August 31, 2006

G134: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4

Woo-Hoo!

Mike Lowell hits a three-run home run in the first inning -- the first three-spot for the Red Sox since the second inning on August 23 (70 innings ago) -- and it suddenly feels like we're rooting for a major league team.

With the game tied 4-4, two outs in the seventh and Dustin Pedroia on first, Alex Cora hits a fly ball to the warning track in right. Alex Rios drifts back, and after the ball hits off his glove, he bats the ball into the right field stands for a two-run home run. !!! Boston leads 6-4 and Jonathan Papelbon slams the door.

Who knows -- maybe this is the first victory in what turns out to be a historical comeback?

***

Roy Halladay (3.12) / Julian Tavarez (4.71), 7 PM

David Wells -- who had the team's best ERA in August (2.65 in five starts) -- has cleaned out his locker and is at his apartment awaiting further instructions.

Meanwhile at the Fens, it's the Battle For Second Place. With Sexy Lips on the hill. (gulp)

Some final wallowing in the 2-7 road trip: The Sox scored 19 runs while allowing 43. They hit .198 (58-for-293) overall and .136 (8-for-59) with runners in scoring position. That averages out to fewer than 7 AB per game with a runner on second or third.

Steven Krasner, ProJo:
[A]fter scoring three runs over the first two innings of last Thursday's game in Anaheim, Boston tallied just 11 runs over its final 70 innings on the trip, only once posting more than one run in an inning -- two in the sixth against Seattle on Sunday, homers by Ortiz and Mike Lowell, the team's only hits that day.
Boston has scored three runs or fewer in seven straight games:
0824 At LAA W 2- 1
0825 At SEA L 0- 6
0826 At SEA L 3- 4
0827 At SEA L 3- 6
0828 At OAK L 0- 9
0829 At OAK L 1- 2
0830 At OAK L 2- 7
It's the team's worst stretch since May 24-June 2, 1976 (nine games, but those Sox went a respectable 4-5):
0524 Vs DET W 3- 0
0525 Vs DET W 2- 0
0526 At MIL L 2- 6
0527 At MIL W 2- 1
0528 Vs BAL L 1- 4
0529 Vs BAL L 2- 7
0530 Vs BAL W 3- 1
0531 Vs NY L 3- 8
0602 Vs NY L 2- 7

Ortiz Out Of Hospital?; Wells Or DiNardo On Hill Tonight?

While the Herald reports that David Ortiz was released from the hospital last night, a Red Sox spokesman said that was "totally inaccurate".

David Wells is tonight's scheduled starter, but he may be traded by game time.

The Sox would love one of the Dodgers' top three prospects -- outfielder Matt Kemp, third baseman Andy LaRoche, or first baseman James Loney -- but the Dodgers aren't biting. So Wells may return to San Diego for catcher George Kottaras, who began this year ranked as the Padres' #2 prospect by Baseball America.

Lenny DiNardo was scratched from his Pawtucket start last night and would likely get the ball if Wells is dealt. ... The San Diego Tribune reports that the Padres have reached an agreement with Rudy Seanez.

Mike Lowell on the team dealing Wells: "Would I understand it? Yeah, I'd understand it from the front office standpoint, depending on what we're getting. I don't want to get a dozen bats. We're more than a David Wells away right now."

The Red Sox return to Fenway tonight for a 10-game homestand. The reception? Francona: "They'll be welcoming us with open arms." ... Youkilis, after being told that fans, while frustrated, would likely understand the reasons for the team's poor showing: "Are you dealing with rational people? I don't know, they're Red Sox fans."

Tony Massarotti, Herald (my emphasis):
What is happening to the Red Sox now simply defies logic, probability and all measures of fairness and decency ... From top to bottom, the Red Sox have received more than their share of criticism this year for a season gone wrong. But now, with more than a month left in the schedule, the Sox are having any reasonable chance at success (or even competitiveness) stripped away from them through no fault of their own.
Look at that -- the team's craptastic August is not being blamed on the moral failings of any player(s) or lack of hustle or desire any crap like that. At least not "now". How bad did things have to get for that to be the case? As of yesterday, the Sox are playing without their:
starting catcher
starting shortstop
starting left fielder (and MVP candidate)
starting center fielder
starting right fielder
backup right fielder
designated hitter (and MVP candidate)
#2 starter
#4 starter

Lester Has Enlarged Lymph Nodes

The Red Sox have confirmed reports that doctors found enlarged lymph nodes on Jon Lester during the course of medical tests on his back.

Lester has been admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for further evaluation. Initial reports indicated Lester spent much of the time the Sox were in Seattle in the hospital.

August 30, 2006

G133: Athletics 7, Red Sox 2

Update: The Tigers won the Bronx nightcap 5-3.

***

Schilling got his 3,000th career strikeout (Nick Swisher, 1st inning), but allowed six runs and 11 hits in 5.1 innings.

Eric Hinske and Dustin Pedroia drove in today's runs; for Pedroia, it was #1 of his major league career. Every starter got a hit except for Alex Cora. Jonathan Papelbon pitched the bottom of the eighth, his first appearance in six days.

Coco Crisp hurt his wrist on a dive last night, so he was out of the lineup today.

New York won this afternoon 2-0, so Boston is 8.5 GB in the all-but-decided AL East. Toronto is 10 GB with a chance to close within one game of the Sox before the big battle-for-second begins tomorrow night. (The Red Sox are 7 GB the White Sox for the wild card.)

Trivia for those who didn't watch the game: Which player was the 3,000th strikeout victim for two different pitchers? (Answer later in comments.)

***

Curt Schilling (3.95) / Barry Zito (3.64), 3:30 PM

Schilling's first strikeout this afternoon will be the 3,000th of his career, making him the 14th pitcher to reach that lofty total.

On his BB/K ratio (only 683 career walks): "That's huge; that's bigger. I don't know where I'll fall on that scale as far as how many walks people have when they got to 3,000, but I'd imagine I'll be close up there. ... Earlier in my career, the two guys I wanted to emulate were Clemens and Maddux. I wanted Clemens's power with Maddux's control. I never quite got to either one of them, but I felt like I was kind of a mishmash of the two in some cases."

