another run in the 8th, making the score 6-4.
When Coco Crisp singled to lead off the 9th and Julio Lugo doubled him in, elation began to kick in, and I started to rev up the fist-pump machine in anticipation of consecutive come-from-behind walk-off wins and a gain of a game in the standings, as the Yankees trailed 3-0 with 2 outs in the 9th against Baltimore.
Annoyance spiked to engraged disbelief when first Dustin Pedroia struck out on an ill-fated bunting expedition and Shelley Effing Duncan hit a 3-run homer to tie the score in the Bronx. I e-mailed Whit saying, "Is there any chance in heaven that the Oʼs win this game? None, right?" And his response echoed my (dis)belief: "Not even close to one. Zero."
Youks struck out and I slid to concern with Papi coming to the plate. Concern climbed to anticipation as the count went 3-0 and then momentary relief when he walked on a 3-2 pitch. Meanwhile, the O's took the lead in the top of the 10th against Mariano Rivera as Manny Ramirez came to the plate to fulfill his destiny.
Which was to strike out on an awful pitch, returning me to a disappointment tinged now with wistful regret, which was ameliorated slightly by the Orioles 6-3 win over New York. (Credit where credit is due - Los Birdos, excoriated in this space for their penchant for rolling over against the Yankees, showed bigtime spine against both the Sox and Yanks this week. Dave Tremblay may be on to something. Fortunately, Peter Angelos will fuck it up somehow.)
Shitty loss, but it could have been worse. Now 4 tough ones against the Angels, including a twinbill tomorrow while the Yankees get Detroit at home for 4. And me with nothing to do but sit beachside and drink Dale's Pale Ales.
In case you can't quite conjure the scene of Rob and me vacationing together, it looks a little something like this:
. . . but without all of our fans around.
Mets 10, Pirates 8
You can take everything I said about the Mets and especially the Pirates from yesterday's post and ratchet it up one notch after last night. New York was poor to fair, Pittsburgh just dreadful. In many a sporting event, there is such a thing as playing down to the level of your competition, and there's a palpable sense of that in this series. I could say that the Mets are deft enough to do just enough to win, but it's more a case of "whatever you bungle, I can bungle much worse" on behalf of the once-proud, once-even-mildly-capable baseball franchise in Steel Town.
Even the umpires couldn't see their way through to helping the Bucs out with a favorable (or even fair) call. There's no way I should be feeling sorry for a Mets opponent, not when we need wins so desperately just to stave off the charge of the rivals, but when Pirates were getting punched out on balls a foot wide of the zone to kill the scant rallies they mustered, I did. I guess you can't blame the men in blue . . . you watch enough Buc-ball, you can't fathom them doing anything right.
These flurries of disparaging remarks about the Pirates will surely come back and bite me in the posterior when the Mets drop tonight's game, but my posts' disappointment is actually directed more at the Metmen. Take a stroll through Mets Township this week and see what you see, hear what you hear. There's a consistent tone, vibe, and message. Please, New York Mets, give us a reason to believe. We're patrolling the horizon with the infrared goggles in hopes of a tiny spark, something to generate a little fan mojo. As yet, all quiet on that front.
Then again, it's August. It's hot -- Cool Hand Luke hot. It's humid and muggy and the kids aren't yet back in school and reruns are still in full effect (okay, that doesn't mean as much as it once did) and although it seems like we just gotta be in the home stretch of the baseball season, there are 43 games left -- a friggin' eternity.
No team in first place of any division feels all that great right now. The Tigers and Indians are treating the lead like it's a hot potato, the Angels, Brewers, and Red Sox have menacing presences suddenly looming over their shoulders, and eeny-meeny-miney-moe has landed on Arizona in the West . . . for now. That the Mets are fidgeting in their first-place boots right now isn't all that unsettling or surprising.
Nor is our quest to find something to latch onto. Feels like there's a battle coming, and we just want to know what we've got on our side. We want a sign, or a moment, or a mantra, or . . . something. We've got the tuna, celery, and horseradish, but we're searching in the fridge for the mayo to hold it all together.
Say what you will about Kevin Millar's hijinks in '03 & '04, but his goofy rally cries weren't just fun for the fans, they were an indication that the players, not just the fans, wanted to band together and take the wild ride. The Mets shaved their heads in May; I hope there's some silly gesture of solidarity in September that will draw smiles, get our blood pumping, and show us we've been wanting to see.
A wise man once said, "At the end of every hard earned day, people find some reason to believe." We undoubtedly will; it's just won't be as ready-made as "Cowboy Up," and maybe that's a good thing.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 0
Red Sox 2, Devil Rays 1
I haven't had a certified jump-off-the-couch fist pump moment in so long that I almost hurt myself badly last night. When Coco Crisp's 2-out single to right plated Jason Varitek from second with the winning run, I leapt to my feet, clipping the corner of the coffee table with my knee, sprawling onto the carpet in gleeful pain. Fortunately, most of the Sox seemed more coordinated in their celebration.
Until the 9th inning, last night was a carbon copy of so many Sox efforts against Scott Kazmir. As I texted Whit during the game, "Man, do I wish Kazmir was a Met." It's a well-documented MLC truism that mediocre lefthanders cause the Sox difficulties. When Kazmir, Johan Santana or Erik Bedard take the hill, it's all the Sox can do to get into the batter's box without maiming themselves.
