September 30, 2005

G160: Red Sox 5, Yankees 3

Why Knot Us?

It's too early for the ALCS and ALDS.

This is the ALES (American League East Series).
Jeter 6 Damon 8
Rodriguez 5 Renteria 6
Giambi 3 Ortiz -
Sheffield 9 Ramirez 7
Matsui 7 Nixon 9
Posada 2 Varitek 2
Sierra - Olerud 3
Williams 8 Mueller 5
Cano 4 Graffanino 4

Wang 1 Wells 1
Tonight's mojo-riffic beer: Steamwhistle.

Yankees 1st: First pitch, Wells to Jeter at 7:10: strike called, low outside. Capt. Intangibles strikes out on three pitches, swinging and missing a 86 mph cut fastball down and in. Slappy and Giambi both walk as Wells gets squeezed on at least three pitches. Sheffield then gets hit on the back foot to load the bases. Matsui singles to left center. Damon was playing deep, got a poor jump, and the ball falls in front of him. One run scores. Posada strikes out swinging. Sierra flies out to Nixon in right-center. Yankees 1-0.

Red Sox 1st: Will the strike zone be as small for Wang? Damon walks on five pitches, but nothing is questionable. Damon steals second. A low 3-1 pitch to Renteria is called a strike, a pitch Wells did not get in the top half. ER grounds to shortstop, Damon holds. MVPapi pokes a single through the infield to right-center. Williams has no chance to get Damon. Tie game, 1-1. Ramirez and Nixon both strike out.

Yankees 2nd: Wells settles down, adapting his pitches to tonight's strike zone. He's helped out by two nice running catches, one by Ramirez and one by Nixon.

Red Sox 2nd: Varitek blasts Wang's first pitch into the Monster Seats in left center. He sprints around the bases and Boston leads 2-1.

Red Sox 3rd: Damon reaches on a ball that rolls right through E-Rod's legs into left. (And the MVP should go to him because of his defense? Bah.) Rent bunts him to second, almost beating Wang's throw to first. Ortiz grounds sharply to Wang, and is thrown out, but Damon stupidly breaks for third and is out in a rundown. Double play: 1-3-5-6.

Yankees 4th: Matsui leads off with a single to center, but Wells needs only 10 pitches to get three outs, on two popups and a strikeout.

Boston 4th: Nixon walks with one out. With Varitek batting, a hit-and-run play is botched and Nixon is tagged out after pulling up short at second. Two horrible baserunning blunders that could come back to haunt the Sox.

Yankees 5th: Another 1-2-3 inning for Wells, the last out being a fly to the center field track by A-Rod. Easy catch for Damon.

Red Sox 5th: Olerud walks on four pitches, but Mueller grounds into a double play on 3-1 pitch. The Sox have been swinging at balls out of the strike zone, helping Wang out. (The Yankee rookie ends up walking six batters in 6.2 innings, but it could have been many more if the Boston batters had been more patient.)

Yankees 5th: Giambi rips a single, and one out later, Matsui doubles to right center. Nixon takes a wide route to the ball and it skips by him and rolls to the wall. 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Posada hits a hot shot to third, and Mueller, behind the bag by the line, holds the runner and makes a long throw to first. Sierra flies out to Damon. End of inning. Still 2-1.

Red Sox 6th: Damon lines a single over Cano into right field. With Renteria up, Damon steals second without a throw. ER strikes out and Ortiz is walked intentionally. After Manny rips a long foul to left, he singles to left. Damon is held at third and Boston has the bases loaded with one out. The Yankees pen is quiet. Nixon shows some patience -- and draws a five-pitch walk. Damon scores and it's 3-1. In the visiting dugout, Torre is visibly annoyed. Varitek fouls off two pitches, then grounds to first. Giambi comes home, but his throw is wide and bangs off Posada's glove for an error. Ortiz scores, 4-1. Olerud follows with a sac fly to center, 5-1. Proctor is warming. A wild pitch moves Nixon to third, but Giambi somehow stabs Mueller's line drive and Wang escapes further damage.

Yankees 6th: Williams lines out to Nixon. Cano drops a single down the left field line and is held to a long single by Manny. Jeter then hits a full-count pitch into the bullpen for a two-run home run, cutting the lead to 5-3. ... Wells comes back to get Rodriguez looking at strike three and Giambi on a grounder to first. Seven innings from Orson ... now it's time for the pen.

Red Sox 7th: Wang comes out for another inning. He gets two out, then walks Renteria on four pitches. Leiter comes in and walks Ortiz on four pitches, none of them close. Proctor is brought in to face Manny. Torre must keep the score at 5-3 -- is Proctor really his best choice? ... Ramirez grounds out to shortstop.

Yankees 8th: "Playoff Tito" makes a welcome appearance. And it's OOGY-time. Bradford gets Sheffield on a first-pitch grounder to shortstop. Myers battles Matsui for 11 pitches (including six straight fouls) before striking him out. Timlin gets Posada looking at three straight strikes. The last one was one of the best pitches Timlin has thrown all season, a wicked curve that has Posada moaning to the umpire.

Yankees 9th: Timlin was pacing back and forth in the Sox dugout during the bottom of the eighth, glaring into ESPN's camera, and he came out strong in the 9th. He struck out Sierra on three pitches, the last one a filthy 85 mph breaking pitch (splitter?) in the dirt. Williams also struck out, chasing a 2-2 pitch up around his chin. Cano grounded a single into right, but Jeter tapped out harmlessly to Edgar.

This was obviously a huge win for the Red Sox, bringing them into a tie for first place with two games to go. A loss would have been crushing, leaving Boston needing two wins in two games this weekend to force a Monday playoff in New York.

But Wells pitched great, Boston got some quick runs, then took advantage of the Yankees' poor defense and Wang's control problems. And Francona managed the bullpen brilliantly (and the pitchers did their jobs!).

In Cleveland, Chicago won 3-2 in 13 innings, so Cleveland falls one game behind both Boston and New York in the wild card chase.

Our playoff possibilities just got a whole lot better:
Red Sox win 3
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win East, Yankees win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win East, Yankees/Cleveland WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox win East, Cleveland wins WC

Red Sox win 2
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox-Yankees-Cleveland 3-way playoff

Red Sox win 1
Cleveland wins 0: Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Cleveland/Red Sox WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Cleveland wins WC

Act Three

Our souls were crushed in 2003.

We were happy beyond measure in 2004.

And in 2005?

The answer will begin to reveal itself tonight at 7:00.

David Wells / Chien-Mien Wang.
Mark Buehrle / Kevin Millwood.

New York 94 65 -
Boston 93 66 1

Boston 93 66 -
Cleveland 93 66 -
Looking at various sites this afternoon, I believe this is an accurate chart of possible scenarios: 
Red Sox win 3
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win East, Yankees win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win East, Yankees/Cleveland WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox win East, Cleveland wins WC
Cleveland wins 3: Red Sox win East, Cleveland wins WC

Red Sox win 2
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox-Yankees-Cleveland 3-way playoff
Cleveland wins 3: Cleveland wins WC, Red Sox/Yankees East playoff

Red Sox win 1
Cleveland wins 0: Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Cleveland/Red Sox WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Cleveland wins WC
Cleveland wins 3: Cleveland wins WC

Red Sox win 0
Cleveland wins 0: Cleveland/Red Sox WC playoff
Cleveland wins 1: Cleveland wins WC
Cleveland wins 2: Cleveland wins WC
Cleveland wins 3: Cleveland wins WC
That loss in the Tuesday doubleheader nightcap still rankles David Ortiz:
We lost an important game against a team that's not even close to where the Yankees are. ... I am [angry]. Man, I am. That game that we lost [Tuesday] night, that's not supposed to happen. You're playing at the house, you're winning, late in the game, and you're not playing against a [playoff] team. ... [W]e're not supposed to lose those games. ... I mean, if we're getting in trouble with the Blue Jays ... they have some good players, but if you match lineups, and you have problems with the Blue Jays, then you don't want to play the Yankees.
Also: Tito trusts Jonathan Papelbon. ... Which Yankee LHP might face Ortiz in the late innings? Torre: "I'd like to see Al Leiter in that situation." ... David Wells says he'll retire if the Red Sox repeat.

Comparisions to 1949 are being drawn, but because both clubs could make the post-season, 2005 falls short, despite the teams' recent history. ... New York sportswriters are still holding fast to thoughts of a curse.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees had an interest in Mike Stanton. Nationals GM Jim Bowden: "I think the Yankees were mostly interested in blocking the Red Sox. We gave them both lists of names and the Red Sox were really aggressive in making this deal."

AL MVP: Ortiz v. Rodriguez

I wish I had hours to research and present information about this, but I don't. (Though if I find some neat stat comparisions, such as what follows, I'll post them.)

I have no problem with a DH winning the MVP (pitchers have won it and I'll bet no one pointed at their fielding as the deciding factor); as Lou Pinella said, DH is a valid position in the AL. End of discussion.

There is a perception that Slappy gets his biggest hits when the game is a blowout, not when it's close. I have read this from both Red Sox fans and Yankees fans.

