Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gone Daddy Gone

Games 121 through 125 - Red Sox

Yankees 20, Red Sox 11
Red Sox 14, Yankees 1
Yankees 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 12, White Sox 7
Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
Record: 72-53

We interrupt this all-too-regularly scheduled blog-apathy to bring you good tidings of great joy. Jacoby Ellsbury swiped his 55th base of the season last night, breaking the all-time Sox mark held by Tommy Harper for nearly 35 years. And since this season has featured opposing baserunners gamboling around the paths with impunity against defenseless Boston backstops, a little payback from one of our guys is a small measure of poetic justice. I'll try to remember that the next time Tampa Bay steals 13 bases in a game.

The Sox have won a pair of weird ones against Chicago, hard on the heels of the most offensive Sox/Yanks 3-game set in history. The 58 runs scored by the two teams over the weekend top the list of total tallies in a three-gamer their storied rivalry. Me, I'm just happy the Sox won one of those games. Not happy at all, though, about Josh Beckett's sudden descent into gopher-giving madness.

The Yankees 20-spot effectively ended Brad Penny's Red Sox career, brief and unmemorable as it may be. Tim Wakefield comes back from the DL today, and his return to the roster in addition to the Sox' acquisition of the prickly Billy Wagner signaled tails-you-lose for Penny. Lipstick on a pig, or the final piece of the puzzle? Tune in next week (month?) and I'll give you the answer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now. You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.

Games 94-122: Yankees

Yankees 6, Orioles 4
Yankees 6, A's 3
Yankees 8, A's 3
A's 6, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, A's 5
Yankees 11, Rays 4
Rays 6, Yankees 2
Yankees 6, Rays 2
White Sox 3, Yankees 2
White Sox 10, Yankees 5
White Sox 14, Yankees 4
Yankees 8, White Sox 5
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3
Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4
Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
Blue Jays 5, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, Blue Jays 5
Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3 (11)
Yankees 11, Mariners 1
Yankees 4, Mariners 2
Yankees 5, Mariners 2
Mariners 10, Yankees 3
A's 3, Yankees 0
Yankees 7, A's 2
Yankees 3, A's 2
Yankees 20, Red Sox 11

Record: 77-45

OK, I'm back, after once again disappearing for waaaaaaay too long. And in fact, today I'm back in realtime, as I'm down at the cracker factory on a Saturday while the Yanks and Red Sox do battle on Fox. Need to get the GameCast up...and I'll try to follow along here in this very post. I guess my only solace is I don't have to listen to McCarver and Buck right now...

Well, that's freaking annoying...couldn't even get audio for the game (for free) anywhere. So now I'm just following the action on this GameDay feature on while my Pandora station serenades me with Lionel...and Third Bass...and Journey (it's a pretty eclectic collection).

Shameless blog's one reason why you haven't seen me in awhile. I'm on a health food kick.

I think last time I finally chimed in after a 40+ game absence, rob got all snippy because I was happy and excited about the play of my boys. Well, I'm back today again after a long hiatus, and sorry robert, but the Yankees continue to play extremely well...but despite the 20-11 win last night let's see how today and Sunday play out before you try that reverse psychology crap of conceeding the division to the Yanks. Because if we've learned anythign over the years, these two teams always manage to surprise us...and not always in the good "hey a naked chick just jumped out of a birthday cake" way.

Things that, despite their strong second half play (26-8), worry me:
- The apparent softness of Joba. And the higher ups in dealing with him. I'm a little sick of this babying. If he's a starter, he's a starter...why in god's name would they shift him to the bullpen right before the playoffs start? You have a young kid in the bullpen who has not only acclimated himself quite nicely, but who has flat out excelled in the pen (sorry, was channeling Mark Schlereth for a moment). Phil Hughes, take a bow, because I did not see that coming. Joba's a starter, Hughes is the reliever (and Rivera's heir apparent in this humble guy's opinion). Cash, you had it switched in your mind, but just look at the results. Don't fuck this up.

3-0 Red Sox. So nice to see David Ortiz got a new, even harder to detect, PED shipment lately.

- The Yankees record against two potential playoff opponents (yes rob, it is true, I am looking forward to a playoff appearance by the pinstriped ones): 1-3 vs Ozzie's White Sox and 2-4 against the Angels. Small sample sizes, yes, but the Angels absolutely own NY over the last, what, 7 years? (both regular season and playoffs)

-Player health, Hideki Matsui's knees in particular. I realize what he did last night, but how many times can you get your knees drained before you just fall apart in the batter's box? And why do I have this horrible feeling Pettitte or Burnett's arms are going to snap?