Luckily, or perhaps as a result of good organizational theory, the Sox are adept at raising pitch counts even when they're not particularly successful in generating runs. Kazmir only made it through 6 frames last night, and while the Sox didn't feast on the soft underbelly of the Rays' pen, they did break through against Al Reyes. Mike Lowell's game-tying shot over the Monster may still be working its way through Southeastern Massachusetts - a little long overdue payback for Reyes, who started Nomar Garciaparra on his injury rollercoaster when he broke the erstwhile Sox' wrist with a misplaced pitch.
Of equal note was Jon Lester's sterling effort. One night after Good Wake showed up to hold the Rays to 2 hits over 8 innings, Lester allowed only a single run on 2 hits in 7 frames. After consecutive very shaky outings on the road, Lester's return to Fenway Park after nearly a year away quieted the doubters and served notice that he still has major league talent so long as he can command his fastball.
One downer in the midst of all this happiness (the Yankees lost, too, ensuring at least a day's respite from Friend of MLC Teejay O'Boyle's baiting) was the continued saga of Red Sox mental midgetry. As I texted Mr. O'Boyle (I was like a teenager last night, texting up a storm), "The Sox are the league's dumbest team." I've been meaning for some time to decry Julio Lugo and his lead-dense instincts on the basepaths, but Manny took center-stage yesterday by trying to advance to second on a throw and getting cut down by 10 feet to end an inning and a rally. It was at least the second time in a week that his ill-considered "hustle" cost the Sox an opportunity to change a game. In a victory, it gets limited play. If they'd lost by one, I'd be leading with it.
Game 120's in progress right now, as the Sox look to sweep the Rays behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, so I may be back with some live action. With Andy Sonnenstine on the hill for the Rays, the matchup favors the good guys, but the current 1-0 deficit bespeaks baseball's unique ability to confound well-meaning prediction.
Mets 5, Pirates 3
You know, there's not a whole lot to take from beating one of the league's perennial doormats in rather unsightly fashion, but here's what I like: losable win. Remember the winnable losses of the years that led up to 2006? How could you not, when the Mets kept having them and I kept talking about them? Last year the art of the losable win came out of nowhere, but this year -- especially of late -- the "winnable loss" has crept back into the steady vernacular.
The Mets tried to give the Bucs as many breaks as they could; hell, even that new-fangled ballpark (a dandy, in actuality) took a couple of runs away from our guys last night. But it wasn't to be, if only because the Pirates are a team that loses nearly every close game, and the Mets are not. They pretended they were at one or two junctures this season, but they're not.
El Duque continued the parade of starting pitchers asking fans not to count any chickens just yet via middling mound displays. 130 pitches catches your eye. Only 70 for strikes, even moreso. At the end of the day, his line wasn't terrible unsightly (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 8 K), just so long as we get to face the Pirates every game.
Baseball is baseball, and even the most one-sided match-ups (this not necessarily being one of those) don't play out every game, but going into the sixth inning, being down a run to the Buccos was remarkably agitating. Once Pittsburgh handed the Mets the tying run on a bad error, I felt pretty sure that even if the Mets weren't going to take the win, the Pirates would just give it to them.
And that they did. A trio of relievers couldn't manage an out, and Moises Alou began to generate some real belief in him and the contagion he might produce in the Met lineup. It takes just a spark to light up a squad; I asked whether a brawl might do the trick, which was clearly grasping at straws. It really could take just one man (besides David Wright) taking it upon himself to get it done.
There's a hedge that involves the letters G, I, D, and P, but I'll tuck it away. Eh . . . Let's Go Mets.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Mets 10, Marlins 4
Here's the current state of the Mets if you believe the vast majority of commentors on the various Metboards:
- The bullpen is absolute wreckage; Mota needs to be cut today, Heilman cannot be trusted, Shonwice [sic] is AA material, and everyone else is poor, except Wagner -- who is even shaky at key moments and has allegiances to Philly
- Starting pitching is fair at best; Perez and Maine are getting tired and can't handle the full season, El Duque is 58 and can't make it down the stretch, and neither Brian Lawrence nor Jorge Sosa would get the ball on a real contender (oh, and Tom Glavine was washed up for good a few weeks ago)
- Delgado will never fully find his swing; he's done
- Beltran is a nancy-boy who was a colossal waste of money; he nurses injuries more frequently than . . . nurses -- oh, and he could not hit a curveball if his life depended on it
- Lo Duca has no worth to the team because he doesn't hit for power, and that divorce/gambling/being Italian thing really hurt him
- Shawn Green is beyond help; he should be cut yesterday at the latest -- and definitely before Yom Kippur
- Alou is decrepit -- always hurt, bad in the outfield, slow around the bases, and medioc-- what? he hit two home runs yesterday? ALOUUUUUU RUUUUULES!!!!