Eric Van worked up some stats in mid-September and posted them at SoSH. What follows are his charts and comments:


Batting by Game Run Margin, through Sept. 14

          ---------  David Ortiz ---------
1 – 2* 261 .318 .418 .701 1.119
3 to 5 232 .318 .422 .552 .974
6 or more 153 .231 .320 .515 .835
------- Alex Rodriguez ---------
1 – 2* 248 .255 .347 .463 .810
3 to 5 237 .323 .447 .599 1.046
6 or more 148 .420 .486 .809 1.295
*includes all extra inning games
A further breakdown:

         -Ortiz-    --ARod-
2 run W 1195 (33) 828 (36)
1 run W 1151 (87) 880 (81)
Ex In W 1286 (23) 1029 (21)
Ex In L 495 (11) 121 (17)
1 run L 1481 (50) 985 (51)
2 run L 1026 (47) 611 (42)
This gets more ridiculous the more you look at it.
            -Ortiz-    --ARod-
6+ run W 870 (86) 1790 (93)
6+ run L 779 (67) 523 (55)
Rodriguez has hit .544/.613/1.177 in games that the Yankees have won by 6 runs or more, while going 1-16 with a SF and no BB or XBH in the Yankees' 4 extra-inning losses.

In only 2 of the Yankees' 18 victories by 6 or more runs did Rodriguez's R + RBI total even approach the margin of victory. He had 5 R and 6 RBI (5-6, 2 2B, 2 HR) in a 19-8 victory over TB 4/18, and 3 R and 10 RBI (4-5, 3 HR) in a 12-4 victory over LAA 4/26. So some of the offense in those games (but by no means all of it) was meaningful.

Papi did this once in 17 such games, 3 R and 4 RBI (3-4, 2 HR) in a 9-2 win at Cle 6/21.

Legend Of The Fall

The season was just about over.

It was the top of the fifth inning, the Red Sox trailed 4-1; Matt Clement was struggling and the Jays had the bases loaded. Terry Francona, late yet again with his call to the pen, had just told Mike Myers and Chad Bradford to start warming. The Yankees were leading Baltimore 6-0 and Cleveland was up 6-0 on Tampa.

A base hit from Gabe Gross would likely score two runs, put Boston down by five on a night when every single Sock looked like his mind were elsewhere. ... Clement threw a strike to Gross, then missed with his next three. His 3-1 pitch was up and away -- probably ball four, forcing in a run -- but Gross swung at it anyway, and missed. He fouled off the next pitch, then grounded out to Kevin Millar at first.

The escape didn't guarantee a Sox comeback, of course, but a possible season-ending bullet had been dodged.

In the bottom of the sixth, David Ortiz (0-for-2, 2 strikeouts) grounded a ball to second base. Aaron Hill was about to field it when shortstop Russ Adams, playing over that way because of the shift, cut in front of him, gloved the ball, and tumbled onto the Fenway grass. No throw was made.

Scott Downs was taken out of the game and Justin Frasor was brought in. For whatever reason, Downs had mystified the Sox. A new pitcher meant possibilities. ... Manny Ramirez looked at a strike, then drilled his 42nd home run, into the Jays bullpen. Now Boston trailed by only one, 4-3, with 12 outs to go, but it felt like we had taken the lead.

Mike Myers faced five batters in relief of Clement, wriggling out of trouble in the sixth; after walking Vernon Wells intentionally (with Adams at second), he got Corey Koskie to fly to center.

With one out in the seventh, Jonathan Papelbon took the hill. He allowed a two-out double to Alex Rios, on a ball dropped down the right field line that Trot Nixon failed to hustle after. Once he saw Rios stretching the hit, he tried to fire the ball in quickly, but it was way too late.

Papelbon then struck out Gross, and retired the Jays in the eighth. Edgar Renteria, who had ended the previous inning by grounding hard to first (somehow Eric Hinske speared the ball; if not, a run would have scored), recorded two assists and a putout in that inning. (How many hits has Renteria been robbed of in the past week? Five? Six?)

David Ortiz led off the bottom of the eighth against Vinnie Chulk. On a 2-0 pitch, he continued his seasons-long debate with the statheads -- does clutch hitting really exist? -- by putting his 47th home run into the Monster Seats in left-center. I think Ortiz is winning that argument. ... The crowd above the Wall was so busy cheering, no one went for the ball until it landed at their feet.

With the game tied, Manny walked and Jason Varitek singled. Seeing Wells fielding the ball in deep center, Ramirez sprinted around second and raced to third, bringing the go-ahead run 90 feet from home with a Pete Rose-esque head-first slide. ... However, Chulk retired the next three Sox: John Olerud on a short fly to center, Bill Mueller on strikes, and Nixon on a diving catch by Wells in right-center.

Francona stayed with Papelbon in the ninth. (This was the right move, but would he have pulled him if the Sox had gone ahead?) Hinske hit a two-out double, but did not score.

In the ninth, facing Miguel Batista, our confidence was high. Johnny Damon singled with one out, then stole second. Renteria walked on four pitches. Ortiz fouled off a couple of pitches, worked the count full, and grounded his single past shortstop into left field.

The Legend continues.

September 29, 2005

G159: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4


Ian Browne,
By delivering what was easily their biggest win of the season, a tense 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays, the Red Sox can now clinch a tie in the American League East by taking two out of three from the Yankees this weekend. They can win the division outright with a sweep.

To get to that point, the Red Sox needed the latest batch of magic from David Ortiz, who tied it with a homer in the eighth inning and then won it in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single to left field, setting up a mob scene of white jerseys on the right side of the infield.

Yet again, Ortiz delivered with the game -- and perhaps the season -- on the line.

Radio Radio

Tonight, "Open Source" -- a public radio show based in Boston -- will feature both Red Sox and Yankees bloggers talking about this weekend's showdown, as well as sabremetrics and new ways to look at baseball.

The show's own blog has some more information. I'm told the show airs live on WGBH in Boston (89.7 FM) and streams at: KUOW from 7:00 to 8:00.

Bad timing if you are glued to the game, but you could watch the Sox on mute (and risk missing Orsillo tell you in which round Scott Downs was drafted) and stream the show. If you tune in, you might hear yours truly.

Mike Stanton In Sox Bullpen

I thought Yaz-Tex was joking in comments, but it's true!
The Red Sox acquired left-hander Mike Stanton from the Washington Nationals on Thursday for right-handers Rhys Taylor and Yader Peralta.

Boston's trade means Stanton could wind up pitching this weekend against his former team, the New York Yankees. ...

Stanton, who is 38, started the season with the Yankees and was cut June 30 after going 1-2 with a 7.08 ERA in 14 innings over 28 relief appearances.
Seems like a little late in the day to make a roster move, but what the hell!
           G  IP    H    R  ER  BB   K   OBA  ERA
September 10 12 12 5 3 6 7 .279 2.25
Post ASG 30 27.2 31 13 11 9 14 .292 3.58
His post-All-Star Game numbers are also his stats with Washington.

Lefties have only a .524 OPS off him this season, so I guess (if Francona uses him correctly, that is) he'll be another LOOGY for Giambi, Matsui and Cano.

Hey, whatever happened with El Guapo?

Steroids Bad, Greenies ... Not So Much

Johnny Damon supports MLB's stronger penalties for steroid use, but he seems less sure when it comes to amphetamines:
One is a performance-enhancing drug, the other is a ... way guys get ready to play over 162 games. ... I think it would be real tough if they threw 25 games or 75 games or a commissioner's decision [at amphetamine users]. ... There are days I can't get going when I have to drink two, three cups of coffee to get jittery. [If amphetamines are banned,] We're probably going to see a lot of lethargic guys out there.
Yeah, Johnny ... coffee. MLB is gonna outlaw coffee!

At this point, I agree with Yankees general partner Steve Swindal, who said, back on September 10: "I'll be satisfied if the team makes the playoffs."

One game out with four to play is small potatoes compared to last year's ALCS, so my faith remains firm.

Various one-game tie-breakers:
East: Boston at New York
Central: Chicago at Celevland
Wild Card: Cleveland at Boston, Boston at Chicago, New York at Cleveland
Tonight's Games (all at 7:00):
Clement / Downs
Small / Bedard
Sabathia / Fossum

September 28, 2005

G158: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 2

Arroyo spits the bit (3-7-7-3-2), and while DiNardo holds the line (4-1-0-3-2), Lilly continues to look like Lefty Grove to the Red Sox.

Edgar says he's made enough outs this year (home run, double, two walks), but no one else in the lineup does much of anything. Boston leaves seven guys on base in the first five innings, and 11 overall.

New York edges Baltimore 2-1 -- we're one game out in the East -- but Tampa shuts out Cleveland 1-0 -- so we're still tied for the WC.

September 27, 2005

G157: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

I guess two games in one day is too much for Terry Francona's brain to handle.

Tito displayed some of the worst bullpen management of the season in Tuesday's nightcap, leaving Curt Schilling in too long, staying with Chad Bradford too long, sticking Craig Hansen with runners on base, etc.

Mike Timlin threw only 11 pitches in the afternoon game; so why pin our hopes on Chad Effing Harville when the game was on the line?

That's cool, Terry, give everyone a chance to contribute. It's not like this game means anything.

Orioles 17, Yankees 9
Devil Rays 5, Cleveland 4
so all three teams are still dead-end at 92-65 with five games to go.

More in the morning.

[I ended up putting today's thoughts in the comments section rather than as a new post.]

Why Doesn't Schilling Get Booed?

It's being talked about in here (and was something I thought about posting a few days ago). In last Wednesday's Herald (pay column, no link) Howard Bryant quoted an anonymous Red Sox player who wondered why, of everyone who has underachieved this season (Bellhorn, Millar, Renteria, Foulke), Curt Schilling has been exempt from Fenway's boo-birds. From the column:
The people have spoken. Everyone who has underperformed this year has heard about it.

Everyone, that is, except the Teflon Red Sox, Curt Schilling.

It is a phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed, especially by many of his teammates. With the possible exception of Foulke, Schilling has had the worst year of any major player on the club, yet has been spared fan wrath.