Schilling will have the best ratio (easily) among members of the 3,000K club.
                  K    BB   K/BB
Nolan Ryan 5714 2795 2.04
Roger Clemens 4566 1536 2.97
Randy Johnson 4509 1402 3.21
Steve Carlton 4136 1833 2.25
Bert Blyleven 3701 1322 2.79
Tom Seaver 3640 1390 2.61
Don Sutton 3574 1343 2.66
Gaylord Perry 3534 1379 2.56
Walter Johnson 3509 1363 2.57
Phil Niekro 3342 1809 1.84
Fergie Jenkins 3192 997 3.20
Bob Gibson 3117 1336 2.33
Greg Maddux 3148 936 3.36

Curt Schilling 2999 683 4.39

Pedro Martinez 2986 697 4.28
The Red Sox have lost Schilling's past four starts. ... Since the Yankees series, Boston has scored an average of 2 runs per game (9 games, 18 runs); the Red Sox have scored a mere 9 runs in their last 6 games.

Zito took a no-hitter into the eighth inning last Friday in Texas, finishing with 8.1 innings and two hits allowed.

Yankees-Tigers play a day-night DH in the Bronx (1 PM, 7 PM). Royals-Twins at 1PM and Devil Rays-White Sox at 2 PM.

Will Wells Be Traded After Tomorrow's Start?

All the papers offer some medical information on David Ortiz's condition, but there are also reports that the Red Sox are shopping David Wells.

Since Wells has been one of the team's best pitchers in recent weeks, it would be a major concession that the team has little chance at making the playoffs. The Red Sox trail New York by 7.5 games and are 6.5 GB Chicago for the wild card. Boston still has three games remaining with both the White Sox and Twins.

If Boston does decide to deal Wells, who cleared waivers on August 3, they would likely do it by midnight tomorrow, so he would be eligible for a team's post-season roster. (ESPN's Buster Olney said a source put the odds at "80-20 or 90-10" that a deal would be made.) Wells is scheduled to pitch against Toronto tomorrow night at Fenway.

Boston has apparently spoken with the Dodgers, Padres and Cardinals. One report said Boston had asked the Dodgers for 21-year-old outfielder Matt Kemp, who hit .279 in a six-week stint in LA earlier this year and is currently batting .349 for Las Vegas (AAA).

Theo Epstein refused to discuss the matter, but Padres GM Kevin Towers said he had spoken with Epstein on Monday afternoon.
We've had some dialogue, but nothing is imminent. ... I think Theo is just trying to find out which clubs would be interested if they decided to move him. He's putting his feelers out. That's kind of where it's at. ... I wasn't getting the impression from Theo that they were raising the white flag or anything. He just wants to be proactive in case they get to that point.

G132: Athletics 2, Red Sox 1

Beckett pitched well enough to win (7-5-2-3-4, 104), but allowing two runs was too much for the current Boston lineup to overcome.

In both the second and fourth innings, Youkilis walked and Lowell singled, but nothing came of it. Youkilis doubled with two outs in the sixth and scored on Hinske's single up the middle, making the score 2-1. Hinske was then thrown out trying to steal (??) with Lowell at the plate.

In the seventh, Carlos Pena singled with one out and Mirabelli walked. But Kiko Calero got Pedroia on a grounder to first (which moved the runners to second and third) and Joe Kennedy fanned Crisp on a full count, cut fastball down and in.

Loretta walked with one out in the eighth, but Youkilis and Hinske could not advance him. After Youkilis started a 7-6-2 play that nailed Kotsay at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, Lowell, Pena and Mirabelli went down in order against Justin Duchscherer in the ninth, the last two batters striking out.

I'm sure the Red Sox will win another game at some point this year (though you won't catch me betting actually money on it), but I was actually surprised when they scored a run tonight. At 2-0 after five innings, and only four base runners through 5.2 innings, I figured we were looking at a second consecutive shutout.

Afternoon game tomorrow.

***

Three Red Sox Set For Pawtucket: Trot Nixon will DH on Thursday, play RF on Friday, and DH on Saturday. ... Alex Gonzalez will play SS on Friday and Saturday. ... Jason Varitek will catch 5 innings on Friday and 7 innings on Saturday.

David Ortiz will spend tonight at Mass General.

***

Josh Beckett (5.21) / Kirk Saarloos (4.66), 10 PM

Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Pena were sent back to Boston today for further medical examination. ... So who's our bench for two games? Kapler and Lopez. They don't add up to even one major league player. Christ.

On the plus side, the Yankees were rained out today, so we'll drop only one half-game tonight.

August 29, 2006

Medical Statement On Ortiz

Dr. Thomas Gill, Red Sox Medical Director:
Prior to Monday night's game in Oakland, David Ortiz experienced palpitations and was removed from the lineup. At that time, it was determined that he would return to Boston to undergo further examination and testing to determine the cause of these recurring symptoms. The examination and testing will be done over the next few days led by Red Sox Team Internist Dr. Larry Ronan, with the support of a group of specialists.

David had experienced similar symptoms approximately ten days ago. He was admitted to the hospital on August 19 where he was fully examined by specialists and a series of tests were performed. Based on the results of these tests, and David's symptomatic improvement, he was cleared to play. David had not experienced any additional episodes of palpitations until Monday evening.

With the recurrence of these symptoms, we would like David to be fully examined and tested before he is allowed to return to the field.

Today's Gut Punch: Ortiz Sent Back To Boston For More Heart Tests

The Red Sox will limp through two more games in Oakland, but David Ortiz is already back in Boston.

He was scratched from last night's lineup about 20 minutes before the game because of a recurrence of an irregular heartbeat. (Initial reports that he had the flu were incorrect.) Ortiz experienced the fast heartbeat about 60-90 minutes before the game. He was not taken to a hospital, but simply returned to the team's hotel.

Wily Mo Pena: "He told me it's still bothering him and he doesn't know where it's coming from. Everybody's worried, especially him." Francona: "We honestly think he's OK. ... He's going to get a clean bill of health before we let him play again."

Manny Ramirez will likely not play until Thursday. Tito: "I bet he could pinch hit, but if he aggravates it, we sat one of the best players in baseball two, three, four days then set him back again."

Both Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon should begin brief minor league rehab assignments Thursday. ... The Red Sox have not decided whether to rest Jon Lester for the rest of the season.

Carlos Pena: "Growing up around Boston and being such a fan, it's a dream come true. I've always dreamed about wearing this uniform, and to be able to do it is a blessing." (Mo Vaughn was his favorite player.)

Not only is Boston's August record of 8-19 the worst in the majors, it is also the first time the team has lost 19 games in a calendar month since April 1996.

G131: Athletics 9, Red Sox 0

1:08 AM -- And so to bed.

