Pricking Our Gonfalon Bubble. Bedard to Madritsch to Kazmir. Not quite as poetic as those three Cub infielders, perhaps, but just as effective. The Devil Rays starter -- the youngest pitcher in the major leagues right now -- dispatched the Red Sox with relative ease last night in only his 5th career start. Boston is now 0-6 this season facing rookie pitchers for the first time.
In his 16 major league innings before last night, Kazmir had not thrown a 1-2-3 inning. He had three of them against the Red Sox, the first one coming when he struck out the side (Kapler, Damon, Bellhorn) in the 3rd. He then opened the 4th by whiffing Ramirez and Ortiz. He finished with 9 strikeouts in 6 innings, allowing 3 hits and 3 walks.
Pedro Martinez's control was off all night. He walked five, which boosted his pitch count to 113 in only 6 innings. Pedro also allowed only 3 hits, but two of them were solo home runs. Carl Crawford belted the second pitch of the game into the Monster Seats; Rocco Baldelli homered in the 3rd.
Boston had several chances to score off Kazmir. In the 2nd, they loaded the bases with one out. Bill Mueller smacked a grounder down the first base line, but Tino Martinez gloved it, stepped on the bag and threw home in time for Toby Hall to tag David Ortiz for a double play. ... Kevin Millar began the 5th with a double and Orlando Cabrera walked. But Kevin Youkilis (who had replaced Mueller (he left the game with a sore knee)) struck out and Kapler fouled out to the catcher. With Damon at bat, Kazmir picked Millar off second.
Trot Nixon hit a 2-run, pinch-hit home run in the 8th to bring Boston to within three runs. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Varitek was hit by a pitch and Millar walked. Cabrera represented the tying run, but he lined the first pitch to Crawford in left field.
Afterwards, Ortiz expressed his anger and frustration to the Herald's Howard Bryant: "We've got to have these games. We've got to have them. These teams are down and we have to be more aggressive with them. That kid, he was good, real good. But we weren't aggressive with him. It was like we weren't expecting him to challenge us the way he did." ... Pedro added: "You just have to think that hopefully we won't have to face another rookie. Those rookies are giving us a headache. We'll hopefully see them go, get some veterans and make them pay." ... Right on cue comes the news that Martinez will face off against the Yankees' rookie Brad Halsey this Sunday. ... The first two games will feature: Arroyo/Hernandez and Lowe/Lieber. That means Martinez, Wakefield and Schilling will face New York in the September 24-26 series at Fenway Park.
Pitcher Abe Alvarez and shortstop Hanley Ramirez were named Boston's minor league player and pitcher of the year (more here). ... Doug Mientkiewicz has the flu. ... Last night scores: Yankees 4, Royals 0; Seattle 3, Angels 2. Boston fell to 4 games back in the East, but remain 4½ ahead for the wild card.
This Yankee series is still a few days away, but the trash talking has begun. ... David Ortiz to the New York Post: "I betcha they're very worried about us. They know our pitching's doing well and our hitting's doing well. Their pitching is not doing very good. I know almost 100 percent they're thinking about [this weekend's series]. We're in good shape right now."
Gary Sheffield was asked about the Varitek/Rodriguez brawl: "I don't care if these guys hit us or throw at us. We ain't gonna stand for it and it definitely ain't going to turn out the way it did the last time. ... If he [Varitek] wants to be a tough guy, we'll take that challenge," Sheffield said.
Sheffield added that he will not get a cortisone shot for his left shoulder. "I can't miss that series. Just from the standpoint of what it means to the city, not just how close they are in the series. To miss any of those games, it's like a tragedy."
But first, there are games tonight and tomorrow. At 7:05 pm, Wakefield faces Dewon Brazelton (0-11 on the road this season), who allowed 8 runs in 1.2 innings against the Red Sox on August 11.