Entering last night, his home ERA was 6.33. His ERA as a starter was 6.71. He said he'd stabilize the bullpen, but his ERA was 5.58. He has the highest ERA of any regular on the club. Who do hitters prefer to face more than any other Red Sox regular pitcher? That would be Curt Schilling, who owns a .317 batting average against. To find a higher number, you'd have to sift through the stats of guys like Blaine Neal, Scott Cassidy and Mike Remlinger. ...

"Yet," one player told me, "when he comes into the game people cheer him like he's the Pope. You think they'd let Pedro get away with this? Why does he get the pass?"
Bryant explains why he thinks Schilling is The Telfon Ace:
[He] came to Boston with the embers of Aaron Boone still crackling. He came here to deliver a championship when no one else had and he did. And he did it by allowing doctors to stitch his ankle tendon to the top of his skin. ... He maimed himself for them. ... People in Boston will never forget that. ...

Renteria and Millar are good players, and Bellhorn was an easy target, but none are as important to another World Series run as Curt Schilling. Do the Red Sox repeat without a strong Schilling? I don't think so. The fans know this, or at least they believe they can't celebrate without him. You don't boo the meal ticket, even if by the way you've booed everybody else, he's had it coming.
Bryant is at least partially correct. Schilling quite likely hastened the end of his career with the operations he underwent during last year's ALCS and World Series. And I, along with millions of other Red Sox fans (and Yankee haters) will never forget it.

But there were other Sox who played roles that were as important (even more?) than Schilling did. Foulke, who was probably a better choice for World Series MVP than Ramirez, comes to mind immediately. And this year, just like Schilling, he was hurt, and when he did pitch, he pitched badly. Yet Foulke has been booed like crazy and Schilling has not. Why?

Bob Hohler includes the quote and gets Schilling's reaction in a feature on how tough this year has been on his entire family:
"Somebody on this team wants me to get booed to make them feel better, and that really bothers me a lot. Those are the kinds of things that really make me look at this game and understand that when I'm done in the game, I'll be done with the game. ... [Schilling said the teammate is] somebody who's not wired right. As much time as we spend together, you think you know someone. But more times than not you find you really don't."
Hohler notes that Schilling
increasingly has felt a sense of responsibility for the team's shortcomings. Had he pitched to his potential, he figures, he may have spared some of his teammates from the sourness they endured. ...

"I've been given a long leash this year by the fans, which I'm very appreciative of," he said. "But my teammates were just as responsible as I was for helping to win the World Series last year, and it has been really, really uncomfortable for me to see them go through what they have gone through this year."
It's nice of him to acknowledge the long leash, but still, the question remains: Why?

I can think of two reasons: (1) Schilling is a master at playing the media game and Foulke, as we have seen this year, is not (neither was Bellhorn) and (2) when Schilling was acquired, it felt like we now had the missing piece. And it turns out we were right.

Beyond that, I don't know.

Yankees Celebrate Playoff Berth -- On September 19

Remember back in 2003, when the Red Sox painted a World Series logo on the Fenway Park field before ALCS 7 had been played? After that game was gumped away, the team was ripped in the Boston newspapers and laughed at in New York.

Today, the Globe's Chris Snow quotes from a letter, dated September 19, sent by the Yankees to 2005 suite holders:
The New York Yankees are entering the post season for the eleventh consecutive year.
When that letter was written, New York trailed Boston by 1.5 games in the East and Cleveland by .5 games for the wild card. ... Dirtdog notes that the team is also selling AL East Champs shirts.

Johnny Damon says his shoulder is back to 100 percent: "I am finally healthy. I can honestly say that now. My shoulder is not bothering me. I'm happy. I'm excited about this week." ... Kevin Youkilis: "Throwing's not a problem. I can grip the bat. It hurts a little, but I think I'll be okay. The doctors told me I should be ready for the ALCS." ... A nice feature on Yaz.

Michael Silverman of the Herald writes: "Sweeping a doubleheader never is easy ..." In the SoSH Game Thread last night, Cliff Otto posted this:

I did a study a while back using Retrosheet data from 1900-2000 with the following results:
4614 Home team swept
3171 Visiting team swept
6959 Split
150 Home team won one game,
other game was a tie
134 Visiting team won one game,
other game was a tie
15028 Total

DHs Pct
7785 51.80% Sweeps
6959 46.31% Splits
284 1.89% Incomplete
15028 100.00% Total

G156: Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 1

Wakefield pitches like the ace that he is, Ortiz and Ramirez knock in all our runs, Renteria knocks two doubles, Mueller turns in some professional defense, and Papelbon and Timlin nail it down. ... A solid performance from a team that clearly has its collective head focused on the job ahead.

Boston 92 64 --
New York 92 64 --
Wild Card

Boston 92 64 --
Cleveland 92 64 --
New York 92 64 --
Game 2 in about three hours. Schilling / Chacin.

New York (Mussina) / Baltimore (Chen) and Tampa Bay (Kazmir) / Cleveland (Elarton), also at 7:00.

September 26, 2005

Blue Jays at Red Sox, ppd. rain

Doubleheader (Schilling & Wakefield?) on Tuesday.

First game at 1:00.

Seven Days

Seven days, seven more days that are connected
Just like I expected ...
Seven more days, all I gotta do is survive
The Red Sox are home. MVPapi: "It's going be good, bro. I like being home."

David Wells tweaked his knee when he halted his delivery in the seventh inning on a pitch to Eric Byrnes. Plate umpire Jerry Crawford called time very late and Wells ended up flipping the ball away in anger.

Wells: "I'm not 100 percent out there ... [T]hey have to be a little more verbal out there. They have to scream it out. I didn't hear nothing. So that's kind of why I was a little ticked off." ... Francona: "He was already at that point in the game where we were going to go to the bullpen if anything happened, anyway. When we got out [to the mound], he said [his knee] was burning."

Re the thousands of Red Sox fans in Baltimore: the AP noted "the only things missing from Boston's final road series were the Green Monster and Pesky Pole" and at one point the Orioles announcers quipped that perhaps the victory should be included in the Sox's home record! (Since 1999, the Red Sox are 41-18 at Camden Yards.)

Kevin Youkilis tried to swing a bat yesterday, but could not. Yook: I'm hoping [to return] later in the week. Right now, it's still a little tender." ... Trot Nixon hit .500 (10-for-20) on the road trip. ... Who came up with the phrase "Red Sox Nation"? Former Globe writer Nathan Cobb learns, nearly twenty years after the fact, that he did.

Jack (in comments) points out this Johnny Damon quote about Dale Sveum:
Dale is always going to take a beating because we've got the slowest team on the face of the planet. We do not run bases worth a crap, so that's why Dale takes a beating. He's not afraid of it. Dale's been awesome for us.
That is not why Dale takes a beating. He takes a beating because even though Boston may have the slowest team in MLB, Sveum oftentimes thinks they are all Carl Crawford or Ichiro. If they are slow, then you have to remember they are slow and do your job accordingly.

The nine Red Sox that have batted against tonight's starter, David Bush, are hitting a combined .421 (16-for-38).
Red Sox: Schilling / Bush at 7:00.
Yankees: Johnson / Lopez in Baltimore at 7:00.
Cleveland: Off. Hosts Tampa tomorrow.

September 25, 2005

G155: Red Sox 9, Orioles 3

Before David Wells threw his first pitch, he had a five-run lead. He allowed two solo home runs in the first -- and I started worrying that his knee problem was worse than we had been told -- but he settled down. Of the next 20 Baltimore hitters, only one touched second base.

The Red Sox batted around against John Maine in the first inning. After two quick outs, David Ortiz walked, Manny Ramirez homered to dead center, Trot Nixon singled, Jason Varitek walked, John Olerud singled in two runs, and Bill Mueller doubled in Olerud.

In the fifth, Nixon and Varitek doubled, Mueller hit a sac fly and after Miguel Tejada booted what should have been an inning-ending grounder, Johnny Damon belted a two-run home run. After Wells left the game in the seventh -- due to injury? -- the two Chads (Bradford and Harville) mopped up. (I would have liked to have seen Manny Delcarmen.)

He didn't score or knock in a run, but Edgar Renteria is stinging the ball. He lined out to third in the second, had a home run stolen by right fielder Jay Gibbons in the fourth, then missed another home run by about three inches -- the ball hit the top of the wall in right-center for a triple. He added a line single in the seventh.

In New York, the Yankees rallied against Toronto, scoring six runs in their final two innings to win 8-4. Mariano Rivera held off the Jays in the eighth (New York led 4-3), but after the Yankees scored four more runs, Joe Torre sent him back out for the ninth. Rivera threw 25 pitches while protecting that five-run lead, and 36 for the game.

Kansas City rallied to beat Cleveland 5-4, so here is where we stand:

Boston 91 64 --
New York 91 64 --

Cleveland 92 64 --
Boston 91 64 .5
New York 91 64 .5

Randy at Over The Monster has the final seven match-ups, as does MLB:
Red Sox Jays/MFY
0926 Schilling Bush
0927 Wakefield Chacin
0928 Arroyo Lilly
0929 Clement Downs

0930 Wells Wang
1001 Schilling Johnson
1002 Wakefield Mussina
Can the Sox win three of four from the Jays and two of three from the Yankees?

The Red Sox -- 50-24 at home, tops in baseball -- are feeling what we're all feeling.

John Henry: "We've got to wait for the final scene of the final act. ... This year, the playoffs started two weeks early." ... Damon: "Every day, every night, every pitch, everything is the most important situation that could come up. It kind of feels like the World Series a little bit." ... Terry Francona: "It's kind of hard to explain the feeling."

Not really. We're pretty used to it by now. We'll be on the edge of our seats all week.