***

Damn. Ortiz out of the starting lienup. Cora (ss) bumped from 9th to 2nd, Pedroia in at 2B and batting 9th. Loretta is batting third and DHing. [shaking head]

***

Kason Gabbard (3.38) / Esteban Loaiza (5.12), 10 PM

In his last start, Loaiza threw a four-hit, complete game shutout against Toronto. He is 3-0, 1.76, in his last five starts, with 27 strikeouts and three walks. ... David Ortiz is 12-for-28 (.429) against Loaiza, with three doubles, six walks and a .529 OBP.

With Beckett and Schilling following Gabbard, I hope Francona doesn't decide to punt this game away around about the 6th inning.

Lineups:
Crisp, CF      Kendall, C
Loretta, 2B Kielty, LF
Ortiz, DH Bradley, RF
Youkilis, LF Thomas, DH
Lowell, 3B Payton, CF
Hinske, RF Chavez, 3B
Lopez, C Swisher, 1B
CPena, 1B Scutaro, SS
Cora, SS Ellis, 2B
Coming In: Boston has lost nine of their last 11 games, 11 of their last 14 games and 16 of their last 22. They are 8-18 in August, the most losses by the team in any month since June 2000 (9-18). And they have hit .188 (36-for-191) the first six games of this road trip, 6-for-34 (.176) with runners in scoring position. ... With 32 games left, the Red Sox trail the Yankees by 6.5 games in the East and the Twins by 5.5 in the wild card.

And now for the good news:

...

...

Umm, I couldn't find any.

August 28, 2006

Lester on DL

Jon Lester was placed on the disabled list with a back strain. He was involved in a minor traffic accident on August 18 while driving to Fenway Park.

Carlos Pena was called up from Pawtucket and he will start at first base tonight. Pena had played eight games with the PawSox, hitting .423 with two home runs. ... Doug Mirabelli did not start yesterday because of a sore left ankle. ... Keith Foulke has been unavailable to pitch because of a stiff back.

David Ortiz: "Everything is going in the wrong direction."

Jeff Horrigan of the Herald writes "it's not unreasonable to think" Tim Wakefield will be able to come off the DL during Labor Day weekend. Jason Varitek "also should be activated during the first few days of the next homestand".

The Red Sox traded RHP Tim Bausher and cash to the Reds for RHP Mike Burns. Bausher, 27, went 4-3, 4.91, in two starts and 35 relief appearances at Pawtucket. Burns, 28, was optioned to Louisville (AAA) on June 26 after compiling an 8.78 ERA in 11 relief appearances with the Reds. In Louisville, he was 6-1, 1.75, in 40 appearances, including two starts.

It's Not Dark Yet, But It's Getting There

From Baseball Prospectus, after "running a Monte Carlo simulation of the rest of the season one million times." I'm not sure what that means, but it doesn't look good.
East       Avg W  Avg L   Div    WC    PS
Yankees 97.0 65.0 97.5 0.3 97.8
Red Sox 87.7 74.3 2.0 2.3 4.2
Blue Jays 85.1 76.9 0.5 0.3 0.7

Central Avg W Avg L Div WC PS
Tigers 99.9 62.1 85.8 11.8 97.6
Twins 94.2 67.8 9.2 49.3 58.5
White Sox 93.1 68.9 5.1 36.0 41.0

West Avg W Avg L Div WC PS
Athletics 89.8 72.2 80.0 0.0 80.0
Angels 85.4 76.6 16.6 0.1 16.7
Rangers 82.7 79.3 3.4 0.1 3.4


Average wins by Wild Card: 95.2
What we have here is average wins and losses by each team in those one million seasons and the percentage of times they won the division, wild card and made the playoffs. BP has these percentages extended out to five decimal places; I rounded them off.

Cool Standings has almost the exact same expectations for the East.

I keep thinking that if we can get to within three games of the Yankees by September 15 (when we play four games in the Bronx) then we have a shot. But this chronic squandering of opportunitites -- losing on days New York loses (and, really, all this losing, period) -- is making that very difficult.

August 27, 2006

G130: Mariners 6, Red Sox 3

Swept. And held to two hits. By the Mariners.

Now 6.5 games out of the East (as New York held on in Anaheim 11-8). The Blue Jays are 8.5 GB.

***

End of 8 innings -- Delcarmen again retires the Mariners in order, this time on four pitches. Very nice.

End of 7 innings -- Delcarmen retired the Mariners on six pitches. After a long run, Hinske made a flatout dive (a (good) Cocoesque leap) towards the right field line on Rivera's liner for the second out. Snagged it as he was hortizontal in the air and slid to a stop just shy of the stands!

End of 6 innings -- Alex Cora just pulled off an unassisted double play on a ground ball! Mariners had Ibanez (walk) on second and Sexson on first (HBP) with one out. Tavarez went into his motion and did his little Tiant-twist-and-look-at-second-base motion and Ibanez headed back to the back, thinking Sexy Lips had stepped off. But he went into his regular motion and pitched. Broussard hit the ball to shortstop. Cora grabbed it as he was running towards the bag, stepped on second to force Sexson, then tagged Ibanez who was a little off second base, quite confused. (I was watching on the computer on mute, but I'm pretty sure that's how it happened.)

Middle 6th -- David Ortiz's 47th home run of the year has ended Baek's shot at both a no-hitter and a shutout. After one long drive to right hooked foul, Ortiz refined his aim five pitches later. .. One out later, Lowell hits #15. And the Sox trail 5-3. And Baek is off to the showers. Hmmmmm ...

End of 5th -- Goddamn this team! Suzuki gets an infield single to the shortstop hole, Snelling doubles down the right field line, Beltre walks on four pitches, Bases loaded, none out. Ibanez crushes a 2-0 pitch to deep right for a grand slam. 5-1 Mariners. ... After Sexson singles, Snyder is gone and here comes Tavarez. ... But wait, there's more! And after a line out to left, two more singles, a fielder's choice (coupled with a two-base throwing error from Lopez), Ichiro is walked, again loading the bases. Tavarez falls behind Snelling 3-0, but battles back to strike him out. Great linescore:
Red Sox  - 000 01     - 1  0 2
Mariners - 010 05 - 6 10 1
Middle of 5th -- The Red Sox get a run! Hinske walks on 5 pitches. Pedroia walks on 13 (!) pitches. Then Lopez strikes out on 3 pitches. And Cora strikes out on 3 pitches. (Anger ... rising ...) Crisp falls behind 0-2 before grounding to first. Broussard's throw to the bag goes way over the pitcher's head, Hinske scores, but Pedroia is tagged out in a rundown at second. 1-1.

End of 4 innings -- Speaking of no-hitters, Cha Seung Baek is throwing one. A no-hitter, I mean. Hasn't allowed a hit. That's right. No hits for the Red Sox. On his way to a no-no. Imagine that. A no-hitter.