4-0 Boston. Alex Gonzalez just homered. Seriously? Alex Gonzalez? Ugh. A.J., get your head out of your ass.

You know what, it looks like I'm actually going to be able to escape Kramerica right now, and despite the four run deficit I'm happy to head home and actually watch this game rather than some lame gamecast widget on my PC. It's good to be back boys, and hopefully you and our loyal reader(s) are stuck with me through October. Oh yeah, rob and his Red Sox suck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Left of the Dial

Game 120 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1
Record: 69-51

Sweeps are neat.

Brad Penny and Junichi Tazawa facing the Yankees tonight and tomorrow: less neat.

Still, beggars can't be choosers. The Sox improved to 7-3 post-Bronx beatdown with yet another convincing win up North. J.D. Drew went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and Jon Lester dropped yet another dominant performance, going 8 innings for his 10th win. Dustin Pedroia returned from paternity leave to record a pair of base hits and annoy the everlovin' heck out of his teammates with baby pictures.

Lester started the season 2-4 with a 6.51 ERA in his first 8 starts. In the 17 starts since that rough patch, he's posted an 8-3 record with a 2.05 ERA. His 181 Ks are third in the AL. If he's not the best lefthanded starter in the league (especially since Cliff Lee's gone to torment the other circuit), he's on the short list. His only weakness: like Josh Beckett, he can't pitch every other day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Game 119 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 1
Record: 68-51

Buchholz > Halladay.

And that, in a nutshell, describes last night's Sox win. Knock me over with a feather.

Clay Buchholz pitched 6 strong, poised, effective innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and escaping a handful of potentially game-changing jams. Roy Halladay failed to get into the 6th inning for the first time in 42 starts, gave up homers to David Ortiz and Jason Bay, and struggled against Alex Gonzalez. Casey Kotchman and Kevin Youkilis stole bases. Takashi Saito struck out the side in the 9th inning. They played some other country's national anthem before the game. Down was up, left was right, dogs and cats frolicked in the stands.

I suppose that's why they play the games. Hope Jon Lester caught the lesson.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Victory

Game 118 - Red Sox

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 9

Good gracious. Even the wins hurt these days. The Sox blew three different four-run leads and tried to give away a three-run advantage in the bottom of the 8th before holding on to win. Based on my emotion after Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final out, I'm not sure I'd have felt any worse had the Sox lost.

On the bright side, it was, in fact, a victory. And coupled with Joe Mauer's personal demolition of the Rangers' pitching staff, it brought the Sox back to level with Texas in the Wild Card race. Every thorn has a rose, or something.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Games 116 & 117 - Red Sox

Rangers 7, Red Sox 2
Rangers 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 66-51

It all seems to be slipping away, doesn't it? Sure, the Sox still have 45 games to play, and they're only one game off the Rangers' Wild Card lead, but the vibe out of Boston is distinctly vintage late 2006.

In a lot of ways, the Sox seem to be approaching the season's final months like Tiger Woods did the last two rounds of this weekend's PGA Championship. Where Woods sought to make pars, hit the center of greens, minimize mistakes while expecting his opponents to wilt before him, the Sox' incremental, hold-steady, wait for things to turn around approach has them falling slowly but surely behind the pack.

Had I been in a position to give Tiger advice (far-fetched, to be sure, but maybe not as much as you think), I'd have implored him to go big, at least early in each of the final rounds. Had he put his foot down, stepped on his opponents' neck, broken their spirits, he might have won by a half-dozen strokes. Instead, he let Y.E. Yang stay close and gain confidence. And if Terry Francona would take my call, I'd offer him similar advice. This is time to be bold, to make obvious though perhaps unpleasant decisions in an effort to change the team's dynamic. Tell David Ortiz he's no longer the everyday DH. Have a similar discussion with Jason Varitek. Demand more from everyone, and make it clear that veteran status doesn't convey with it automatic playing time.

At this point, what do the Sox have to lose?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Use Somebody

Games 112 through 115 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Tigers 5
Red Sox 8, Tigers 2
Tigers 2, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 8, Rangers 4
Record: 66-49

Apologies for the extended absence. Team MLC has had a lot going on. Tune in to Gheorghe: The Blog on Monday to hear more.

In the meantime, the Sox seem to have righted the ship, winning 4 of 5 since that time in the Bronx we don't talk about. It's pretty clear that the Sox are playing for the Wild Card right now, so last night's win against their closest competition is a good start.

