September 6, 2004

Go West, Young Men. After a 9-1 homestand, the Red Sox are out west for the week, beginning a 3-game set in Oakland and then playing 4 games in Seattle. Only a 5-2 record (or better) will make me happy. After that, they fly home to face the Devil Rays before consecutive weekend series with the Yankees.

New York avoided being swept by the Orioles yesterday, as they mounted a 9th-inning rally that featured 4 walks and a wild pitch. That's what I call a gift, especially after Rivera wiggled out of a 1st-and-3rd-nobody-out jam in the top half. The 9th inning (with abbreviations for ball, called, swinging and foul):
Baltimore: Surhoff singled to center. Raines ran for Surhoff. Gibbons singled to left, Raines to third. Bigbie (cfbb) struck out swinging. Roberts (bcbf) grounded out to second, Gibbons to second. Newhan bunt grounded out to pitcher.

New York: Jeter (bbb) walked. Williams (bb - Jeter to second on wild pitch) sacrificed to pitcher, Jeter to third. Sheffield (iii) intentionally walked. Rodriguez (iii) intentionally walked, Sheffield to second. Posada (cbsbb) walked, Jeter scored.
Julio threw 21 pitches, only (yikes!) 3 for strikes. For the record, I would not have issued both intentional walks. I would have pitched to Rodriguez.

While Posada has grounded into the most DPs in the AL, he also has the highest OBP on the Yankees -- and Julio had no margin for error. Before Posada stepped in, Julio had thrown 15 pitches and the only strike was the sac bunt. ... I don't think this strategy ever worked when Tito's Predecessor tried it; in fact, I think Posada drew one of the game-winning walks against the Sox.

So the Yankees avoided having their lead cut to 1½, but it had nothing to do with their bats (plus their closer faltered (again)). If they had lost, it would have been possible for the Red Sox to be tied for first place at the end of today, because New York plays an actual single-admission doubleheader, part of a five-game series with Tampa Bay.

Francona on Schilling: "I battled sending him out there in the ninth. His pitch count was fine. If we had gotten another run, I think I probably would have taken him out. Wally [pitching coach Dave Wallace] was probably in favor [of taking him out earlier], just to save some bullets. But he was throwing so well." ... So 6-1 wasn't big enough? If Francona thinks anyone in the bullpen cannot hold a 5-run lead in the 9th inning, they shouldn't be on the team. Simple as that.

It looks like Trot Nixon and Pokey Reese will be activated during this road trip. Nixon will play today in Pawtucket's final regular season game and is expected to take BP against Scott Williamson after flying out west. Francona said Nixon will play RF (not DH) when he's in the lineup. ... I'm very curious to hear how Williamson throws. RHP Pedro Astacio will also join the club in Oakland. ... After sitting out his third straight game, Johnny Damon hopes to play tonight: "I could've played [Sunday], but I know I would've hurt the team. ... I didn't realize how such a little part of your body could hurt your game."

Lenny Megliola: "With the Yankees and Orioles tied at 3-3 in the ninth, the fans came up with a Fenway first, a chorus of 'Let's Go Orioles!' ... And when the '3' was yanked from the scoreboard the fans began booing even before the '4' was posted next to NY, indicating a Yankees win. That's how it is in Fenway when September games have meaning. Scoreboard numbers get booed before they're slipped into the slot."

Dave Roberts: "I think the fans would rather see the Yankees lose than us win. They get more satisfaction out of it." ... It might seem that way at times, Dave, but it isn't true. You'll find that out over the next seven weeks.

Tonight: Bronson Arroyo (7-9, 4.24) vs. Barry Zito (10-9, 4.58), 10 pm
Tuesday: Derek Lowe (13-10, 5.15) vs. Mark Redman (10-10, 4.50), 10 pm
Wednesday: Pedro Martinez (15-5, 3.55) vs. Tim Hudson (11-4, 2.95), 10 pm

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