End of 3 innings -- I've never seen or watched a no-hitter, but I just saw Javy Lopez throw out a base runner! OMG!!! Ibanez (who last night advanced from first to second on a fly to Coco) was gunned down as part of a double play on Sexson's strikeout. Snyder, however, is making Jon Lester look like vintage Maddux, having thrown 69 pitches in three innings.

End of 2 innings -- Amazingly, it's only Seattle 1-0. The Mariners loaded the bases in the first on a walk and two infield hits (Pedroia dove for Snelling's grounder and pulled Loretta off the bag with his throw; Cora went into the hole on Sexson's grounder and bobbled the ball when he tried to get a force at third). Synder struck out Broussard and stranded three runners.

In the second, Youkilis had a lot of trouble with the sun in left. Betancourt's line drive sailed over his head and glove for a double, then Bloomquist's routine fly ball fell at his feet for an error. After a BBI to Suzuki, a sac fly scored Betancourt.

Meanwhile, the Yankees lead the Angels 8-2 after 3 innings (Bernie Williams has hit 2 HR). The White Sox beat the Twins 6-1.

***

Kyle Snyder (5.35) / Cha Seung Baek (5.40), 4 PM

Baek made his first start of the season last Tuesday, throwing 103 pitches in five innings against the Yankees. He walked three and struck out six, and allowed three runs. He also pitched in seven games for the Mariners in 2004.

Today's Murmurers Row:
Crisp, CF
Loretta, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, LF
Lowell, 3B
Hinske, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Lopez, C
Cora, SS
It never ends. WEEI reported about an hour ago that Jon Lester will miss his start tomorrow night in Oakland, possibly related to a stiff back from his recent fender-bender on Storrow Drive. Kason Gabbard will apparently get the ball.

Running Out Of Time

The Red Sox have had four chances in five days to gain ground on the Yankees in the standings and have taken advantage only once. Boston was 6.5 GB on Tuesday morning.
       NYY      SOX    GB
0822 L 6-5 L 4-3 6.5
0823 W 9-2 W 5-4 6.5
0824 L 4-2 W 2-1 5.5
0825 L 6-5 L 6-0 5.5
0826 L 12-7 L 4-3 5.5
Banged Up: Josh Beckett hopes the cut on his right middle finger has healed so he can pitch on Tuesday. ... Manny Ramirez has patellar tendinitis in his right knee. ... Wily Mo Pena has a sore left wrist. ... Kevin Youkilis is recovering from a stomach flu. ... Mark Loretta has a strained left quadriceps. ... Coco Crisp's right shoulder is sore. ... David Ortiz spent a night in a hospital last weekend. ... Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek, Alex Gonzalez, Tim Wakefield, and Matt Clement are on the disabled list.

And a presumably healthy Mike Timlin has allowed 18 earned runs in his last 21.1 innings and five home runs in his last 14 games. ... In the five games on this road trip, the Red Sox are batting .209 (34-for-163) and have scored 13 runs. 24 of their 34 hits have been singles.

Last night, Raul Ibanez tagged up from first and went to second on a fly ball to Crisp that did not even reach the warning track. The play at second was not close. It was ugly, but not as bad as the night Carl Crawford scored from second on a fly ball to Johnny Damon.

G129: Mariners 4, Red Sox 3

David Wells pitched pretty well (7-8-2-1-4, 97), but couldn't hold leads of 1-0 and 2-1. (He wasn't helped by some atrocious outfield defense from Coco Crisp's noodle arm in center and Gabe Kapler's meandering routes to hits in the gap in right.)

Mike Timlin entered the game in the eighth and promptly coughed up a 3-2 lead -- surrendering a solo home run, two singles and a sac fly.

Boston stays 5.5 GB New York and falls to 5.5 GB of the Twins for the wild card.

***

Since their sweep of the Red Sox, the Yankees have lost four of five games. They lost their third in a row this afternoon, 12-7, to the Angels. (The Angels have racked up 32 hits in two games.) ... Let's see if the Sox can take advantage of the loss tonight.

***

David Wells (5.40) / Gil Meche (4.66), 10 PM

Today's Pet Peeve: Pregame notes inform us that Wells has appeared in 42 games against the Mariners, pitching 194.1 innings. He is 11-11 with a 4.54 ERA.

This information is worthless. Telling us this is a waste of time.

Wells was 24 years old when he first faced Seattle -- on September 4, 1987, his 4th major league appearance. Pitching for Toronto, he faced Alvin Davis, Domingo Ramos, Jim Presley and Scott Bradley -- all four of whom were out of baseball by 1993. How is his performance in that game relevant to how he might do tonight? Have the announcers and writers who blather about stuff like this thought it through at all?

On August 31, 1993, Wells (with Detroit) threw five shutout innings against the Mariners. That bodes well for tonight, right? But on July 25, 1997, Wells (now with the Yankees) allowed 9 hits and 8 runs in 3.1 innings to Seattle. That's clearly bad. ... I'm so confused.

Lineup:
Crisp, CF
Loretta, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Lowell, 3B
Hinske, 1B
Lopez, C
Cora, SS
Kapler, RF

August 26, 2006

Ortiz: "I'm A Healthy Son Of A Bitch"

David Ortiz talked at length about his overnight stay at Massachusetts General Hospital last Saturday.

It turns out his heart and chest were not involved at all. Just some dehydration, lack of sleep and a ton of stress.
After game one [on Friday], I went home to take a nap. I was beat up. I couldn't sleep at all. I got up, took a shower and went back to the field. ... The next day it got worse.

It was like my whole body was cramping. ... I'd been having problems sleeping for four or five days. I stress about everything. ... I don't know why. You go home and you start having nightmares. It's frustrating ... There was a lot of stress going on -- especially the ass-kicking we got ...

I don't want to go back to Boston and have people freaking out. I've been feeling better since we got to the West Coast. And I've been able to sleep. I've been sleeping my ass off. ... I'm a healthy son of a bitch.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this story is that no one knew about it until Carpundit posted about it on Thursday night.

Manny Ramirez should be back in left field tonight. Tito: "I don't think he feels any better, but he's going to play and see if he can do it."

Wily Mo Pena says he has tendinitis in his left wrist, but the inflammation is not near the spot of his surgery earlier this year. ... Tim Wakefield threw off a bullpen mound on Thursday and had little discomfort. ... Matt Clement played catch at Fenway on Wednesday, the first time he picked up a ball in the last three weeks.

The Red Sox are hitting .208 (27-for-130) in the first four games of this road trip.