Also: Delta Air Lines' Song affiliate has named one of its Boeing 757s "Big Papi".

G154: Red Sox 4, Orioles 3


The Red Sox and Yankees have identical records with eight games remaining.

Five things:

1. Tito used the bullpen just as I would have -- Hansen, Papelbon, Timlin -- so even though Hansen gave up a game-tying home run to Melvin Mora in the seventh, bringing him in was the right move. And it was good to see Francona stay with him after that; the Sox are going to rely on him in the playoffs, so getting him used to the pressure now is essential.

2. On Edgar Renteria's two-run single off BJ Ryan in the ninth, pinch-runner Adam Stern got a fantastic read on the flair to left and was sprinting all the way. From second base, Stern had the play directly in front of him, and he scored what turned out to be the decisive run. Nice to see ER gearing up for a hot post-season, too.

3. Pitching: Matt Clement didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning, but he walked six. I can't completely fault him for that, because the umpiring was incredibly inconsistent. ... Papelbon v. Matos in the eighth. With a man on first and one out in a 2-2 game, this AB took nine pitches and five throws to first before Boston got a K-CS double play.

4. Defense. The Sox made some great plays, including Kevin Millar diving to his right to snare Bernie Castro's grounder in the fifth, then turning and diving to his left to tag the base for the out, Bill Mueller's bare-handed grab-and-gun on Tejada's roller in the ninth, and double plays that ended both the fifth and sixth innings.

5. The last three innings really felt like a playoff game. Knowing the Yankees had lost meant my heart was racing a little more and my hands were a little sweatier. Myers coming in for Hansen with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the seventh and getting a pop-up was huge. Timlin's semi-shaky ninth -- a two-out double to Gibbons which scored Castro, who had walked -- had me worried, but he retired Javy Lopez on a hard fly to the edge of the track in right to end it.

In the last two games, we've seen timely hitting and gutsy pitching. Have the Sox refound their groove? ... This team can go from great to godawful in the space of a day or even a few innings, so who knows? They just have to have a win at the end of the day. It doesn't matter how they get it.

In Toronto, the Jays battered the Yankees for seven runs in two innings. Jaret Wright allowed all seven runs while recording only three outs. Miguel Batista struck out Jason Giambi with the tying runs on base in the 8th, then struck out the side in the 9th, saving a 7-4 win. ... Cleveland romped over the Royals, but we're winning the East, so we'll let New York worry about that.

Wang / Towers at 1:00, then Wells / Maine at 1:35.

September 24, 2005

G153: Red Sox 6, Orioles 3

The Sox did everything they could do. They won their game.

But so did the Yankees, Cleveland and the White Sox. So the standings remain the same -- 1 out in the East, 1.5 out in the wild card.

Bronson Arroyo overcame a very shaky first inning (three hits, two walks, two runs, Lenny DiNardo warming after only six batters) to turn in a nice 7-7-3-3-3 line. After allowing consecutive doubles to start the third, Arroyo retired 15 of his next 16 batters.

In that time, Boston scored five runs and retook the lead (though for me, even after they lead 4-3, it still felt like they were trailing. The feeling lasted a few innings. Was it residual frustration from Arroyo's crappy beginning?)

Manny Ramirez was the Man last night, singling in a run in the first, reaching on Tejada's throwing error and scoring in the fifth, and belting a two-run homer in the seventh. His home run (#40) came on an 87 mph inside fastball -- what else was Manny gonna do with a piece of candy like that? He even started Sox fans off by clapping for himself as he left the box.

Edgar Renteria singled twice, walked once, and scored three times. Trot Nixon contributed a two-run double. Alex Cora went three-for-four in the #9 spot. ... On the other side, Johnny Damon went 0-for-5 and Jason Varitek is still swinging his bat as though it weighs 40 pounds.

And now it's time for the "Idiotic Announcer Comment Of The Night":

After Jonathan Papelbon threw a 97 mph fastball to Javy Lopez in the eighth inning, Jim Palmer noted the speed and said, "Of course, most people will tell you that the gun here at Camden Yards is a bit fast."

That's right, Jim, so why did you spend the first six innings pounding us over the head about how hard Daniel Cabrera was throwing -- and therefore how tough he would be on the Sox -- because the CY gun had him at 100 and 101?

Wright / Downs at 1:00 in Toronto. Clement / Bedard at 4:30.

September 23, 2005

Another Book About David Ortiz?


Here's where we stand:

East New York 89 63 -- Boston 88 64 1

Central Chicago 91 61 -- Cleveland 90 63 1.5

West Los Angeles 87 65 -- Oakland 84 68 3

Wild Card Cleveland 90 63 -- Boston 88 64 1.5 Oakland 84 68 5.5

In ten days, it will all be over. Where will we be? Which two of those six teams will be watching the playoffs on TV?

After trading series with the Orioles and Blue Jays, the Red Sox and Yankees will meet at Fenway Park one week from tonight. I can't imagine the standings being too different from what they are now. The odds of either Boston or New York holding a four-game lead next week is slim, so the winner of the East will likely be decided in that three-game set.

I'm getting nervous just thinking about it now, so first things first:

Lilly / Chacon in the Bronx at 7:00; Arroyo / Cabrera at Camden Yards at 7:30.

September 22, 2005

Foulke Shut Down For Season

According to WEEI this afternoon.

It's probably for the best -- he certainly wasn't helping and now Tito won't be tempted to lean on him again in the final 10 games.

I do wish he had gotten his knees taken care of over the winter or at the start of spring training -- as the Red Sox suggested -- rather than waiting until July.

Alright, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Hansen -- let see what you got.

G152: Devil Rays 7, Red Sox 4

One out. Mike Timlin needed to record just one lousy out. It took him five batters to get it, but by that time, the lead, the game, and first place in the East were gone.

Tim Wakefield held a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth. He allowed a single, threw a wild pitch, and hit a batter (his 3rd of the night). He got Carl Crawford to hit a 3-1 pitch for a 4-6-3 double play, but then Jose Cantu singled to left. 4-3.

I really didn't have any problem with Timlin coming in. Wakefield was at 93 pitches and the next batter, Travis Lee, had tagged him for a long home run back in the second inning. ... It fell apart pretty quickly. Lee singled, Johnny Gomes tripled, Eric Munson doubled, and Alex Gonzalez singled.

In retrospect, perhaps Craig Hansen for the out and Timlin in the ninth would have been a better course of action. ... The Sox went quickly in the ninth, slipping into second place for the first time since mid-July, thanks to the Yankees' 2-1 win over Baltimore.

Bill Mueller led off for the first time in his career and collected three singles and a walk. Manny hit #39, Doug Mirabelli had two hits, and while Edgar Renteria went 1-for-5, he also hit three wicked line drives right at Tampa infielders. Adam Hyzdu walked twice, though I did not like seeing him whiff with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Boston gets its long-awaited day off today. The Yankees finish their series with the Orioles tonight. The Red Sox will be either in an exact tie for first or one game out. ... Then it's a 10-game sprint to the finish.

September 21, 2005

G151: Red Sox 15, Devil Rays 2

No better time for a laugher. Check out what our starting 3-4-5-6 hitters did:
        AB  R  H BI
Ortiz 5 4 4 4
Manny 4 4 4 3
Nixon 6 4 4 3
Varitek 5 0 4 2
Four batters getting four hits in one game tied an American League record. The Sox last did it on June 8, 1950, against the St. Louis Browns.

Ortiz hit long home runs in his first two at-bats (in the first inning, he and Manny went back-to-back for the first time this season). Ortiz also crushed his first one after the annoying Tampa Heckler had spewed only about three words! What Ortiz is doing is simply ridiculous at this point. I wasn't quite four years old in 1967, but older SoSHers say they haven't seen anything like this since Yaz during The Impossible Dream (and #8 was doing it in the field also).

After a triple in the fifth, Trot Nixon had a shot at the cycle, but he singled and flew to left. John Olerud singled and walked three times, and Alex Cora, after ending two consecutive innings with the bases loaded, knocked in two runs with a seventh-inning single. ... Fifteen runs on twenty-one hits and five walks against four hapless pitchers.

Nearly lost in the noise of the bats -- but no less important -- was Curt Schilling (7-6-2-1-7). A few Game Threaders were furious at Francona for leaving Schilling in during an obvious rout. I was not. If there was ever a chance for Schilling to stretch himself out a little, work on some pitches, do whatever he might need to do before the playoffs, it was last night, with a 13-run lead. He threw 110 pitches in seven innings before letting Manny Delcarmen and Lenny DiNardo finish up.

Hanley Ramirez (#60) made his debut, fielding a routine grounder to start the seventh and getting called out on strikes in the eighth. After fouling off four pitches, he clearly checked his swing on what should have been ball four. But Bruce Froemming called him out. Remy figured the umpire "has had just about enough of this game."

Great. So at the umpire's discretion, he can disregard the rules to end the game sooner. I hate that shit -- and it's surprising that it's tolerated so completely. You can't go two games without an announcer saying so-and-so's strike zone tonight is wide or tall or whatever, or noting how it obviously changes depending on the inning or who is on the mound. ... How about all the umpires call pitches according to the rule book and make their calls on the bases on whether the player is out or safe, not whether he's a future Hall of Famer or a rookie.

Since there have been comments about Johnny Damon's fielding skills, I would be remiss in not pointing out that Carl Crawford scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to center in the third inning. The ball was hit to the track and Crawford is very fast, but this was embarrassing. After Damon caught the ball, he drifted back three or four steps and banged up against the wall, then heaved the ball in. He has done that often this season and it has been completely unnecessary each and every time. It is only for show. And this time, it wasted valuable time, as Crawford never slowed down sprinting around third.