Wakefield's coming back soon, as allegedly is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Clay Buchholz has been better and better. Alex Gonzalez came over from the Reds to shore up at least the defense part of the shortstop role. Bandaids, half-measures, stopgaps. Just get to October, baby.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Old Man and the Sea

Game 110 - Phillies
Phillies 4, Cubbies 3 (sorry Pop)

Record: 62 wins, 48 losses, 3.5 games ahead of Florida

Every time the Phils get groovin', I come back here to post and instantly they throw up all over themselves. The club is 33 and 19 on the road with a gutty victory in 12 innings at the Friendly Confines. That's the best record in baseball. Unfortunately, before they left for Chicago, the Phils lost 4 of 6 at the Bank to even their home record at 29 and 29. No other contender is under 4 games north of .500. It's spectacularly frustrating. Up is down, black is white and hotel beds are more comfy than the Sleep Number bed back home.

Out of the wreckage of the squandered homestand comes the news that our dear old friend Jamie Moyer has pulled the short straw. Seems management feels that despite the fact that his 10 wins leads the staff, Jamie's pitched so poorly lately that he's gotta be the one to get bumped in favor of Pedro. Jamie's not taking it well but that's to be expected. Logically, he was the only choice. Joe Blanton, JA Happ have been very solid. If the Pedro experiment fails, Jamie will be plugged back in. How many starts Pedro will get remains to be seen.

Tune in tonight. 8PM on ESPN.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Balls of Fire

Game 111 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Record: 63-48

Insert the usual caveats regarding reading too much into what amounts to six-tenths of one percent of a baseball season here. And then proceed to say/hope/extrapolate that last night's game was a positive sign for the Sox for the following reasons:

1. They won a baseball game. This is a non-trivial matter.

2. They scored 6 runs, roughing up a very good starting pitcher in the process. Sure, they should have scored more, but that would have rendered point #3 impossible.

3. They came back to win after squandering a 4-run lead. Sure, the Detroit comeback was fueled by lackadaisical defense, middling (to be kind) relief pitching, and inefficient Sox offense, but the Sox nonetheless had a chance to choke and failed to do so for the first time in what seems like forever.

4. Jonathan Papelbon was phenomenal in his first multi-inning appearance in months. Climb on my back and ride me for a few weeks, you slumping bitches kind of wonderful.

5. Last night's game amounted to a must-win, both to end the team's longest losing streak in 3 years and because Junichi Tazawa makes the first major league start of his career tonight. After the Sox threw him headlong into the fire, choosing the 14th inning of a scoreless Sox/Yankees game as his major league debut, a home start against the Tigers should be a breath of fresh air. But it's still his first major league start.

6. Did I mention that the Sox won a game?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Idiots Rule

Games 108 through 110 - Red Sox

Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
Record: 62-48

As Whitney reminded me this weekend, somebody posted the following back in July regarding a newfound (and, shortlived, as it turns out) confusion about the Sox/Yanks rivalry: "As with most things, the Yankees are at the root of this new evil. Several times in the past week alone, Yankee-fan friends were meek, deferential even, during Sox/Yanks banter. In the past, I could always count on a "26" or a "Bucky Dent". Now, though, there's a wistful quality to my pinstriped pals' trash talking. Almost makes me feel sorry for them, mourning the loss of their swagger."

That dude is an idiot.

It is undeniably true that this weekend's disastrous series in the Bronx would have rendered me cat-kicking, raving, asylum-bound deranged had it occurred before 2004. So I suppose my current grumpy, irritable, black mood is a sign of progress. But let's be very clear on one thing. It stinks and it sucks and it stinks to lose a single game to the Yankees. To lose 4 in a row (and 6 games in the standings in 6 days) and look meek in doing so will affect my mood for the next week. And that swagger, backed up as it is by a paper-mache thin series of accomplishments in comparison to the events that took it away, is back with a vengeance. As is my angst. I find all of these things offensive to the extreme.

As opposed to the Red Sox, who are offensive to the infinitessimal. In the final 3 games of the series, Sox starting pitchers allowed 3 runs in 20 innings. And never had a chance. 15 hits and 2 runs in 33 innings of baseball. Frank "Bunting in the Dark" Viola could've replicated that line. It's safe to say that the Sox will plummet unceremoniously down through the standings should this ineptitude become a habit.