The Yankees lost another game in the bottom of the ninth, 6-5 to the Angels last night, but the Sox couldn't make hay. Boston remains 5.5 GB in the East and 4.5 GB Minnesota (who beat the White Sox) for the wild card.

G128: Mariners 6, Red Sox 0

A weak effort from a weak lineup. Five hits, three walks, and no Red Sox runner past second base. It's the 4th time the team has been shut out this season.

Schilling did alright until a sixth inning meltdown -- four hits and two errors (on one play) -- bumped the score from 2-0 to 5-0. I missed the errors (Alex Cora and Schilling) and left work mid-inning. Arrived home in time to see Eric Hinske batting for Wily Mo Pena, who had been pulled and was flexing his left wrist (the one operated on earlier this season) in the dugout.

"Bright" spot: Gabe Kapler doubled in the ninth. He now has three hits in his last 38 at-bats. Probably earned himself a few more starts this week. Yay!

The Yankees and Angels are 5-5 after seven innings (Slappy is 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts).

***

Curt Schilling (3.84) / Jake Woods (3.88), 10 PM

After taking two of three from the Angels, the Red Sox head to Psycho Field. Lineup:
Crisp, CF
Loretta, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Pena, LF
Lowell, 3B
Kapler, RF
Mirabelli, C
Pedroia, 2B
Cora, SS
I saw this horseshit lineup at SoSH and I half-figured it was a joke. No Yook, no Manny, Loretta at 1B, and Kapler still on the team. But there it is, posted at the Globe. ... Now watch us score 17 runs.

The Yankees are in Anaheim.

August 25, 2006

Ortiz: Irregular Heartbeat Last Weekend

Tony Massarotti reports that David Ortiz was held overnight at Massachusetts General Hospital last Saturday night to monitor an irregular heartbeat. According to Mazz, Ortiz
acknowledged that he began experiencing a rapid heartbeat Friday night, after a doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. When the problem persisted into Saturday, Ortiz visited Mass. General on the suggestion of the team medical staff, led by medical director Dr. Thomas Gill.
The stay was merely precautionary.

G127: Red Sox 2, Angels 1

Sox win 2-1, Yanks lose 4-2 (Slappy K vs Putz to end it).

Papi gave the Sox a 1-0 lead with his 46th HR leading off the fourth. Boston got a second run with a bases-loaded grounder from Doug Mirabelli in the seventh. Orlando Cabrera thought he could get an inning-ending DP at second and ran to the bag rather than toss to Adam Kennedy (big mistake). Alex Cora beat him to the bag (so the play on Mirabelli at first was only the second out), Mike Lowell scored, and Boston took a 2-0 lead.

The Angels scored in bottom of the 7th, but Wily Mo Pena threw out Juan Rivera at the plate -- Mirabelli stood there, not moving, dekeing Rivera until the last second when he grabbed Pena's throw on the fly and quickly applied the tag.

Josh Beckett was superb (6-4-1-2-3, 71) but had to leave after walking the leadoff batter in the seventh because of a small cut on his right middle finger. Mike Timlin (20th hold) and Jonathan Papelbon (34th save) set the Angels down after that.

5.5 GB. Get on the bus!

***

The Globe reports that the MRI on Manny Ramirez's knee was negative (no structural damage) and diagnosed as patella tendonitis. ... Jason Varitek says he's a week away from playing, either on a minor league assignment or with the Red Sox.

Tonight's lineup:
Crisp, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Hinske, RF
Lowell, 3B
Pena, LF
Cora, SS
Mirabelli, C
***

Josh Beckett (5.35) / Jered Weaver (1.95), 10 PM

Weaver is 9-0; no AL rookie has ever begun a season 10-0. He scattered three hits over seven shutout innings on Friday against Seattle.

Beckett has gone five straight starts without getting a win. Last time out, he allowed seven hits, nine walks and nine runs to the Yankees in only 5.2 innings. Was that the start that finally pushes Beckett to get his head on straight and start pitching? We'll see.

35 games remain. The Red Sox are 6.5 games back in the East and 4.5 back in the wild card (the White Sox pounded the Tigers 10-0 this afternoon).

No word on Manny's status for tonight.

August 24, 2006

Manny As Blank Canvas

David Heuschkel wrote in his Courant notebook:
David Wells did a double take [on Wednesday] upon seeing Manny Ramirez walk across the clubhouse without the slightest hint that he was favoring his leg. Francona has done a good job covering for Ramirez in his two-plus seasons as Red Sox manager. He doesn't publicly question whether Manny's knee or hamstring is sore because he would run the risk of losing the temperamental left fielder for more than a day or two.
So what happened? The two Davids happened to exchange a look across the clubhouse? Wells isn't quoted, so is that all? ... And why would Francona publicly question Manny's health? Can anyone in the public give him an informative answer? I'm content if Tito confines his medical questions to the Red Sox medical staff.

And despite the news of Manny going for an MRI, Heuschkel writes of the Sox: "[O]ne can only wonder whether [Manny] has finally quit on them. Does he even know how close the team is in danger of falling out of playoff contention?"

I must have missed the article in which Heuschkel wondered if Varitek, Wakefield and Nixon had finally quit on the team when they went on the disabled list. How do we know that those guys are really hurt?

Over at the Herald, Tony Massarotti takes the opposite view.
He is human, despite our perception of him, and so you cannot help but wonder: How many times is Manny Ramirez left shaking his head? How many runs must he knock in and how many home runs must he hit before we start to see Ramirez as a man who is needlessly banging his head against the wall?
Mazz admits that from time to time, "Ramirez has had issues with responsibility", but adds that he leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and is on pace to play in a career-high 157 games.
And despite it all, he knows it might all be for naught, that the Sox didn't care enough this year to give him and the other players the necessary elements to win another World Series.

So we ask you: Who's really dogging it here?
He also addresses the scorer's decision flap:
Let us make something indisputably clear here. Not a week goes by without someone griping about a scoring decision. Baseball players are human, right down to every last flaw, and you can bet your sanitary socks that every one of them knows his batting average or ERA. Some are just better at disguising it. At one point or another, most every player has lobbied for a scoring change, though teammates, coaches and managers are far more apt to run interference for those who have a reputation to protect.

But when Manny does it, he's a selfish twit. And so we find out about it.
It's quite nice to see Massarotti take a look at the situation from a different viewpoint. You may not agree with all of it, or any of it, but multiple perspectives can only help the discussion.