- David Wright and Jose Reyes are gods without parallel
- We really miss Sanchez/Gomez/Chavez/Valentin/Padilla/Piazza/Franco/Jeff Kent/Ed Kranepool/Bobby V/Davey Johnson/Gil Hodges/Casey Stengel
- Willie needs to be sacked immediately; he makes all of the wrong lineup, bullpen, and in-game decisions; he is an idiot of epic proportions and doesn't even know when to argue
- Omar soiled the bed by not going out and getting that unnamed/named savior of a player; without a starting pitcher/corner OF/reliever/better mascot the Mets are doomed
- 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place, 3rd place . . . unless the Marlins go on a tear . . .
Here's the current state of the Mets if you believe Willie & Omar:
- The bullpen has had a few lapses, but we're really confident in the corps of guys we've got down there; can't say enough about the job Wagner's done, and the others will pull it together down the stretch
- The rotation has really found itself over the last month; Maine & Perez have had the troublesome outing or two, but their bodies of work are impressive otherwise; can't say enough about Tom Glavine's year, and El Duque is rock solid; that fifth spot has been filled nicely when we've asked guys to; oh, and Pedro only allowed 11 ER in A-ball last week
- Delgado is back
- Beltran has had a few bad breaks, but he's still part of the core of this club
- The catcher spot has had a few bad breaks, but we really like that throw Mike DiFelice made last game
- Shawn Green has had a few hits not fall in, but he's still a better option than Milledge -- in places other than statistics
- Alou has had some bad breaks this year, but did you see him Sunday?
- David Wright and Jose Reyes are pretty good for us; if only we could find a spot for David Wright in the lineup
- Luis Castillo brings a veteran presence to 2B that badly needed it -- hey, there's no I in "team," nor is there an O, P, or S
- We're still in first place
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.
There is, of course, some truth to what the "stay positive" management issues to the press, but it all seems fairly rose-colored. It's not time to panic, but it may be time to get pissed off. Everyone from Buster Olney to Gary Cohen to . . . me . . . has noticed that the Met Machine has a couple of kinks in the works; it's been hard to put a finger on it, exactly, but this team is running at about 75-80% of capacity most of the time these days. The Phils and friggin' Braves are not the woeful clubs that fell back early last year and made it easy, but nor is this the club that put it into overdrive and got it done. Still, the Mets are indeed in first, and there's enough talent here that if the loose ends can be battened down, this ship may still fly. (Hey, we've got issues of our own here at MLC, mind you.)
There's also some truth amid the Chicken Littles and dime-a-dozen clowns who populate the message boards -- the Township's stepchildren. Most of the time you can tell which way the wind is blowing in Metville from their comments -- that millisecond, of course, without any perspective, historical basis, or sense of the 162-game season. On occasion, however, the comments hit home with some very harsh assessments of this team. There are holes in the club, make no mistake -- but they're rarely the unsalvageable kind that are depicted so eloquently on a nightly basis in the blogosphere's equivalent of "down at the docks." (They are right about Wright & Reyes, though.)
We the blogging intelligentsia aren't immune to either trend; though we might stray towards the jumpy end of the bar (look, following 162 games all too closely will do that to you), we're also capable of willfully planting our heads in the sand and wishing away the flaws that could ruin our autumns. By and large, however, we're the rational, measured, and yet brutally honest assessors of what goes on in MetLand from Saint Patrick to Chris Columbus.
This isn't meant as self-promotion; rather, it's a plea for anyone in Metbloggers' galoshes to trust himself or herself and take the words of those too close to the club or too far from sensibility with many grains of salt.
We're nearing the 3/4 mark of the season. A million miles past "it's still early," though there's still "lotta ball left," as my little friend might say. We know our teams very, very well by this point. Our collective gut will guide us, and let not Willie Randolph nor "crazeemetdude31" nor Steve "Philler" Phillips nor Joe Morgan nor even David Wright fool us.
We know where this season is going, or at least we know a range of realistic best-case and worst-case. I'll call those 94 wins / the division title and 85 wins / 3rd place, respectively, and each week that nine-game gap will close by a game. Rob went all-in on his Sox, and frankly, he should. I can't -- or maybe won't -- follow suit right now. I'll only say one thing definitively: it's gonna be a bumpy fucking road, but the Mets will damn well be right there, wide-eyed and waiting for the umpire's call when the final dust settles on this regular season.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Red Sox 6, Orioles 2
Orioles 6, Red Sox 3 (10)
On the bright side of things, I have an extremely useful mnemonic device for remembering how to pronounce Eric Gagne's French-inflected last name: I just use the same words opposing fans shout after one of his pitches leaves the bat. Gone, yay!
While the standings will show that the Sox lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles to give back 2 more to the Yankees, the reality of the situation is that Gagne is fully and squarely responsible for both losses, with small assists from Hideki Okajima. Gagne gave up a 2-run homer to Miguel Tejada to tie today's game in the bottom of the 8th and spoil a solid outing by Curt Schilling - the outcome was academic from that point.
I was fortunate, at least in small part, because I chose to first watch the PGA Championship and then go for a run instead of watch the Sox game. I get to this point in most seasons, when the weight and stress of over-investing in each game becomes too much to bear over the course of 162. It's a bizarre phenomenon, and one Whit and I briefly discussed this morning. We care so much about these teams of ours, eschewing the rational self-analysis that would nearly certainly reveal us as more than slightly mad, and that caring creates moments where we simply can't bear to watch. I've got a business trip to, of all places, Baltimore over the next few days, so I'll get a much needed break from the obsession.
