Saturday, October 11, 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Game 1 - ALCS

Red Sox 2, Rays 0

Red Sox lead 1-0

By dint of an egregious lack of calendar savvy and unwillingness to spend the next several weeks sleeping in the guest room, I found myself in a darkened movie theater (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - two thumbs up, if you like your coming of age movies with a dollop of pro-gay humor, moderately awkward lead actors, and some indie rock) at 8:37 EST last night as James Shields threw the first pitch of the 2008 ALCS to Jacoby Ellsbury. And through the magic of DVR, I didn't miss a moment of game action.

The dichotomy of Daisuke Matsuzaka was on full display last night, the mystical Easterner exploring the duality of man throughout what ultimately was a splendid performance. Of note, he walked the bases loaded in the first, but didn't give up a hit until the 7th. He put runners on the corners with none out in the 7th, and didn't so much as allow them to twitch a muscle in retiring the next three batters. Batters hit .164 against Dice-K with runners in scoring position - it's almost as if he enjoys degree of difficulty. For the record, if he's reading, I enjoy it quite somewhat less.

Matsuzaka's bullpen mates studied well at the feet of the implacable escape artist, turning his two-runners-on, none-out jam in the 8th inning into an adventurous pop to right on a 3-0 count (Carlos Pena vs. Hideki Okajima) and a rally-killing 6-4-3 double-up (Evan Longoria vs. Justin Masterson).

Jonathan Papelbon brooked no Zen in his 9th inning appearance, bringing some seriously straightforward Western heat entirely lacking in nuance. His 1-2-3 frame was exactly the kind of drama-free closure this particular onlooker desired.

And with that, the Sox have yanked home-field advantage from the Rays in a yard that had been nothing so much as a torture chamber for the Boston 9 this season. I don't mean to be greedy, and all, but now I'd prefer not to settle for a split. And with Josh Beckett having something to prove tonight, I can't complain about the Sox' prospects this evening.

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