After leading 10-3, the Yankees again had to rely on Mariano Rivera to preserve a 12-9 victory against the Orioles. The standings remain the same: Sox over Yanks by .5, New York .5 behind Cleveland.

Tonight: Johnson / Lopez in New York and Wakefield / Kazmir in Tampa, both at 7:00.

September 20, 2005


I ranted. And I feel better.

The Red Sox remain the same team as last night, but I will not give up. I refuse to give up.

I did not give up last year, when I felt like a goddamn fool still keeping score at home during the later half of ALCS 3 -- filling in Yankee run after Yankee run after Yankee run in red ink.

I was excited and nervous throughout Game 4. All I wanted was One Win.

And I got One Win. And then another, and another, and another, and ...

Eight sweet, joyous, magical, life-changing wins. Eight!

So, yeah, my cursing during last night's fiasco may have peeled some paint off my wall. Big fucking deal. ... If I didn't care about the Red Sox, I'd be reading a book tonight.

Instead, I'm filling out my scorecard for Game #151.

We have to treat every game from here on in as if we are down 0-3 to the Chokers.

I believe. I've always believed. I cannot not believe.

And neither can you.

September 19, 2005

G150: Devil Rays 8, Red Sox 7

It's a wonder these brain-dead fuckers are still in first place. God, this team sucks right now. They are painful to watch. That the Red Sox can make so many mistakes on the field, at the plate, on the bases and on the mound and still have even a slim grip on first place says a lot about "good" the Yankees are.

We are in a team-wide hitting slump, except for David Ortiz, who is trying like hell to win the division single-handedly (and almost succeeding). Half our starters can't get their shit together enough to throw even three fucking innings in the heat of a mid-September pennant race. Our shortstop has become one of the bigger free-agent busts in recent memory -- and we are stuck with a manager who flat-out refuses to move him out of the top of the lineup ... because that might hurt his self-confidence ... as if he isn't already dreading every goddamn ground ball hit his way and every single at-bat with a man on base.

If Tito truly wants to win some games in these final weeks, Renteria must be dropped to #8 in the order and benched against right-handed pitchers. He finally made the move (sort of) with Millar, let's see if he has the guts to do the same with E6gar.

David Wells had nothing -- like Matt Clement before him -- giving up 10 hits and two walks in 2.2 innings -- though only four runs (Tampa left eight guys on base in the first three innings). The fat fucker failed to cover first base on a ball hit to Millar during the third inning. It's practically the first fucking thing pitchers practice in spring training, but Wells, as you may recall, said he knew his body so well, he didn't need much spring training. Well, fuck you, Orson.

Kevin Millar continues to steal the Red Sox's money. He hit into two double plays (erasing a leadoff runner both times) and (after a seven-pitch walk and the tying run on second in the seventh) hacked at the first pitch and popped to left, killing yet another rally. Fuck you, Cabin, go design another t-shirt.

Hollywood Damon has long hair and never fails to remind us that he's playing hurt, so he can't do anything wrong, yet he's dropping fly balls in center (though somehow not getting charged with any errors) seemingly every night. Fuck you, you Idiot.

If we could catch the ball, we would have won. If we could get a timely hit here or there, we would have won. If we could get a decent outing from our starter, we would have won. If we could excute simple fucking basic plays, we would have won.

Any one of those scenarios would have likely resulted in a victory. Yet, even if the Sox had somehow come back, it would still have ranked as the most frustrating game of the season. I don't want to hate this team, but they aren't giving me much reason not to.

Oh yeah: The Yankees won on a Bubba Crosby ninth-inning home run, so Boston's lead is down to .5.

Somewhere in there, between the cursing and scowling and head-shaking, Craig Hansen made his major league debut, striking out two Rays in a 1-2-3 inning. I liked that, though it is a distant memory right now.

Hansen, Ramirez Join Sox In Tampa

Reliever Craig Hansen (#56) and shortstop Hanley Ramirez have joined the Red Sox in Tampa.

Tony Massarotti writes that Ramirez "probably would be used primarily as a pinch-runner", but also took infield at third base. ... Tito on Hansen: "He's not going to come in with the game on the line to start his professional career. That's not going to happen. We don't need it to happen."

David Ortiz and Robinson Cano were named co-AL Players of the Week.

Down To The Wire

David Ortiz, on winning the East:
If we don't come in first place ... [makes throat-slash gesture] ... The series we have to play the Yankees here at the end, that's going to be World Series [stuff].
Indeed. ... Dan Shaughnessy talks to Carl Yastrzemski about Ortiz.

Paul Doyle (Courant) notes: "Ortiz says he studies Ramirez more than anyone and he had a suggestion Thursday. He told Ramirez he was too far from the plate and missing pitches he should have been crushing." ... That may be, but moving closer to the dish has been suggested to Manny by Ron Jackson for many weeks, and has been written and talked about at length.

Kevin Youkilis may have broken his right ring finger on a groundball yesterday. Initial x-rays did not show a break -- he had stitches under the nail -- but more x-rays will be taken today. Yook: "We're not 100 percent sure [it's broken]. There might be a slight crack. But even if it's not broken, it's pretty bad. It hurts. ... The doctor couldn't believe I was able to throw the ball across the diamond."

Despite a nice outing for Portland in the EL championship series Friday night, Wade Miller may need right shoulder surgery. ... Portland lost the series to Akron, so Craig Hansen could join the Sox in Tampa, possibly "as early as tonight".

G149: Athletics 12, Red Sox 3

Good news: Alejandro Machado's first major league hit.

Bad news: Everything else.

Matt Clement (6.14 ERA since the ASG) had absolutely nothing working for him, giving up hits to the first five Oakland batters and lasting only 1.1 innings. The A's held a 7-0 lead when he left.

Oakland has some good arms, but scoring only 10 runs in four games -- at Fenway -- is unacceptable. If this keeps up, it will also mean the Yankees will erase the slim East lead of 1.5 games. Thankfully, New York lost to Toronto yesterday -- Derek Jeter ended yet another game with the tying run on base when he looked at strike three.

Three of the deadest bats:
                      AVG   OBP   SLG
Varitek 6-for-49 .122 .218 .143
Renteria 11-for-65 .169 .197 .200
Nixon 9-for-49 .184 .310 .224
No NESN for me yesterday. The Fox Sports guys -- Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse -- were innocuous, but I was surprised at their blatant homophobia in the late innings. For some reason, FSN showed clips of the Sox's Queer Eye appearance. Both announcers were laughing, saying how horrible it was that the five players were on the show -- as if they had been forced to appear. Both men said -- more than once -- that they'd rather not win a World Series if it meant going on the show. And perhaps the Sox now felt the same way.

I wasn't sure exactly what it was that they found so objectionable, until Kuiper said, "Just the thought of the name of the show."

Besides the outright bigotry -- and from announcers calling games for a Bay Area team, no less -- they also failed to mention that the players were raising money for charity. But I guess helping rebuild a hurricane-destroyed Little League field in Florida still isn't enough of a reason to stand so close to a bunch of fags.

The Red Sox go to Tampa while the Yankees host Baltimore.

Wells / Hendrickson at 7:00.

September 18, 2005

G148: Red Sox 2, Athletics 1

See? It's all about the pitching -- which we have, damn it -- and having Manny Ramirez swinging a stick in the cleanup spot.

Bronson Arroyo retired the first 12 Oakland hitters. Then he hit a rough patch, walking three guys in the fifth (one of them scored). In the sixth, he allowed two quick singles, but got a double play (excellent pivot by Edgar and a good scoop from Millar) and was out of trouble.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched the eighth and I wanted him out there for the ninth. Terry Francona overruled me and stuck Mike Timlin out there. Timlin threw nine pitches, all strikes, and got the side in order, so I didn't mind.

Pap's first batter, Marco Scutaro, lined a 2-1 pitch down the right field line that hit about one inch foul. Papelbon's next pitch was perfectly placed, up and in, knocking him back, Pedro-to-Shemp-style. Very nice! I'm going to love watching him in the rotation next season.

The Sox scored a run in the first inning, and had the bases loaded with one out against Dan Haren, but (surprise) Jason Varitek and Kevin Millar both struck out. You really had the feeling of a lost opportunity coming back to haunt the Sox.

In the sixth, Ramirez turned on an inside pitch and blasted it well over everything in left. (Off the bat, I actually thought he had popped it up foul, so I was quite surprised.) Manny did that little shoulder thing where he seems to be straightening out his uniform shirt before beginning his jog and it was 2-1.

The Yankees held off the Jays 1-0 (thanks for nothing, Shea), so the East lead remains 1.5. Cleveland beat the Royals to stay on top of the wild card list; they also moved 3.5 games behind the slumping White Sox (who led the Central by 13.5 at one point, if I recall). Oakland is now five behind in the WC, but only 2 behind the Angeles in the West.

Clement / Saarloos at 2:00.

September 17, 2005

The Further Adventures of Reb & Jere

The intrepid shutterbugs stalk the Sox in Gotham.

Rebecca has one post here, while Jere has a ton of photos in three parts.

G147: Red Sox 3, Athletics 2 (10)

Oakland had a five-man infield (no one was in center field). And the game ended without the ball being put into play.

Tony Graffanino doubled to start the tenth inning. (Ken Macha began the extra frame with Jose Cruz, apparently saving his ace closer, Huston "0.90 ERA in 30 innings since the All-Star Game" for a save situation that never materialized. What a dope.) After pinch-runner Alejandro Machado went to third on Johnny Damon's grounder, Macha pulled left fielder Jay Payton for Keith Ginter, but put Ginter in the infield.