Here's the thing, though. (You know you've missed it, admit it.) This Red Sox team's really damn good. Sure, it's much harder to be the hunted than the hunter, but they haven't built the game's best record through 117 games on smoke and mirrors. I had the Era of Positivity a few years back, and while I'm not revisiting that old chestnut, I'm echoing Jim Fassel and going all in. No panic about the oncoming Yankee menace - the Sox are making the playoffs, whether or not they win the division, and while I'd be hella pissed if they get overtaken, I'll still remember that the 2004 World Series Champions were a Wild Card entry. This is a good damn team with the league's best bullpen and a lineup that's solid if not spectacular 1-9. My chips are in the middle of the table - let's see who calls.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Marlins 7, Mets 5
Let's pick it up at the start of the 7th inning with the Mets up, 3-1...
C Ross singled to left.
The Reaction at Home:
No problem. Glavine's been dodging bullets most of the night.
T Linden flied out to left.
The Reaction at Home:
See? Told you.
G Mota relieved T Glavine.
The Reaction at Home:
Why?? Because he's thrown 104 pitches? Because Ramirez is up? Too soon.
H Ramirez singled to center, C Ross to third.
The Reaction at Home:
Saw that coming.
A De Aza struck out swinging, H Ramirez stole second.
The Reaction at Home:
All right. Maybe we'll get out of this unscathed.
M Cabrera intentionally walked.
The Reaction at Home:
Why? What? To get to Willingham? No. No.
I don't like this.
I don't like this at all.
I do not like this.
I would not like it on a boat.
I would not like it with a--
J Willingham homered to left, C Ross, H Ramirez and M Cabrera scored.
The Reaction at Home:
Saw that coming.
Oh, God. I want to puke.
And then the Mets plated two to tie it -- and almost a third. Jose Reyes had one of the most controversial trips around the bases ever run. Bunted down the first-base line, the pitcher hit him with the throw. He was clearly inside the foul line. Called safe, shoulda been out. Then he stole second. Close play. Called safe, shoulda been safe. Then he came home on a foul pop to shallow right. Called out, and based on the shoddy camera angles I saw, I have no idea -- I'm saying he shoulda been safe, just because.
After that, the bullpen did what they keep doing again and again as if to say, "Just got off Expedia -- got a great rate on a trip to 3rd place." Heilman walked two and plunked one, Miggy drove in a pair to win it, and the Braves are now 2.5 out, the Phils 3.
Now comes news that Paulie Lo Duca is DL-bound with a re-injured hammy. You know, one can only get punted in the groin so many times in a row without suffering some permanent damage. I'm wondering when the last time a fan of a first-place team on August 11 saw such a bleak landscape.
As for the bullpen problem -- all I can say is you knew it was large, Omar.
Braves 7, Mets 6
Marlins 4, Mets 3
Yeah, like he said.
And like I responded to Rob last night, Billy Wagner had no business blowing a save to that lineup, not when he's been that fearsome all year. But because he's been so stellar, it's really hard to say much beyond "Well, nobody's perfect" after such a loss.
The problem, of course, is that while Wags recorded the save against the Braves in his last outing, as you probably recall it was shaky and lucky and, when coupled with last night's work, just enough reason for Doubting Thomas to poke his head into the conversation. Hi, Tom. Now please go away.
Gary Cohen is veteran enough that he knows not to tempt fate in most cases, but really, last night he was asking for it. He spoke at length about Wagner's recent dominance, going on about the closer's scoreless inning streak. He touched on Wednesday's scare, but ended up calling it "a thing of beauty" because of the way it concluded. Taken on its own, perhaps it was a thing of beauty, and I acknowledged it as such in my celestial-themed post. Of course, examining anything in a vacuum other than spare change amid carpet lint is usually worthless.
As an aside, what I perceived as "hell" Tuesday night was a pathetically pale comparison to the real thing . . . which I got to experience Thursday night. Okay, in terms of bad times, globally speaking, none of this is really all that horrible. But a night of nodding off intermittently on a small chair near baggage claim in the Newark airport between the hours of 1 and 5 in the AM -- well, when that was the best part of the episode, seeing as I wasn't standing in line at Continental Customer Service (three times for a total of five hours) . . . it felt like one of Lucifer's summer houses, I'll just say that.
So now we're up to a consecutive pair of wild, ineffective outings for B-Wag. Three of a kind and he'll have brought on himself the storm of overdramatic despair that follows. And if the Mets drop two of three or, dare I say it, get swept by the lowly Marlins at home, they'll deserve and should expect the three-alarm-fire that ignites across the Township, throughout the papers, and on the talk radio short bus.
At least tonight Gary Cohen won't spend much time bragging about how successful the Mets' closer has been.
The Braves and to a lesser extent the Phillies seemed to have locked their trailers onto the Mets' hitch from Day 1 this season. When the Mets revved it up and shot out of the gates, those clubs were just a few paces off the clip; when the Mets toured the Badlands, so, too, did they; and now that the Mets have once again begun to ascend the mountain, the rearview shows the dreaded A & P logos cruising steadily behind. Almost drafting off the Metwagon, if you will. What we fear most right now is the pitstop, detour, or turn-off that veers downhill, right as Atlanta or Philly has unlocked their trailer from our hitch -- and watching them fly on by. That's the trouble; nothing's in a vacuum, there will always be NL East standings -- and yet you can't worry about the others, you just need to take care of your own business. Don't look back now . . . things may be closer than they appear.
