June 29, 2005

G76: Cleveland 12, Red Sox 8

Looks like it's time for Keith Foulke to head back to Alabama for more barbeque.

Foulke relieved Mike Timlin in the eighth inning (Sox up 8-5) and allowed two inherited runners to score. Then, in the ninth, he blew the save by allowing a double and a single, letting Cleveland tie the game at 8-8.

With two outs, home plate umpire Larry Young (the latest addition to the Red Sox's Lead Pipe List) began forcing Foulke to thread a needle to get a strike call. With a 2-and-1 count on Grady Sizemore, Foulke threw what looked like two strikes. Young called them both balls. Foulke then appeared to have struck out Casey Blake three separate times, but Young called all three of those pitches balls. That loaded the bases. Alan Embree was ready in the bullpen -- Foulke had faced nine batters and thrown 39 pitches at that point -- but Francona stayed with Foulke.

Foulke got two strikes on Travis Hafner, then threw an inside fastball (at only about 80 mph). Hafner turned on it and put it in the first or second row past the right field pole -- just about the shortest distance for a home run in Fenway. But that grand slam gave Cleveland a 12-8 edge.

Bob Wickman threw only three pitches to retire the Sox in the ninth. Three outs on three pitches. Clearly, the Sox were ready to call it a night. ... Which was too bad, because the Sox had rallied from three runs down in the middle innings. They scored two runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth (opposite field singles from both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were the highlights).

Foulke was booed as he walked off the field after finally getting that third out (a long fly ball hauled in on the center field warning track by Johnny Damon). "Of course I heard it. I'm not inviting them to my World Series celebration, either. They have all the right. They can boo me. They can cuss me and tell me I suck. Go ahead. If they don't want me to do the job, tell them to tell management. I've done a lot of good for this team."

Foulke refused to blame Young. Talking about a good pitch that would have struck Blake out and send the tie game to the bottom of the ninth, Foulke said Young "didn't call it a strike, so I'm not going to sit here and make excuses for one pitch. I had plenty of opportunities to get the guys out. If you don't make pitches in the right location, they get hit or you walk people."

True enough, but Young's strike zone was a mess most of the night. And when a pitcher is unsure of where the strike zone is -- when it changes pitch to pitch -- then he's forced to throw stuff right down the middle and hope the batter doesn't rip it. With Foulke's velocity down about 3-4 mph, there was little change of the Cleveland batters missing the opportunity.

Another annoyance lost in the Foulke Flameout: Tito left Wade Miller in for 118 pitches (in 5.1 unexceptional innings). I thought something similar happened on Sunday with Wells. Even after Wells seemed to hurt his heel in the fourth, Francona left him in and watched as he allowed six of the first seven batters to reach in the fifth -- just hoping he'd get that final out to qualify for the win, it seemed.

It's obvious that Francona (a) has no faith in more than half the guys out in bullpen and (b) dreads having to make that phone call in the fifth or sixth inning. While I can't blame Francona -- I feel the same way -- and I understand why Foulke is pissed -- at himself, at the fans' idiocy for booing him, at the game of baseball itself -- when are things going to get straightened out? July begins on Friday. It's past time.

Brian Roberts belted Mike Stanton's only pitch of the game for a home run in the last of the 10th, giving Baltimore a 5-4 win over New York. The Yankees had led 4-1 in the sixth. The Orioles are 1.5 games behind.

Sox try to avoid a sweep this afternoon. Wakefield / Elarton at 1:00.


Anonymous said...

For the first three months of last season I thought Tito was as dumb as Grady with the starting pitchers. As the season went on it got so bad I decided that he must have a plan and that when the games really mattered he would manage differently. It would require an analysis of the game logs, but I recall that somewhere around the first week of September the starters stopped being asked to pitch out of fifth inning and onward jams. So regarding leaving Miller(Wells too) in too long, unless they get absoulutely hammered I think Tito likes to leave his starters in longer than what would seem rational as long as they do not cross a pitch count number that would put them at an injury risk. But then everything changes when the kiddies go back to school. Tito did not make this kind of bone-headed non-move in the postseason or in that September AA and Texas stretch that sealed the WC. I think we might be looking at the kind of thing now where tito is prioritizing building confidence, arm strength and a basically rested bull pen more than winning June games vs. Cleveland. Remember that one of the reasons the sox could come back vs. NY is that the sox actually could get guys out from the bull pen, but Quantrill and Gordon were essentially cooked by the time the games mattered -- and they were both genuinely dominant early in the season. As long as the sox are healthy, rested and within a couple games of a post-season spot I think it is OK to give Tito a game-to-game pass on the use of pitchers since it does little good to focus on sprinting out ahead if doing so means you don't have the energy to hold the lead.

redsock said...

I agree. I was also quite frustrated with Tito last summer, though I really tried to stay away from the "Gump 2.0" tag. His leaving Pedro in too long in New York put me over the edge (the Daddy game), however.

As the season went on it got so bad I decided that he must have a plan ...

That ain't necessarily so. Grady was horrific and had no clue, right to the bitter end.

However, the way Tito deftly worked the entire staff during ALCS Games 4-5-6-7 had me in awe (as did the actual performances by the pitchers), so I know I do need to cut him slack.