Resiliency

Doug Mirabelli, asked whether the 2006 Sox are as resilient as the 2004 team:
I don't know if the '04 team realized they had resiliency until they did it. After Game 3 against the Yankees, if you had talked to anybody and they really believed that they were going to sweep the Yankees from there on out, I would have to say that they were probably lying at that point.

If you looked at it that far ahead at the time, if you looked at it like, 'OK, we need to win four games' instead of saying 'We need to win the next game,' you would have been overwhelmed with the thought process. What the '04 team allowed themselves to do was just concentrate on just winning one game at a time because they knew the next loss would end the season.
Mirabelli says Jason Varitek might be back for the four-game series at Yankee Stadium beginning September 15. ... Tim Wakefield has been told to stay off the bullpen mound for awhile, until his discomfort goes away.

Jonathan Papelbon is considering playing in a series of exhibition games in Japan after the season -- partially because of the money involved (who is in charge of sounding the media's greedy player alert?) -- but the team would rather he not go. Papelbon also says that after this season, he will sit down with management and discuss whether he will start or close in 2007.

Ramirez To Get MRI

Manny Ramirez left last night's game in the fourth inning because of a sore knee. He will undergo various tests today, including an MRI.

Gordon Edes says Francona "looked and sounded concerned that this may be more than a minor tweak" and reminds us of the BP report during the All-Star break that Ramirez was playing with a small tear in his meniscus.

G126: Red Sox 5, Angels 4

Ten Red Sox batters into the game and Boston held a 5-1 lead.

In the first, Crisp walked, stole second and scored on Ortiz's 45th home run of the year (the Big Man has 119 RBI). In the second, Lowell singled, Pena homered, Lopez doubled, Cora bunted, and Crisp singled. Could Boston be on its way to winning a laugher?

No.

After Coco's single gave the Sox a four-run lead, Angels pitchers faced the minimum 23 batters over the last 7.2 innings. Only one Red Sox batter reached first base -- Hinske singled to start the sixth and was quickly erased on a double play. Boston ended the game with 1 LOB.

Lester started (5-6-3-4-2, 96) and was relieved by Tavarez (allowed 4th Angels run in 6th), Timlin (escaped bases-loaded-one-out jam in 7th), Foulke (2 outs, 1 single in 8th), and Papelbon (retired all four batters he faced).

AL: Yankees beat Seattle 9-2, White Sox topped Detroit 7-5, and the Twins beat Baltimore 4-1 -- so the Red Sox remain 6.5 behind in the East and 4 back in the WC.

Linescore of the night:
Cleveland     1 02 312 004 2 - 15 16 1
Kansas City 10 00 003 000 0 - 13 19 0
***

Umm, what do they call it when the game ends and the Red Sox have the most runs???

***

Jon Lester (4.72) / Kelvim Escobar (3.77), 10 PM
Crisp, CF        Figgins, CF
Pedroia, 2B Izturis, 3B
Ortiz, DH Cabrera, SS
Ramirez, LF Guerrero, RF
Youkilis, 1B Rivera, LF
Lowell, 3B Quinlan, 1B
Pena, RF Salmon, DH
Lopez, C Kendrick, 2B
Cora, SS Molina, C

August 23, 2006

Mnookin On Manny

Seth Mnookin weighs in on the latest Manny Fuss. Once he gets going (after a somewhat forced analogy), he gives an interesting look at the unique nature of sportswriting and how the scribes must wear and juggle many hats.

And speaking of Sean McAdam, who broke this story, he notes:
McAdam, one of the most respected (and one of the best) Red Sox writers, doesn't cite his sources. That's not, I'm sure, because he doesn't have them; I was able to independently confirm the basic facts with a couple of phone calls from my apartment in Manhattan.
Seth had unprecedented access to all aspects of the Red Sox organization during the 2005 season, so he has sources of his own. ... Don't forget to read the comments. I don't think Seth is excusing the actions of any particular writer, but seeking to enlighten us about what goes on. Simply more information to mull over.

The Manny Circus

Terry Francona was asked whether Manny Ramirez had to be talked into playing on Saturday -- and the media's description of his response was consistent: he "tap-danced around the question"; "Francona insisted (after much verbal tap-dancing)" that the report wasn't true; "Francona bobbed and weaved like Sugar Ray Leonard".

Why won't the media tell us more of what they know? What are they afraid of? That Manny won't talk to them anymore? (Pissing off the team sources can't be that much of a factor, considering the other things they write.)

This story -- and the team's overall dismal play -- is a dream come true for guys like Dan Shaughnessy. This morning, the CHB is in heaven:
It's always a story when Manny takes a day or two to rest his hammy. During Rami­rez's spectacular six-year stint with the Red Sox, he annually misses a few games with a sore hamstring. It works every time, because when it comes to tweaked hamstrings, only the patient truly knows how he's feeling. It's the athlete's equivalent of the fourth grade boy who won't go to school because he has a headache. There are no grounds for a challenge even if you have suspicions.
It's always a story because you make it a story. Many Red Sox players take a day off -- they are usually the more eumelanin-challenged guys -- and no one says a peep.

Name-calling shitstirrers like Dan give fans the impression that Manny begs out of games right and left every season. But like so much of the crap that gets tossed about by the media, it is not true (and easily verified as a lie).

Games Played by Manny:

2005 - 152 of 162 games - Only Ortiz (158) and Renteria (153) played more
2004 - 152 of 162 games - Led team in games played
2003 - 154 of 162 games - Only Nomar (156) played more
2002 - 120 of 162 games - Missed 39 games due to broken finger*
2001 - 142 of 162 games - Only Nixon (148) played more

* - If Manny had not broken his finger and played in 36 of those 39 games, he would have finished at 156, tied for the team lead with Nomar and Hillenbrand.

No matter how many sentences get written claiming the opposite, it is anindisputablee fact: During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has played more games per season than almost any other teammate.

More Dan:
Manny hasn't had much to say this year, but this seemed like a time to give it a shot, so I strolled over to him as he inspected a crate of bats, and I asked him if he'd answer a few questions.

He said nothing. In fact, for a moment I thought I'd willed myself invisible like Wade Boggs. I felt a little like Patrick Swayze standing over Demi Moore in "Ghost." I hadn't experienced this kind of abject diss since trying to talk to Albert Belle back in the 1990s. After a few seconds, during which Manny continued to inspect the lumber and ignore me, he turned, smiled slightly, put his hand on my right shoulder and walked away.
Ha! The only way Manny could have said "F U" any better would have been to ruffle Bozo's curly hair rather than pat him on the shoulder.

What's funny is that Manny apparently was chatting quite freely with the Angels broadcasters before last night's game. Yet he avoids the Boston media like the plague. Isn't that odd.