Orioles 6, Red Sox 5
Friday, Bloody Friday for the Sox and Mets. I'll let Whit chronicle his squad's meltdown, but last night was clearly the worst loss of the season for the Sox, just as they appeared to be on their way to one of their best wins.
Erik Bedard dominated the Sox through 7 innings, but Daisuke Matsuzaka nearly matched him, allowing only a single tally over the same span. With 2 outs in the top of the 8th, the impossible happened - Wily Mo Pena capped off a patient at-bat by ripping a 2-strike breaking ball to center to plate 2 runs and give the Sox their first lead. Hits by Papi and Manny stretched the gap to 5-1 with a rested bullpen ready to slam the door.
Except that the door bounced back right in Eric Gagne's face, and by the time he recovered with help from Hideki Okajima, the game was tied at 5. When Coco Crisp's noodle arm couldn't even get the ball back to the infield from medium center in the bottom of the 9th, Brian Roberts scampered home on a sac fly to hand the Sox a painful loss.
I'm just gonna get this one out of my system, instead of belaboring my disgust. Shit happens, I suppose. Today's bounceback contest against the same O's will be a telling affair.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Red Sox 9, Angels 6
The Red Sox diaspora is already talking about this one as if it has season-saving import after the Sox battled back from an early 3-0 deficit and overcame Jon Lester’s ineffective outing to stifle the Angels. The Sox themselves? More concerned with Papi’s wardrobe, Dominican King Kong impersonations, and the prospect of Reggie Miller joining the Celtics, apparently.
Two days ago, I repeated the argument that successful Red Sox teams need a bit of goofball distraction to insulate them from the neuroses of their wackjob fanbase, presently company included. With the affable Terry Francona as ringmaster, there’s already plenty of evidence that these Sox are plenty loose – witness Manny’s new bull and matador post-homer routine – and the Globe story linked above offers confirmation. Idiots a la 2004? Perhaps not. But a different brand of own-beat marchers nonetheless.
As for last night, I fell asleep right before the Sox woke up. Lester, to his credit, didn’t mince words when asked to describe his performance. “I was terrible”, he said, and he was right. He gets a few more starts before the worries come. The bullpen backed him up admirably allowing 1 run and 4 hits in 5 1/3 innings, with zeroes across the board after the 5th inning. The three-headed endgame beast was in a particularly foul mood, with Okajima, Gagne and Papelbon combining to strike out 4 and allow a single hit in their 3 1/3 innings.
Dustin Pedroia continues to make his case as the AL’s Rookie of the Year, as his homer to left broke a 6-6 tie and turned out to be the winning run. Mike Lowell reached base 5 times and continues to be the Sox’ leader in RsBI – you could’ve taken Vegas deep if you’d bet on that before the season started.
As a group last night, the Sox just said no. No, we’re not losing this one, sorry Chone, you pesky little bastard. It’s about damn time.
Mets 4, Braves 3
Upon further review, maybe I wasn't in hell the other night. Maybe it was Purgatory. I don't know . . . maybe it was Iowa. The result's of last night's follow-up, however, make me think that I was paying my dues Tuesday for the Wednesday redemption.
It's a microcosm for sports fandom on the whole. The glory is exponentially more personally satisfying when you're toiled through lean times. The Brooklyn Dodgers finally winning the World Series in 1955 had to be phenomenal for all of the team's fans, but so much moreso for the dedicated contingent whose hope and interest had never waned, even under the strain of gut-wrenching failures galore. Rob can tell you all about such a feeling, though his compatriots a generation or two older can do so even more. Yankee fans? Not so much, spoiled by the spoils of success. (Maybe, just maybe, a Bronx dweller who came of age in '64 or so and had to wait until '77 . . . but it doesn't really measure up.)
I myself was spoiled like this; my baseball team won one of the most thrilling, heralded, replayed (and if you're Rob, horrifying) championships in history when I was 16. Meanwhile, my football team captured three titles between my entre into middle school and my college graduation. I loved it, and I thought I appreciated it, but I hadn't paid my dues. Yet.
Now that the Mets have suffered through some pretty God-awful years, I have a significantly more acute appreciation for any future returns to the promised land. Sure, 2000 was a reprieve from the doldrums, but losing to the Yankees left a little scar somewhere on the Township's person as well. (A Yankee fan in the bar the other night expressed disappointment that that Series hadn't gone 6 or 7 games to make it more exciting; I resisted the urge to invite him to go have intercourse with himself only because I saw that it was his best feeble attempt at saying something empathetic.) If the Mets ever do hoist that trophy again, I'll feel a release that's a fraction of what Sox fans felt in '04 (or the other Sox fans in '05), but it will be heaven after some time in hell. (See Misery Loves Company, Volume 1.)
As for my gridiron club, we'll be waiting a long, long time for that return to the mountaintop, but that's another story.