Cruz then hit Edgar Renteria with a 3-1 pitch (the ball three pitch nearly hit him also) and David Ortiz was walked intentionally. Keichi Yabu came in and plunked Manny Ramirez on the left elbow with a 1-1 pitch and Boston walked off with their 24th one-run win (against 14 losses). It kept the Sox 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees, who nearly blew an 11-3 lead in Toronto. New York trails in the wild card chase by .5 games.

Tim Wakefield pitched yet another gem. He held the A's to seven hits in nine innings; four of those hits came in the fourth inning. His only walk was to the game's first batter and he recorded 17 ground-ball outs (a good strategy with Manny, no-arm Damon and Kevin Millar in the soggy outfield).

Ortiz (who tied the game at 2-2 with a solo blast in the sixth) claimed he was surprised at being walked: "I saw a lefty warming up in the bullpen, so I thought they were going to bring him in. ... But I guess they've been watching ESPN a lot."

Terry Francona: "You're sitting there watching, waiting and expecting something. I think it stunned us all." ... The last time the Sox won on an HBP was against the Phillies on June 16, 1997 (Troy O'Leary was hit, also in the 10th inning).

It was a happy ending to a game that was increasingly frustrating in the later innings. In the seventh, Boston got the first two men on. But Kiko Calero came in and struck out Bill Mueller and Graffanino. Damon walked to load the bases, but Renteria grounded out (and is now 1-for-his-last-22). Memo to Tito: Please, please, please replace ER in the #2 spot with Graffanino.)

Then, facing Justin Duchscherer (who ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe referred to as "Duh-sure-sure") in the bottom of the ninth, Trot Nixon, Doug Mirabelli and Mueller all struck out looking. In their last three home games, the Sox are 1-for-24 (.042) with runners in scoring position.

So while all the national and out-of-town announcers say Boston is where they are because of their bats, it's the pitching that has carried the team lately. The club's September ERA is 3.83, well below Cleveland's eye-popping 2.19, but still good for 5th in the AL.

Elsewhere: Wade Miller pitched five one-hit, scoreless innings for Portland (AA) in Game 3 of the Eastern League championship series. He threw 64 pitches and struck out six. Akron went on to win the game 2-0. ... Gabe Kapler left the team yesterday and is scheduled to have surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon on Tuesday.

Ortiz became the eighth Red Sox player to hit at least 43 home runs in a season.
Jimmie Foxx 50 1938
Jim Rice 46 1978
Carl Yastrzemski 44 1967
Mo Vaughn 44 1996
Ted Williams 43 1949
Tony Armas 43 1984
David Ortiz 43 2005
Ortiz is also closing in on the club record for homers in consecutive seasons. Foxx hit 86 in 1937-38; Ortiz has 84 over the last two years.

Randy Johnson was ejected in the second inning in Toronto for bitching about the home plate umpire's calls. (One annoying thing about the heave-ho: the umpire, Fieldin Culbreth, kept backing away from Johnson while they argued. If Culbreth had stood his ground, Johnson would likely have knocked him over.) David Wells got a six-game suspension for similarly mouthing off. Let's see what Yankee Bob's boys at MLB HQ do with the Big Eunuch.

Arroyo / Haren at 7:00.

September 16, 2005


Jim Donaldson (ProJo):
The Worst Fears Are Very Close To Becoming Reality

It's going to come down to those last three games against the Yankees. You know it is. And in your constantly faithful but secretly palpitating heart of hearts, you fear that it is.

Intellectually, you understand that's the way it's going to be ... Emotionally, you wish, and hope, and pray, that the Sox already have wrapped it up before then. But you know that's about as likely as George Steinbrenner deciding to trim his payroll below $100 million in 2006. ...

If the Sox can't hold off the resilient Yankees, it's entirely possible that they won't even make the playoffs. ... It's going to come down to that final series. You hope it doesn't, but you know it is.
But why do we fear it? Why is Donaldson calling finishing the season against the Yankees -- with a possible win-or-go-home-for-the-winter scenario -- our "worst fear"? It's a key question he never answers.

Naturally, I want the Sox to clinch the East as soon as possible. I'd be glad if they had that little "x" by their name in the standings in July. But just putting the division title on ice ASAP isn't really what Donaldson is hinting at.

It sounds like Donaldson is recycling the "Yankees always win the big games against the Sox when it counts" silliness. Would Donaldson be writing a similar column if the division lead was down to one game when Boston finished the year hosting Tampa and the Yankees played in Toronto? I don't think so.

The only reason to "fear" the season-ending series is because you still buy into the canard of Pinstriped Mystique. That's what Donaldson would have to write if he had decided to answer the "Why?" question. It's obvious why he sidestepped it.

Grumblings In The Pen?

On Tuesday, Mike Myers spoke with the Globe's Gordon Edes about Terry Francona's use of Mike Timlin in the seventh inning of Monday's game:
There was a lot of scratching of heads down there [in the bullpen]. No one had any pre-warning of what was going on. They've got three lefties in a row coming up and I don't get up. You put Foulke in there, then you bring in Timlin, who hasn't seen the seventh inning in a long time without letting him know early on that you're going to do this? I know they've said before that they would bring him in any time, but there were times where they could have done it and they didn't, and all of a sudden now you do? Everybody was shocked down there, trying to figure out what was going on. With Mike doing well in the ninth inning, and having Papelbon down there to set up, it was very shocking for everybody.
Timlin said that he was "kind of surprised, but they've said they were going to use me whenever. Terry felt that was the crucial part of the game. ... You've got to be able to do your role when you're called on, whether you're called in the sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth."

It's an unconventional approach, bringing your closer into a game in the seventh inning, but it is consistent with a philosophy espoused by Sox senior adviser/statistical analyst Bill James and embraced by general manager Theo Epstein and Francona: Use your best reliever to snuff out a rally when he is most needed, regardless of the inning. The Sox tried the so-called "closer by committee" approach in 2003 with disastrous results, but the organization believed -- and still believes -- that the theory was sound, the execution bad.
The C-by-C is viewed as a failed experiment because Grady Gump had no clue about how to do it. It was simply beyond his old-school baseball mind. However, at the time, no one in the media pointed out that whatever Gump was doing wasn't what the Red Sox had in mind -- so everyone thinks the C-by-C idea was one of bigger failures in recent Red Sox history. It wasn't -- and isn't.

The next day, Myers cleared the air with Francona. Myers:
He wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings and that I wasn't taking potshots at him and Dave Wallace – and I wasn't. I was asked what I thought down in the bullpen [on Monday] and I said I was surprised. There were no hard feelings from me. There's no controversy. Terry just wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings. I want to apologize to Terry publicly for putting him in that spot, and if it made him uncomfortable, because there was no [second-guessing] behind that whatsoever.
One of my grievances with Francona last night was his failure to bring Myers into the seventh inning to face Eric Chavez. Tito had Myers warmed up, yet did not call on him in the one spot in which it would sense to pitch him.

Then, when Myers did come into the game, Francona let him pitch to Nick Swisher in the eighth, rather than going with Chad Bradford. Myers has allowed an 1.180 OPS to right-handed hitters this year; Bradford has allowed a .597 OPS.

However, Swisher is a switch-hitter, so if Bradford had come in, he would have batted lefty. Bradford's OPS against LHB? .950. Swisher does hit righties (.794 OPS) better than lefties (.608). Myers allowed a double to Swisher.

Bradford came in after that and wasn't much better, allowing a double and single. So maybe it wouldn't have worked out anyway, but I wonder if part of Tito's leaving Myers in was related to his comments.


From George The Oil Rep:
What is the fewest number of pitches possible in an official baseball game?
He wasn't sure of the exact phrasing of the question, but we agreed on the fewest pitches for one pitcher in a complete game.

I quickly said "zero" (a forfeit is called before the first pitch is thrown). However, he said it wasn't a trick question -- and, in fact, he hadn't been able to get an answer from any of the fans he knows.

My guess before he left was "12" -- rained-out game goes the absolute minimum and the pitcher who goes only four innings throws one pitch per batter. But as he was leaving, he asked if a batter could make an out without a pitch being thrown. (I think he can, but can't remember how.)

Anyone have the answer?

G146: Athletics 6, Red Sox 2

Cable was out for several hours, so I missed the first two innings (though I did watch the bonus disc from the mega-box set of the ALCS/WS games and discovered that I cannot hate Kevin Millar. His "Don't let us win tonight" monologue before ALCS 4 is one of the greatest quotes in Red Sox history.)

After only five pitches, Curt Schilling trailed 2-0. He battled into the seventh, but what looked like a fairly flat performance from the hitters (and questionable bullpen choices by Francona in the eighth) led to a defeat. Coupled with the Chokers' win in Tampa, the East lead is down to 1.5.

Wakefield / Kennedy at 7:00.

September 15, 2005

G145: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

The series in Toronto has given me a better understanding of the mindset of people who follow cult leaders. Take the Heaven's Gate bunch, for example -- 39 people "committ[ed] suicide so that their souls could take a ride on a spaceship that they thought was hiding behind the comet [in 1997]; members reportedly believed themselves to be aliens."

Sounds nutty, right? How could a seemingly rational person believe something like that? ... Well, if David Ortiz announced that he was starting a new religion, I think I'd do just about anything he suggested.

Papi broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run to dead center in the eighth inning. Bill Mueller had singled with two outs to give The Greatest Clutch Hitter In The History Of The Boston Red Sox a chance to do his thing. ... Everyone was expecting a pitching change. Ortiz, Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun, and starter Josh Towers all looked into the home dugout, waiting for manager John Gibbons to pop out and make a move.

