Games 143 & 144 - Red Sox
Orioles 11, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 3, Orioles 2
The Sox did what they're supposed to do against crappy teams, taking 3 of 4 at Red Sox Park at Camden Yards. They did cough up the series' third game on "Take Back the Yards Night", to the delight of the 3, 354 Orioles fans who actually attended the game.
Of far more import than the woebegone Baltimore franchise was Daisuke Matsuzaka's performance during Saturday's loss. He failed to make it out of the third inning, allowing 8 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 2+ innings to a bunch of guys who'd most recently been seen trolling for high school talent at MacArthur Center in Norfolk. Over his last 6 starts, the erstwhile Rookie of the Year candidate has allowed 28 runs in 26.33 innings for a tidy 9.57 ERA, yielding 32 hits and 14 walks over the same span. He's now pitched 184 innings on the season and has recently hinted that he's feeling the combined strain of the longer MLB campaign and the shorter rest between starts as compared to the norms of his home league.
As much as it makes my heart race and offends my delicate constitution, I'm not going out on a limb to say that the Sox will make the playoffs - if even the division race remains up in the air. If we accept that as true, the most important goal over the next 18 games is to ensure that the team's best prepared to succeed in October. An effective Matsuzaka is a big part of that preparation - otherwise the Sox will be rolling the dice on Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, or Clay Buchholz as the No. 3 postseason starter. All of those guys have upside, but all of them present substantial risks, as well. The Sox need to store Matsuzaka away like the fragile flower he seems to have become, only bringing him out for 1 or 2 carefully chosen starts between now and the season's end.
Once again, the opening day of the NFL season served to cement my feeling's about the nation's new favorite sport in comparison with the pastime of old. While the Red Sox' nailbiter with the O's unfolded in parallel with the Redskins' season opener against the Dolphins, I spent the better part of the afternoon glued to MASN's baseball telecast. Frankly, I was far more interested in my fantasy football squad's result that I was the 'Skins. I managed an emphatic fist pump when Jonathan Papelbon closed out the O's. Meanwhile, I missed Shaun Suisham's game-winning kick against the Dolphins. I know mine is a minority viewpoint, but give me Baseball Poetry over the Super Bowl Shuffle any day.