Dan winds things up by dismissing those people who disagree with his assessment of Manny as "fanboys and sycophants" and writes:
Meanwhile, we wait until Manny is ready. And, as always, we wonder if he cares.
I was going to post some of Manny's fantastic numbers from this season -- he should be getting as much MVP talk as Ortiz, probably more -- but it's not worth it.

I'm asking any Boston sportswriters who might be reading:
Why don't you mention every player who merely jogs to first on a ground ball (it happens several times every night)? Or screws up on the bases? Or makes stupid plays in the field? Why does Manny get singled out? Is it because he doesn't talk to you? Is it because he agreed to play for a lot of money? Why?
The various patterns of who gets criticized (and for how long) and how those players are described in print leads me to believe it's race-related, not a shocking conclusion in Boston, and I've yet to hear an explanation that makes more sense.

Oops - In Insulting Epstein, Callahan Proves Theo's Point

Gerry Callahan doesn't get it. On one hand, he rips the front office for not making any deadline deals (that, as everyone following the team knows, would have involved trading away some of their best young players, especially pitchers). Then, Callahan says that the current Red Sox team is getting old and many of those players can't wait until 2008 for the team to be competitive.
The names won't change next year and neither will the game plan. The only difference is that David Wells will be gone and Curt Schilling will be 40. ... From their basement offices, Epstein and his guys don't seem to notice that there's a window closing on this team. Its core is aging faster than Boy George. Jason Varitek will be 35 in April, which is 73 in catcher years. Manny Ramirez will be 35 in May. Tim Wakefield is 40. Mike Timlin is 40. Nixon probably will be gone in October, as will Mark Loretta and possibly Alex Gonzalez.
First of all -- Boy George????? What century is this?

Second of all, Gerry, you just proved Theo's plan is the correct one, even if you think you are arguing the opposite. It is a fact that a huge part of the current team is old -- three of the starting pitchers are over 40 -- or on the wrong side of 30. That's why Epstein refused to get rid of his promising young pitchers unless an amazing deal came along. And, of course, flat-out steals are hard to come by (though we'll all be saying Arroyo-for-Pena was a Brinks job soon enough).
[T]hey could have made some moves and filled some holes. They could have given Schilling and Co. a chance to get to the postseason and see what might happen. They chose not to. Don’t want to mortgage the future, you know. Remember Freddy Sanchez. And Jeff Bagwell.
Or Jonathan Papelbon. You don't think teams were asking about him last year? I sure wish Theo had traded him for a "name" slugger past his prime. We might have extended the agony of last year's ALDS against the White Sox to four games.

Pap would have been worth that, right, Gerry? After all, the window is closing for the vets.

G125: Angels 4, Red Sox 3

What happened, you ask?

In the top of the 8th, trailing by one run, Terry Francona kept Manny Ramirez and Eric Hinske on the bench and let Doug Mirabelli and Gabe Kapler face Scot Shields. ... Mirabelli grounded out to third and Kapler struck out on three pitches.

Also, in the seventh, tied 3-3, he stayed with Kason Gabbard a little too long, and Gabbard gave up the go-ahead run.

This sucks, obviously -- it would be nice if the manager cared enough to try to win -- but it also sucks because both the White Sox and Twins lost tonight. It was a chance for Boston to close the wild card gap to 3 games, but Tito apparently figured a loss was okay tonight, because his team wouldn't lose any ground. I'd like to think I'm right when I say it won't be his team much longer.

P.S. I hope Manny Ramirez -- who PH for Pedroia to start the 9th and flied to deepest center -- was too hurt to start, and not pouting or benched by Tito. Most likely, we'll never know what wenton last weekend, but if Manny is well enough to bat, he should be in the cleanup spot no matter what. (And if he's actually refusing to play, the team should come right out and say exactly that. Let us know.)

And as I type this -- 1:29 AM -- Seattle's Adrian Beltre hits his second home run of the night -- this one in the bottom of the ninth off Ron Villone, giving the Mariners a 6-5 win over the MFY. ... Thanks again, Tito, for being allergic to pinch-hitters. (Does Gabe have pix of you and a goat?)

***

Kyle Snyder (6.35) / Joe Saunders (3.64), 10 PM

Not watch the game? Why wouldn't I watch the game?

It's baseball season, the Red Sox are on, and I'm watching. ... It's what I do.

Lineup:
Crisp, CF
Loretta, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Pena, RF
Lowell, 3B
Mirabelli, C
Kapler, LF
Pedroia, SS

August 22, 2006

My First Game At Fenway

At about 6:00 AM on Sunday, August 22, 1976, my father and I got on a bus at the Vermont Transit terminal in Burlington, Vermont. I was 12 years old and I was going to Fenway Park for the first time.

The Red Sox were in fifth place in the six-team AL East (for you youngsters, the East included the Yankees, Orioles, Tigers, Brewers, and Cleveland). They were 57-63, 15.5 games behind the Yankees, quite a drop from their near-win in the World Series against Cincinnati the previous October.

I know I watched some of the seven-game battle against the Reds. What I distinctly remember (as opposed to having seen subsequent clips that now feel somewhat like memories) was watching Looie Tiant's 6-0 shutout (and his single and baserunning!) in Game 1 and Fred Lynn's hard crash into Fenway's centerfield wall (padding was added the following spring) early in Game 6.

1976 was my first year as a serious Red Sox fan. I learned to score games and did so every night, listening to Ned Martin and Jim Woods on WJOY.

My father worked at IBM and employees were offered transportation/tickets to about four or five Red Sox games every season. (The price of $25 per person sticks in my mind.) I assume that my father saw how much I was into the Sox that summer and picked one of those weekend games for us to see. The Red Sox were hosting the Oakland Athletics, the team they had swept in the previous year's ALCS. (Oakland had won the 1972, 1973, and 1974 World Series.)

I will never forget walking up the ramp and coming out into the park, on the first base side, and seeing all that green. We had a black and white TV at home and seeing for the first time the green expanse of the outfield and the Wall -- contrasted by the gleaming red seats -- was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. An older man was smoking a cigar to my left and even now -- 30 years since that day -- a certain type of cigar smoke will bring me right back to that moment.

We sat in Section 17, about halfway up in the grandstand. I wish I still had my scorecard from that afternoon, but nothing from that trip (or from my subsequent trips the next two years (I was also there on September 9, 1978, Game 3 of the Boston Massacre)) survives.

I did get a copy (via eBay) of the program they sold that day (in which the first six innings of Boston's 9-6 loss to the Yankees on September 29 are scored), and thanks to Retrosheet, I know exactly what happened.