Didn't happen. Towers, who had kept Ortiz in the infield in three at-bats (3-1, 4-5-3 DP, K), threw a ball and a strike before DO unloaded. HR #41 and one step closer to the AL MVP award. ... Entrusted with a 5-3 advantage, Chad Bradford and Mike Timlin breezed through one inning apiece and Boston left Canada having won two of three.

The other big news was the loss of Gabe Kapler. In the fifth, Kapler reached on an infield error. Tony Graffanino smacked a line drive to left and Kapler (assuming the ball would hit off the wall) sprinted around second, where he suddenly fell down near where the shortstop normally plays. The ball cleared the fence, but Kapler could not stand up. Graffy had to pause his home run trot at second base -- so as to not pass the runner ahead of him -- while the Sox trainers dealt with Kapler.

Alejandro Machado came out to finish Kapler's trip around the bases and play center field. Kapler ruptured his Achilles tendon. And the Sox are even more pressed to get another outfielder. (Adam Hyzdu has joined the club.)

I'm sure a situation similar to Kapler's has happened -- and probably not that long ago -- but I don't think I've ever it in almost 30 years of watching baseball. Rule 5.10(1) sets out what to do:
If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play.
The Yankees held on to beat Tampa 6-5 and Cleveland beat Oakland 6-4. New York remains 2.5 games behind the Sox and 1 game behind Cleveland for the wild card. The A's, who start a series in Boston tonight, are 3.5 back in the wild card, though only 1 game behind the Angels in the West. Andrew at 12eight looks at possible tiebreakers and playoff matchups.

Schilling / Blanton at 7:00.

September 14, 2005

G144: Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3

Several rockets hit off Matt Clement in the second inning -- when Toronto scored five times -- and two miscues from E6dar Renteria mean the Sox are now 2-1 when I see them at Skydome.

The atmosphere was further ruined by a party coordinator type-guy pumping up the crowd and giving away t-shirts and gift certificates between innings, like you'd expect at a minor league park. No spin-your-forehead-on-a-bat-and-try-to-walk-a-straight-line though, unfortunately. I can't recall if they did this kind of crap the other times I was there.

Keith Foulke also had a rough inning, facing eight Jays in the seventh, walking two and allowing a hit and run. Chad Harville mopped up.

Who the hell is Scott Downs?

Papi hit his 41st tater of the season, a solo shot to right center. He also singled and walked, and has reached base eight times in the last two games.

Kevin Millar doubled and hit a sac fly, but he also looked (yet again (or still)) like ass in the outfield. Man, we need some outfield depth -- stat. (Good news on Damon's MRI.)

Roberto Petagine got his one AB of the week, struck out, and had Tito wondering why this guy is so rusty.

The Yankees routed Tampa 17-3 and are 2.5 games oot. They trail Cleveland by one game for the wild card.

Wells / Towers at 7:00.

September 13, 2005

G143: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5 (11)

... and that is why you never pinch-run for David Ortiz in the ninth inning of a tie game.

Long home runs by Ortiz and Manny Ramirez (off the roof of the restaurant in center field!) helped give Boston a 5-0 lead. Then Terry Francona fell asleep in the seventh inning, woke up groggy and confused, and fucked it all up.

In short: Bronson Arroyo should not have started the seventh. In the sixth, up by three, Arroyo allowed a full-count double to Frank Catalanotto and an eight-pitch walk to Vernon Wells. When he fell behind tying-run-at-the-plate Corey Koskie 3-1, he had thrown 89 pitches -- and Tito had a crowded, fully-rested bullpen.

Arroyo got a double play and another ground out to escape trouble, and Boston tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh. Arroyo, if he was out there at all, should have been on a short leash. But Francona apparently didn't even have anyone warming up to start the inning.

Arroyo walked Eric Hinske. Then Gregg Zaun singled over Trot Nixon's head in right. Only then did Keith Foulke, who probably should have started the inning, begin warming up. Arroyo got ahead of Aaron Hill 0-2, but lost him on another eight-pitch walk. Bases loaded. Tito went with Foulke, not the best choice for a getting a much-needed ground ball (where was Bradford?). Foulke allowed a single to right and a sacrifice fly, then got a strikeout. It was 5-2, there were runners at first and third, and nine of Foulke's pitches had been strikes.

Francona came out and replaced him with Mike Timlin -- one righty with another. I started bitching immediately -- thinking both of Timlin's Inherited Runners problem and his gopher-ball tendencies (which has actually not been much of an issue this season). Foulke should have been allowed to face Wells. ... Timlin's third pitch -- after two balls, Varitek set up outside, but the pitch hung up inside -- was belted to left for a game-tying home run.

A loss in this game would have been a huge kick in the guts. But Jonathan Papelbon pitched three no-hit innings (only one walk in 10 batters) and Ortiz hit his 40th home run of the season in the 11th -- the inning began with a huge "Let's Go, Red Sox!" chant -- to give Papelbon his first major league victory.

Jays Announcer Notes: Fairly innocuous, if somewhat misinformed. They said the versatile Tony Graffanino can play first base and outfield for Boston, although he has played only five innings in left field and a similar amount at first in his entire career. ... Their stats when the pitcher begins his appearance include WHIP! ... On Manny in Boston: "They either love him, hate him, or a little of both."

All their silliness was wiped away when they were discussing Timlin in the eighth. They began by noting that Timlin and George W. Bush are both from Midland, Texas (though born there, Bush actually grew up in Connecticut). Anyway, one of the guys (I think it was Jamie Campbell and not Pat Tabler) said, "One guy has three rings -- two here in Toronto and one in Boston. The other guy has an unpopular war going on and gas prices through the roof."

Agree with that statement or not, it is something you would NEVER hear from an American sports announcer during a baseball game. Amazing.

The lead increases to 3.5 games and the magic number dips to 17. New York is in Florida dealing with their Tampa Daddies, while I head off to the Rogers Centre for tonight's game. I'll be in Aisle 116, Row 38 -- wearing my Godpapi shirt... Damon was sent back to Boston for an MRI. Not good.

Clement / Downs at 7:00.

September 12, 2005

Getting Caught Up

Gabe Kapler apologized to the Yankees for taking second base with a seven-run lead in the ninth. "I pride myself on being professional and not showing a team up. I just wanted to apologize to Joe and those guys, Al Leiter, for making that decision, a poor error in judgment. I fell asleep. I just wanted to make sure those guys know it wasn't malicious."

Remember when Gump apologized for scoring a lot of runs against Florida? ... Could New York have managed a last-inning rally against what everyone says is a leaky Sox pen? Of course, they could. It was unlikely, but possible. If the other team gives you a base, take it.

If Kapler had hit a ball in the gap and the Yankee outfielders were slow to get to it, would he stop at second with a double when he could easily leg out a triple? Of course not. And if he did go into third standing up, would he be sorry the next day? It's laughable.

Kapler's only brain cramp was in issuing his mea culpa.

The bullpen has pitched only 10.1 innings in the last nine games. ... The Sox have signed 26-year-old, right-hand hitting Cuban first baseman Michel Abreu. ... Wade Miller started and allowed two runs in 2.2 innings as the Portland Sea Dogs advanced to the EL championship series with a 9-2 victory over the Yankees' Trenton Thunder team. Miller also walked three, struck out three and threw a wild pitch.

Who works inside the Monster? ... Rick Ankiel completed his first season (A and AA) as a positional player with a .259 average, 21 home runs and 75 RBI. ... Gordon Edes reviews "Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series and Created a New Blueprint for Winning"; when discussing Dave Roberts,
[Theo] Epstein's orthodoxy, reinforced by special adviser Bill James, the creator of the whole analytical business that had debunked stolen bases in the first place, held that if you built the right kind of team, Roberts's skill set would be largely extraneous. Except -- and this was the key part of it that most people didn't get -- except when it was necessary . . . It was a desperate moment, but nonetheless a moment that had been planned for.
With 20 games left:
Boston 83-59
New York 80-62
If Boston goes 10-10, the Yankees would have to win 13 of 20 to force a tie. That's a .650 percentage -- much higher than their .563 mark in 142 games so far.

Mike Vaccaro had a great article in Sunday's Post, headlined: "Stadium Now Boston Colony". After the final out of the Sox's 9-2 win:
You couldn't hear the first few notes of "New York, New York" ... because there was a deafening spasm of noise spreading through the grandstand, and just about everywhere you looked inside Yankee Stadium you could see row after row of red shirts, hear choruses of cheering. ...

Walking through the concourses at Yankee Stadium during the top of the fourth inning yesterday, there rose a deep, throaty roar from the other side of the walls. Yankee fans scurried to the concession stands to check TV monitors; such a sound could only mean a Yankee had just made a splendid defensive play.

Imagine their surprise, then, when they saw this instead: Red Sox first baseman John Olerud trotting around the basepaths after smoking a ball into the right field stands off Yankees starter Shawn Chacon, extending the Sox lead to 3-0.

"Why the hell is everyone cheering?" asked a guy in an Alex Rodriguez jersey, and it's a hell-of-a-good question. ...

September 11, 2005

G142: Yankees 1, Red Sox 0

I can't remember the last game this season where I had sweaty palms in the eighth inning, butterflies in the stomach in the ninth.

Tim Wakefield threw a masterpiece yesterday, striking out a career-high 12 batters. His only blemish was a cheap home run down the right field foul line by Jason Giambi in the first inning. He allowed three hits and one walk in his second consecutive complete game, but unlike his last start, the Sox couldn't pull out a victory.

Randy Johnson was similarly impressive. Boston managed only one hit against The Big Ugly in seven innings, a semi-bloop single to left center by Kevin Youkilis. Once Johnson left the game, the Sox quickly rallied.