And so last night was a little slice of heaven -- the Mets go down by a pair, the aforeragged Luis Castillo ties it up, the yestergriped Moises Alou hits a pitch into the deep pen (a pitch I never would've thought he could drive out), BWag makes it interesting, BWag closes it out, and I spend all evening accompanied by several great friends of 20 years chasing Sam with Stella into the night.
It gets better than that for me, but not by much, and not very often.
Game 3 this afternoon . . . just happy to be alive (and that my baseball team is very much the same) today. Let's see what happens.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Braves 7, Mets 3
Not sure where it falls, maybe between the sixth and seventh levels, but watching the Mets get throttled by the Atlanta Braves whilst surrounded by Yankee fans as the Bombers pummel their opponent on an adjacent television is somewhere fairly deep in Dante's Hell. Who new that Hades had an outstation in Park Ridge, NJ?
It was all going swimmingly for . . . a few moments, perhaps, then went the way of Dennis Wilson. I'd tracked down a decent restaurant/bar near my hotel, managed one of the few remaining barstools, gotten a nicely-poured pint, and had my request for the Mets game on the closest telly fulfilled quickly. The outspoken Yanks fan to my left -- congenial though he was -- was taken to his table in the dining room. Here we go.
And then the second batter of the game, the legendary Matt Diaz, took Ollie Perez bleacherwards. All downhill from there.
Ollie looked as "touchable" as he has in quite some time, and THE Buddy Carlyle kept the Mets in check most of the night. (Don't worry, boys, it's only Smoltz & Hudson for the rest of the series.) Moises "Giddyup . . . er, GIDP" Alou ended rally after mini-rally. The Yankee fans kept filing in as if orchestrated in a Let's Taunt Whitney kind of way. The Jays outfielders kept diving on the turf without much concern for where the flyballs were landing. The cheeseburger was blatantly overcooked. And the Mets were losing to the GDMFSOB Braves.
A few glints of enjoyment in the otherwise bleak night: ARod getting plunked again, Larry Bowa spazzing out, and Lyle Overbay calling ARod something that rhymes with "glitch"; The Mets not quite rolling over, mustering three runs and keeping me interested; a flurry of enjoyable text messages with bro-in-law Patrick and bro-in-MLC Rob about all of these various subjects and more (with more expletives, natch); at least one pint on the house, and a $23 tab for a burger and countless Guinnesses.
Just one game, but at least one of my fellow Mets fans has quickly gone from "Let's sweep the Braves and bury them" to "God, I pray we win one game." Such is life in the Township -- and the Nation. We're getting close to that time of year when the temperature begins to cool (not happening yet) and the emotions start to run hot (oh, yeah). Let's win Game 2 tonight and give us a reason to get fired up.
Angels 10, Red Sox 4
See the post immediately below this one. It's pretty simple. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The operative facts are these. The Red Sox, though they have been only slightly above-average since jumping out to a double-digit division lead, still maintain a .601 winning percentage. If they keep that same pace through the end of the season, and there are no injury- or performance-related reasons to suggest they are any worse than they have been year-to-date, they will win somewhere around 97 games. Even after they’ve seen their lead whittled away under the strains of an inordinately hot streak by their rival, they still lead the AL East by 5 games. In order for the Yankees to win 97 games, they’ll have to blaze a .694 pace over the season’s final 49 contests. Not impossible, but substantively difficult given the level of their competition and the question marks that still remain regarding their pitching staff. Of course, if the Sox reprise last season's final months, all bets are off, as will be many of the fixtures in my living room.
Yes, the Sox have done a master-gardener’s job of watering and tending the seeds of doubt over the past several weeks, aided by the extra-strength fertilizer of the Yankee resurgence. Those seeds are growing into little shoots, and poking above the soil for the first time in quite a few months. Personally, the details of my life and a West Coast swing for the Sox have rendered any meaningful contact with the team’s day-to-day doings impossible. In very many ways, that’s kept my panic to a low rumbling instead of an ear-splitting klaxon’s scream.
It was nice to see Toronto show some spine last night in overdue retaliation for A-Rod’s early-season bush league baserunning stunt. If it’s all the same, though, I’d rather see them channel their anger into a halfway decent on-field performance. As it stands, they look very much like a little brother having a tantrum while their big brother stands amusedly by, holding them at arm’s length with his hand on their head while they flail about ineffectually.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Angels 4, Red Sox 2
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana
“History will teach us nothing” – Sting
Now that the Yankees are a mere 6 games behind the Sox, it’s quite certain that the Worldwide Leader, Dan Shaughnessy, Murray Chass, Bob Klapisch and the rest of the media-entertainment complex will be beating the 1978 horse until long after it expires. Yesterday, SoSH superhero Jose Melendez had a unique and I think spot-on take on the relevance of that 29 year-old choke:
Damn right. As another great American once said, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Wait, I mean, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Don Zimmer’s not walking through that door, setting off airport metal detectors, hating all his best players and panicking every time he makes out a lineup card. The shredded pitching staff’s not walking through that door. Ron Guidry as Louisiana Lightning isn't walking through that door, unless he’s going to talk Kyle Farnsworth off a ledge.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Bam. That one little sentence, that casual string of symbols and scratches flowing from George Santayana’s quill explains why we study history. We wouldn’t want to repeat the miseries of the past would we? Certainly not. Indeed, William Shirer made that line the epigraph for “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” an account of some history we definitely don’t want to repeat. The sentiment is right. Repeating the past is best avoided. In too many cases the past is simply awful, but even when the past is beautiful is it really something we wish to repeat, or is progress the goal of eternity?