A less emotional analysis would note that the Yankees are healthy, balanced, and playing terrific baseball right now, especially at home. The Red Sox, meanwhile, aren't the Mets in terms of injuries, but they played this series without their starting leftfielder, 2 starting pitchers, and shortstop, and with their third baseman and right-fielder limited significantly. And they're playing like dogshit. In the words of the immortal Joe Manto, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I do note with some rueful, straw-grasping rationalization the reaction of most of my Yankee fan friends, who seem to be jockeying for their places at next week's parade down the Avenue of Heroes. Celebrating in August, just like foretelling the end of the world at the same juncture, has a funny way of boomeranging. I only wish I had a saying to encapsulate that truism.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sing Me Spanish Techno

Games 108 through 110 - Red Sox

Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Yankees 2, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Record: 62-48

This hangover comes courtesy of Whitney, Dale's Pale Ale, and little girls awake before 7:00 am. It also bears the gift of brevity.

I feel nearly precisely the way I felt after the Yankees went up 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS after embarrassing the Red Sox in Game 3.

And I think we know how that turned out.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Clifford The Big Red Dog

Game 106 - Phillies
Phillies 3, Rocks 1

Record: 61-45, 7 games ahead of Florida

Since we last posted, the Phillies have recovered rather nicely from a hellish June. You might recall the Phils posted a absolutley horrific 6 and 12 record against the AL East. Funny thing is, they were 3 and 3 vs. the Yanks and Sox and 3 and 9 vs. the "others".

The Phils were 43 and 37 exactly one month ago when I last posted and struggling to gather momentum. Old mo found the Phils in the familiar form of one James Calvin Rollins.

Back on July 7, Jimmy's batting stats were ghastly: .224 avg, .275 OBP, 7 HR, 33 RBI.

They are still unsightly today but they are moving northword thanks to a stellar month at the plate. His numbers are now: .245 avg, .294 OBP, 13 HR and 51 RBI.

Much better, eh? In that time the Phils went 18 and 8 while increasing their divison lead in the "Little Division That Couldn't" from 2 to 7 games.

Now that Clifford Lee has arrived to do what Cole Hamels is having so much difficulty doing - pitch as the staff ace, the Phils have every reason to feel comfortable that they are in perfect position to win a third straight division title.

Much needs to settle with regard to the rotation - who's in, who's out - and despite the huge lead, the history of this game and this franchise warns us to not look past tonight's tilt against the Fish let alone to October.

Still, I'm likin' this title defense so far.

Moon River

Game 107 - Red Sox

Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Record: 62-45

You using the whole fist there, Doc?

I guess I'm supposed to chalk last night's game up as one of the unwinnable ones. Sox were due to lose to the Yankees, every team's gonna lose their share during a 162-game season, blah, blah, blah. Placing too much emphasis on a single regular season contest is a surefire recipe for the preparation of tasty, tasty crow. But just like the Billy Mueller/Jason Varitek brawl game in July 2004 seemed (and turned out to be) a marker, so too did last night feel like an omen.

These two teams are headed in substantially different directions.

The Yankee offense is deeper and more productive at the moment, and significantly more healthy. Nothing symbolizes the Sox roster right now so much as Mike Lowell's painful, arthritic diving attempt to stab Alex Rodriguez' sharp grounder down the leftfield line in the 6th inning. 'Diving attempt' is a kindness, really - Lowell sorta toppled over and missed the ball. When he's healthy, he eats that ball up. Kevin Youkilis started in leftfield for the first time the 3 years, and if he'd been injured, I suspect Terry Francona would have been activated. Jed Lowrie, already struggling mightily to recover from wrist surgery, strained his arm on a check-swing. So go the Red Sox at the moment, while the Yankees frolic around the ballyard like Teen Wolf during a full moon. Minus the facial hair, of course.

With Phil Hughes solidifying the bullpen, the Yankee pitching staff is at least comparable, and with the Sox' current injury- and ineffectiveness-related woes, arguably better. John Smoltz, as tough an old gunslinger as he is, appears for all the world to have fired his last bullet. And Clay Buchholz doesn't seem ready to pick up the gun and keep firing. Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka's throwing stars are dulled and Tim Wakefield's killer butterflies are cocooned for at least a few more weeks. This metaphor's as cheesy as Derek Jeter's (alleged) pickup lines, but it doesn't change the fact that the Sox are reeling while the Yankees gain momentum.

Josh Beckett's got a lot riding on his shoulders tonight. Losing the first two games of this series feels for all the world like it would start a 2006-esque chain reaction. And nobody wants that.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hate Paper Doll

Game 106 - Red Sox

Rays 6, Red Sox 4
Record: 62-44

With apologies to one of the great SportsCenter commercials of all time, I offer the following two-sentence recap of last night's game, and by extension the Sox' mini-series with the Rays: Did you see it, Jack? They sucked.