Tom Gordon began the eighth and gave up a single to Tony Graffanino. Adam Stern went in to pinch-run, and was erased when Doug Mirabelli's popup fell in the middle of the diamond. One of the YES announcers mused that Derek Jeter had purposely let the ball drop in order to get a force at second, replacing the speedy Stern with the immobile Mirabelli on the bases, but that was pure Yankee spin.

The big question was: Why did Terry Francona pinch-run for Graffanino (and for David Ortiz when he walked later in the inning) but not for Mirabelli? I guess it was the Personal Catcher crap, as if Jason Varitek couldn't have caught Wakefield for two innings.

Ortiz's two-out walk (against Mariano Rivera) moved Belly to second -- I had horrible thoughts of Dale Sveum waiving Mirabelli around third on a hit -- but Johnny Damon grounded to first in a 10-pitch at-bat. (The 8th pitch was a fly ball that landed about four inches foul down the right field line, thisclose to being a game-tying double.)

In the ninth, Edgar Renteria's first-pitch line drive was speared at the mound by Rivera and Trot Nixon, batting for Yook, grounded out. But then Manny Ramirez walked and Kevin Millar singled to right center. With Manny on third, John Olerud struck out to end the nailbiter.

Having 2004 in my mind makes this one easier to take -- as does being the chasee and not the chaser -- and New York needed it way more than Boston. Joe Torre is calling these last few weeks his team's post-season. It was an amazing game.

The Red Sox lead is back down to three games with 20 to play; the Yankees trail Cleveland by 1.5 in the wild card. New York heads to Tampa Bay and Boston is in Toronto.

Arroyo / Lilly at 7:00.

G141: Red Sox 9, Yankees 2

The magic number is 18.

Against the White Sox last Monday, Curt Schilling started strong, but tired around the fifth inning. Facing the Yankees Saturday afternoon, he was sharp for eight innings. He allowed only one hit through the first six, and when it seemed he was fading -- a walk and two singles to start the eighth -- he quickly returned to form, needing just five pitches to retire the side.

Manny Ramirez belted a two-run home run in the top of the first and he and his mates added six more in the fourth (the 27th time the Sox have scored 5+ runs in an inning). That frame featured two Yankee errors, including a dropped fly ball in left by Hideki Matsui (when he looks bad in the outfield, he makes Manny look like Clemente (almost)).

Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for Boston, though I was sort of hoping to see the reliever Tim McCarver referred to as "Keith Falk" -- I figured he'd come out of the pen wearing a rumbled raincoat!

Wakefield / Big Eunuch at 1:00.

September 10, 2005

G140: Yankees 8, Red Sox 4

David Wells really wanted to stay in the game when he was pulled in the sixth inning. "You get the out and all of a sudden you get pulled out. I don't like it. The sixth inning, it's still early in the ballgame. It feels like I'm back in the National League. They do that a lot over there. ... I just told him I thought I was good, why you taking me out?"

"Good"? Wells had allowed single runs to the Yankees in the first, second, third and fourth innings, throwing away a 3-1 lead. After a perfect fifth, he gave up singles to the first two hitters in the sixth. After getting an out, he got what sure seemed to me like a well-deserved hook.

Francona's call to the pen did not work out, however. Chad Bradford walked Derek Jeter and allowed back-to-back singles to Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez. Then Mike Myers surrendered a single to Jason Giambi. New York led at that point 8-3. The Red Sox quickly rallied, scoring a run and loading the bases with one out in the seventh. But Jason Varitek grounded into a double play against Tom Gordon.

It was a frustrating game: the Sox did very little with Aaron Small, they made four errors in the field, and we were reminded that we have the worst base coach in major league baseball. Jorge Posada: I can't believe Dale Sveum sent him because the ball was in Jeter's hand when he was not even rounding third yet. There was nothing [Varitek] could do. I was right in front of the plate. There was nothing he could do but try to go through me."

And to any Yankee fans reading this, please note that on the home plate collision, Posada did not take his mask off. ... Oh, the horror!!

This series is also The Battle of the T-Shirts:
Red Sox (Millar): Front: "F Everyone"
Back: "2005 Sox -- All We Have Is Each Other"
[Bill Reynolds says (correctly) that the slogan is 100% wrong.]

Yankees (Posada/Yoda): Front: "Grind It"
Back: "There is no trying. There is only doing or not doing."
I had the ESPN feed last night. One nice thing about the opening: zero pictures of George H. Ruth.

Rick Sutcliffe did not disappoint. On Jeter, in the third: "He covers so much ground and does it so gracefully." ... On the Sox offense: "They are scoring just under seven runs a game for Wells" as on-screen graphic shows Wells leading AL with 8.07 runs per start. ... While Boston bats in the 6th inning: "Does anything change with Jeter? Has he ever felt pressure?"

I had to mute the game for whole innings at a time because of the nonsense, which included exaggerated and cliched praise for Boston players also. After awhile, I clicked on the sound with the Yankees batting and heard Sut in mid-sentence: "... know what it takes to win ..." Priceless.

Other Stuff: Wade Miller threw 60 pitches in the bullpen on Friday and may start for Portland (AA) in an Eastern League playoff game on Sunday. "I was letting it go. It was 100 percent. It was probably the best I've felt in a long time." After a session last Wednesday, Miller said: I can help out in a late run for us, and hopefully, in the playoffs. I don't see why not."

The Schillings are providing housing for a New Orleans family of nine (seven children between ages 5 and 12). ... David Ortiz pledged $50,000 to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Murray Chass -- still bitter knowing his Yankees choked away the 2004 pennant -- finds a part-time security supervisor who worked for the Red Sox last year and did not get a ring. That's worth 991 words to the New York Times.

Before the Yankees series, Boston pitchers pitched at least eight innings four times in five days: Clement (8, Saturday), Wells (9, Sunday), Schilling (6.1, Monday), Wakefield (9, Tuesday) and Arroyo (8, Wednesday). ... The last time that happened for the Sox? 1993. ... The Red Sox are the only AL team with four pitchers that have at least 12 victories: Tim Wakefield (15), Matt Clement (13), Bronson Arroyo (12) and David Wells (12). Only two teams -- Cleveland and the White Sox -- have as many as three 12-game winners.

New Yankee Mark Bellhorn is hitting .091 (1-for-11) with a homer and two RBI; Alan Embree has a 7.65 ERA in 16 appearances.

Boston leads the Yankees by three games with 22 to play. ... Schilling / Chacon at 1:20.

September 9, 2005

G139: Angels 3, Red Sox 0

Paul Byrd and two relievers stifled the Sox on five hits and five walks. The Sox, trailing 3-0, loaded the bases in both the eighth (with one out) and ninth innings (with two outs). All six outs in those frustrating frames were by strikeout. No clutch heroics this time.

Boston heads to the Bronx for the weekend, where the Yankees just dropped two of three to the Devil Rays. They trail the Sox by four games and are .5 games behind Cleveland in the wild card.

Wells / Small at 7:00.

September 8, 2005

G138: Red Sox 6, Angels 3

Bronson Arroyo: 8-8-3-0-2, 105 pitches. He was in some trouble in the first two innings, though it happened (both times) after he got the first two Angels out. Arroyo allowed five hits, an HBP and three runs to the first 11 batters; after that, he retired 19 of the 22 Angels he faced, allowing three scattered singles.

David Ortiz: His two-run, opposite-field single in the third inning -- right after he may have gone around on a check swing for stike three -- tied the game at 3-3. He now has 122 RBI. Ortiz also walked in the first and singled in the fifth.

Kevin Millar hit another home run, a solo shot in the second. ... Alex Cora walked and tripled, and scored two runs.

The Red Sox have won 23 of their last 26 games at Fenway Park.

Clement / Byrd at 7:00.

September 7, 2005

G137: Red Sox 3, Angels 2

Did anyone really think we were going to lose that game? Ha!

David Ortiz did it again. ... Of course. ... Sometimes, it feels like he does this about once a week. ... An absolute bomb on an inside fastball. Deep and high to right field. HR #38. Game Over.

Tim Wakefield pitched nine tough innings -- and it was good to see him get credit for the victory. He allowed eight hits: five doubles, two singles, and a home run. ... He was also helped by some great fielding: Bill Mueller, John Olerud, and several plays (catching and throwing) by Manny Ramirez. ... It was the 9th time in 12 games that the Angels have failed to score more than three runs.

And with Rivera giving up a ninth-inning run (thanks to a Cano error) in New York, and Jeter grounding into a game-ending double play, the Yankees are now four games out. ... Wouldn't it be great to go into the Bronx with a six-game lead?

One announcer comment: While John Lackey was busy walking three consecutive Sox in the fifth inning, Remy and Orsillo were talking about Nolan Ryan. "Was he nasty?" Orsillo asked. "Oh, yeah," said Remy, "he was nasty." Remy went on to tell a story about Ryan pitching to Bert Campaneris. After getting brushed back by an inside pitch, Campy pointed to the plate with his bat, as if to say "throw the ball over the plate." Ryan's response? His next pitch drilled Campy in the knee. Remy was laughing as he said this.

A few things: For Remy, who has had about 3,000 knee operations, to joke about a player getting hit in the knee by a Ryan fastball, is pretty bizarre. ... Also, what would his reaction be to a pitcher doing that now?

Forget about it happening to a Red Sox batter -- how about any hitter? Would he be chuckling? Would he think it was cute? I don't think so. ... Yet let enough time go by, and incidents that would have been condemned are recounted as cuddly clues into a gamer's mentality.

Arroyo / Santana at 7:00.