There is, however, a problem with Santayana’s little cliché. It is wrong. That is not to say that it is an incomplete model, that it, like how the Newtonian laws, explains some things very well, while at the same time being verifiably untrue. It is not merely flawed; it stands in direct opposition to truth. Those who do remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
What has an excessive devotion to history ever brought us? Hubris, anger, vengeance. Would we not be better off if no Serb had heard of the Field of Blackbirds, or knew the tragic story of Tsar Lazar? Would social progress in India not proceed more smoothly if no one remembered his caste?
History is not a teacher. It is not some kindly scholar eager to impart wisdom to the generations. History is a propagandist, eager to demand moral clarity where none exists.
History is not a lover, gently letting us know that we are part of something bigger.
History is a bitch, offering any flattery to get the drama she craves, spreading disease and decay across generations.
History is not a friend. It offers no counsel, no compassion, no support.
History is a traitor, leading us to disaster with promises of insight.
History is the problem in two ways. First, history is an illusionist, a master of misdirection. Much as the conjurer distracts us from his manipulations with movements of the hand, history distracts us from the issue of the day by focusing our attention on the movements of the past. The Maginot line, that monument to the ineffectiveness of backward thinking, is nothing if not an indictment of close attention to history. Baseball has its Maginot lines, and one guards the Bronx. The Yankees are fixated on the past. For them, the solution to any problem, it seems, is a closer study of that which has gone before. First base is a problem? Bring back Tino Martinez. The starting pitching is lacking? Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens used to be good, so they must be good now. The Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens of today are nothing more than a machine gun bunker on the Franco-German border, threatening, but ultimately irrelevant.
The second curse of history is that one’s very fixation on it is the greatest guarantor of its recurrence. So much conflict in the world, so much despair, is driven by fear of what has happened before, of past conquest, of past slavery, of past pain. And much like Oedipus, desperately trying to avoid a perceived fate, people around the world, over and over, have charged recklessly into the arms of their damnable past thereby guaranteeing a damnable future.
Remember 1978? Forget it. Only because we know that the Red Sox blew a huge lead in 1978 do we think it possible that it could happen again. Yet, only by acting fearfully, could it happen this year. This is not 1978. The Yankees have no Ron Guidry, save the graying pitching coach. We are better than them. And yet, fear persists. What if it happens again? But it will not. It cannot. It cannot, unless fear moves us to irrationality.
The genius of the 2004 Red Sox was their utter mindlessness. Their lack of attention to tradition, to history, allowed them to avoid letting fear direct their actions. Conversely, the 2004 Yankees’ fixation on history led to hubris, and, invariably, nemesis. The 2004 lesson, the silliness, the shallowness, the disregard for the norms of the game, that is what must be emulated if we are to have success in 2007. Of course, that would be taking a lesson from history.
Best to avoid it.
The schedule does not favor the Red Sox right now, and significantly favors their major competitor. That calculus changes substantially in less than a week. Until then, I’ll keep repeating this mantra and chewing my fingernails. I’m simply not ready to contemplate any alternative reality.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Red Sox 9, Mariners 2
Y'know, perhaps someone should take Mariners Executive Vice President Bill Bavasi aside a gently inform him that maybe it's not such a great idea to let a guy WEARING A FREAKING MASCOT SUIT WITH AN ENORMOUS MOOSE HEAD DRIVE AN ATV AROUND ATHLETES WITH MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS IN THE MIDST OF A PENNANT RACE!
In case you missed it yesterday, the Mariner Moose drove his motorized contraption into Coco Crisp's legs as the latter stepped out of the dugout on his way to centerfield. Only Coco's last-second recognition of the impending accident made the end result more comedy than tragedy, as the Moose had no idea he'd hit the Sox leadoff hitter. Stands to reason, I guess, he's quite probably got a field of vision comparable to the Blind Boys of Alabama (note - not necessarily all blind; it's a figure of speech) while wearing that giant fur head. And only Coco's mild demeanor saved the Moose from taking a bat to the head. If he'd hit Mike Timlin, his next sensation would've almost certainly been courtesy of an arrow to his chest.
Perhaps the M's were pulling out all the stops to try to win, as Coco continued his robust play with doubles in his first 2 plate appearances on the way to a 2-for-4, 2 run day. Josh Beckett picked up where Daisuke Matsuzaka left off on Saturday, striking out 9 in 6 2/3 innings and wriggling out of several minor jams to post his 14th win. The bats started slowly, only scoring 2 in the first 2 innings despite loading the bases in each frame - unfortunately a bit of an epidemic of late. They did come to life late, as the Sox posted 6 in the final 3 innings to make this one a laugher and get Papelbon some rest.
Even as the score was 3-1 in the 6th, though, I had very little doubt that the Sox would win, which is a pleasant byproduct of the makeup and consistency of their bullpen. That's perhaps the unheralded key to the Sox' success to date. The offense has been fine and the starting staff has performed at least up to expectations, if not better, but the bullpen has been sensational with very few exceptions.