And now they get to go into Yankee Stadium (New and Improved! Same Mouth-Breathing Fans, More Homeruns!) limping both figuratively and literally. Jason Bay, questionable. J.D. Drew, marginally ambulatory. Mike Lowell, carried around the bases by DeMarlo Hale. Josh Reddick, prone to spontaneous nosebleeds (also, back in the minors). John Smoltz, old (and starting today! Huzzah!).

But if they win tonight to extend their 2009 record against the Yankees to 9-0, well, that's a mindfuck of a different (pin) stripe for the New Yorkers. Here's where the MLC script says I go all contrarian, say something about positivity or targets, or balls. Problem is, I don't believe it right now. The Yankees are the big stack, and the Sox are pushing chips around trying to stay in the game. I'd be happier than Joba Chamberlain's mom in a meth den with a split this weekend. Anything more is way too much to ask.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Two Princes

Game 105 - Red Sox

Rays 4, Red Sox 2 (13)
Record: 62-43

So it appears that the coronation of Daniel Bard may have been a tad premature. Just like Terry Francona's hook.

Tito yanked Jon Lester after a leadoff HBP to Carlos Pena in the bottom of the 7th. To be fair, Lester had thrown 110 pitches to that point, but he was also dealing, having only allowed 3 hits and no runs. Hideki Okajima relieved Lester and gave up a single before inducing a double play and walking a batter, leaving runners on first and third with 2 outs. Enter Bard, who gave up a run-scoring infield single to Jason Bartlett and then retired the side with the Sox leading 2-1. Fine. It's baseball. Stuff happens.

Bard saved his best work for the 8th, unfortunately, allowing a leadoff longball to Evan Longoria before loading the bases on a pair of walks and his own throwing error. Amazingly, Manny Delcarmen cleaned up Bard's mess to preserve the tie, but in the recent tradition of Sox/Rays action, irreversible damage was done.

Just took a little longer this time, with the Sox wriggling out of another bases-loaded, no out situation to prolong the agony until Longoria (who batted with a base empty and 2 out in the 13th) smashed another homer to win the game.

In one fell swoop, the Sox lost a game they led in the 7th inning, burned their bullpen in the first game of a brutal week, dropped a game to the Yankees, and continued their ineptitude against Tampa. Probably could've scripted this one a little more brutally, but it would've required some effort. And Luis Castillo.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Games 101 through 104 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, A's 5
Red Sox 6, Orioles 5
Red Sox 4, Orioles 0
Red Sox 18, Orioles 10
Record: 62-42

Adam, we hardly knew ye.

In all the (highly justified) hoopla surrounding last week's trade deadline acquisition of Victor Martinez and (surprisingly underblown) fooferaw regarding Big (Pill) Papi, the Casey Kotchman for Adam Laroche deal barely registered. A few shoulder shrugs from the fans, a gracious and thoughtful quote from Laroche, and that was that - one of the game's worst goatees and his single American League homer was returned to the netherworld of Senior Circuit mediocrity. I, for one, will miss him. If only because he and Mike Lowell made a terrific tag team of sneakily Hispanic dudes.

As for Martinez, let me be the 1,783,458th Sox fan to say, 'hell, yeah'. Not only did the Sox get instantly better on offense (they will likely score at least 18 runs per game the rest of the way) by replacing many of Jason Varitek's at-bats with Martinez' shinier new version, they got substantially more versatile, with the latter's ability to play first base and Kevin Youkilis' proficiency at third giving Terry Francona a Garanimals-esque universe of lineup options. Martinez will also keep Varitek healthier down the stretch, a huge deal for an old catcher well past the extended warranty. On top of all that, Theo Epstein landed Martinez without sacrificing anything in the way of top prospects, sending the likable but just decent Justin Masterson and a pair of low-ceiling minor leaguers to Cleveland.

Of course, after yet another deer-in-the-headlights debacle from Clay Buchholz yesterday, you can count me among the relative minority of Sox fans that wish Theo had pulled the trigger on a Buchholz for Roy Halladay deal. Sure, Buchholz may turn out to be Roy Oswalt, but Roy Halladay makes the Sox odds-on favorites to win the World Series this year and next. I'd do that deal.

Bygones, though, as the Martinez deal came right in the middle of a much-needed reversal of fortune (for the Sox and the Yanks) that sets up a hellacious first week-plus of August. Deep breaths today before the Sox head to Tampa and New York for 6 games. If you want to give me a 3-3 week right now, I'll take it faster than Dave Roberts swiped second.

As an aside, I thought I was the MLC staffer on vacation last week. Must've goofed up my calendar.