Schilling gets the ball tonight against the Angels, with more than a few of us holding our breath slightly. The Yankees are only 1/2 game out in the Wild Card race, so whether or not they catch the Sox in the AL East, odds look pretty good for a third Sox/Yanks postseason lollapalooza in 4 years. Having a healthy and effective Schilling man a post in the rotation makes me a lot more optimistic about that matchup.
Mets 8, Cubs 3
For an event that seemed a month or so late, it was right on time. Last night Tom Glavine finally summited the 300-win apex we've been talking about for years -- if only in far-off, maybe-we-should-re-sign him discussions. It all came together at Wrigley Field on national television to close out a weekend full of media-stomped milestones. There were probably more satisfying scenarios for the dramatic among us (in Atlanta, perhaps), but that's hardly Glavine's way. His workmanlike demeanor is part of what's kept him at arm's length amid the Townshippers, but as he came down this personal stretch, most of us began to open the arms for a well-deserved bear hug.
And just as quickly we're back to work.
Because the stage was so properly set for last night's win, everything neatly falling into place was unsurprising. Glavine plating the first run with a single after 'Stings stole second with two outs and the pitcher batting seemed about right. Alfonso Soriano pulling up lame (not in the same way he did in the '03 World Series) was unfortunate, but the fact that it killed a potentially big inning made it seem just. Guillerrible Mota and Pedreadful Feliciano looked to undo all of the good that TG did in his six-plus frames of work, but Aaron (formerly Errant) Heilman got the third out to stay the course. Of course. And the Mets knocking out 16 hits as if they do it all the time was right in line with this game's destiny. Even Luis Castillo went 4-for-5 before leaving with cramps. (We'll leave out the snide Back to School rejoinder there, if only to keep things positive.)
The most important aspect of last night's victory for Glavine was that now we can put this behind us. It's curious -- but not shocking in the least -- that while those of us in the Mets' sliver of the blogosphere have had little more than a few asides regarding the 300th win all along, each of the bigger sports media outlets have had, as Bob Marley would put it, so much things to say. For us, it's a nice moment but not what we're really tuned in to see. But hey, ESPN . . . go crazy. See if you can scientifically, 100% conclusively determine whether there will actually be another 300-game winner. Then re-run the segment after Randy Johnson wins his.
Would we have dissertation-depth bloggings if Tom Glavine weren't destined for an A-cap in Cooperstown? If he were (here we go) a real Met? Well . . .
Okay, I'll say this. God willing and the creek don't rise, if David Wright and Jose Reyes reach some storied milestones years from now -- still wearing the royal blue and blaze orange, mind you -- you can be sure that (presuming I'm still kicking) there will be 3,000 words on the glory of our lads that I'll write and you won't read. That said, Glavine is the only player to have been on the New York Mets' active roster since Misery Loves Company's inception in April of 2003. He's got 58 wins as a Met, placing him 13th all-time (one win from 11th and one season from displacing Steve Trachsel in the Top 10). This speaks volumes about Glavine's place in Met history, despite our slow-to-accept stance. (Uh, it also speaks volumes about the leaflet that is the Mets' record book, that he could be that high up in the all-time rankings, but I digress.)
He's as real a Met as nearly anyone donning the colors these days, whether we fully embrace him or not. He's a Hall of Fame pitcher, he's the guy the Mets are calling "ace" right now, and I can tell you one thing: we'd sure rather he were a "true Brave" in a Met uniform winning #300 than still in a Brave uniform doing the same. Tom Glavine doesn't need my say-so, but he's a Met and that's all that matters.
Okay, that's enough. Time to move on. 301 upcoming, and far more significantly, a pennant run that goes through "The Cradle of Liberty" (though the Statue resides in N.Y.) and "The City Too Busy to Hate" (but wait . . . we're not too busy). The Phils and Braves aren't going away any time soon, so let's brace ourselves for a showdown, starting Tuesday against the real Braves at Shea. Game on.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Mariners 7, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 4, Mariners 3
I'm looking forward to hunkering down in my living room at 4:05 this afternoon to actually watch a Red Sox game, marking the first time I've had that opportunity since Fausto Carmona bested Josh Beckett some 10 days ago. While the Sox have played reasonably well over that span, winning 6 of 9, the object in the rearview mirror has, like Leo, been getting larger, courtesy of a schedule that would make many AAA managers smile.
The Yankees are 17-7 over their last 24 contests, thanks in very large part to their suddenly sick offense, which in turn has been abetted by the arms of the Devil Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, White Sox, and Royals. One more today for the Bombers against the Royals and a trio in Toronto before real big league teams get a crack at them.
All of which means sphincter puckering for Sox fans, and heel-digging for the Sox themselves. After one more in Seattle and three in Anaheim, the Sox get 13 of their next 17 against the Devil Rays, Orioles, and White Sox, followed by three in the Bronx at the end of August. Even as the standings tighten and the Yankees play up to their potential, the Sox still control their own destiny. Win the series they're supposed to against bad teams, break even against the good teams, and they win the East. Stumble, and September gets way more interesting than it needs to be. I could do without interesting.