Oakland Boston

Billy North, CF Rick Burleson, SS
Bert Campaneris, SS Denny Doyle, 2B
Don Baylor, RF Fred Lynn, CF
Billy Williams, DH Carl Yastrzemski, LF
Sal Bando, 3B Cecil Cooper, 1B
Gene Tenace, 1B Jim Rice, DH
Cesar Tovar, LF Carlton Fisk, C
Phil Garner, 2B Dwight Evans, RF
Larry Haney, C Butch Hobson, 3B

Paul Norris, P Fergie Jenkins, P
Finding out that Jenkins was pitching annoyed the hell out of me because it seemed like every time the Sox were shown on Saturdays on Channel 22 (the only time to watch a game besides Monday Night Baseball) Jenkins was pitching. I wanted to see someone else.

The Red Sox had won the first two games of the series, 2-1 on Friday night behind Tiant (and Hobson's sac fly in the bottom of the ninth) and 5-2 on Saturday. With me, my father, and 27,524 other fans in attendance, the Red Sox took a quick 1-0 in the first inning, when Doyle scored on Yastrzemski's single. It was Yaz's 37th birthday.

Oakland took the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth, but they also had two runners thrown out at the plate in that inning. As soon as Tom Murphy replaced Jenkins in the sixth, the A's scored four times and led 6-1.

Boston came back immediately, tying the game in the bottom half of the sixth. Yastrzemski singled and after Cooper was hit by a pitch, Rollie Fingers relieved Paul Lindblad. After Rice struck out, Fisk singled to left, loading the bases. Pinch-hitter Rick Miller doubled to left, scoring two runs. Hobson grounded out to shortstop and Fisk scored. Burleson doubled in Miller and Doyle brought home Burleson. And at the end of a very long sixth inning, we had a 6-6 tie.

Each team had several two-out hits -- Wayne Gross's single in the 8th and Baylor's double in the top of the 9th for Oakland, Rice's single in the seventh, Burleson's single in the eighth, and his double in the 10th for the Sox.

In the top of the 11th, Garner singled to left, and was bunted to second. Campaneris's fifth hit of the day moved him to third. Don Baylor laid down a suicide squeeze bunt, which was fielded by Willoughby, but his throw home was too late. 7-6. With one out in the home half, Yaz got his fourth hit of the day, but two force plays ended the game.

And it was back on the bus for the five-hour trip home. I made the trip another two (three?) times before I finally saw the Red Sox win.

Two notes: Both relief pitchers who came in during the sixth inning finished the game: Fingers threw six innings and Willoughby tossed 5.1. ... Several players left the game early, and I don't know why. Norris left after 1.1 innings, Evans was pinch-hit for in the 4th inning, and Jenkins was pulled after five innings, trailing 2-1. (I know I have a microfilm printout of Peter Gammons's game story from the next day's Globe, but it's buried in a box somewhere.)

Pedroia To Start Tonight?

I don't want to push the McAdam post down the page, but:

Dustin Pedroia could make his debut with the Red Sox tonight. Alex Gonzalez may be put on the DL and Pedroia was pulled from the first game of Pawtucket's doubleheader in Ottawa last night.

David Wells, the team's #2 starter at this point, apparently cleared waivers and could be traded by the Red Sox.

After Sweep, McAdam Decides To Dump On Manny (On Base 19 Of 20 PA)

(updated with link and some minor stats corrections)

After being beaten by the Yankees five times this weekend, there is plenty of blame to go around. But one person who shouldn't get even one finger pointed at him is Manny Ramirez.

In the series, Manny went 8-for-11 (.727), with 4 singles, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, and 9 walks. He reached base in 19 of his 20 plate appearances (2 of those were on errors). His OPS was 2.305! He also made a few nice plays in the outfield. ... Manny raised his batting average 10 points in the series --to .330. In August, Ramirez is hitting: .412/.529/.691.

One more time: He reached base in 19 of his 20 plate appearances.

So who gets the most shit when Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal sits down to write his post-mortem? (my emphasis)
On Friday night, in the fifth inning of the disastrous day-nighter that would set the tone for the Lost Weekend, official scorer Joe Giuliotti determined that Manny Ramirez had reached on an error by Derek Jeter. Jeter had gone into the shortstop hole to backhand a hard grounder, only to have the ball glance off his glove and roll into shallow left.

On the play, teammate Mark Loretta, running from second base, was thrown out at home by Yankees left fielder Melky Cabrera.

Ramirez was enraged by the call, and was so angry about it the next day that he had to be talked into playing the Saturday afternoon game. On Sunday, Ramirez sought out an MLB official to try to get the call reversed.

Think about that: In the middle of the Sox' three most dispiriting losses of the season, suffered at the hands of the team's archrival, Ramirez sulked about losing credit for a meaningless single that didn't even involve an RBI.

That's perspective for you. ...

But with his team's season in the balance, Ramirez intended to sit out to protest a scorer's call? Would Jeter do that? Would David Ortiz? Would, in fact, any other player in the game?

It's not much of a leap to think that Ramirez's early exit from yesterday's game -- he pulled himself out of the lineup after the fourth inning, telling trainers he was suffering cramps in the right hamstring -- was connected to the events of the previous two days.

One player yesterday noted that while Ramirez had played hard for much of the season, the events of the last few days seemed to hint at an upcoming "episode" involving Ramirez, in which the slugger takes a decidedly indifferent approach to his play -- if he appears in the lineup at all.
Actually, Sean, it is too much of a leap, because you have presented zero evidence that this was the case. Zee-row. Based on what you've written for us, you've made this up out of whole cloth, pulled it straight out of your ass. It reminds me of how TV commentators are always telling us what Player X is saying to Player Y in the dugout or on the mound. It's all made up -- purely the invention of the person telling the story.

If you saw something, tell us. If you heard something, tell us. I understand that writers need sources that wish to remain anonymous, but with speculation this wild, McAdam should either get something on the record or shut up.

McAdam gets even sillier when he writes this about David Wells:
Finally, there was the eighth inning yesterday, when NESN cameras caught starter David Wells throwing up his hands, then shaking his head in disgust on his way down the dugout runway after catcher Javy Lopez failed to block a pitch from Keith Foulke in the dirt, enabling Nick Green to score from third. ... Green's run proved to be the difference in the game.
I saw the same shot of Wells. Disgusted? Of course, he was disgusted. I'd be worried about any Red Sox player -- including Lopez himself-- who wasn't disgusted at that point.

Angry, pissed off, disgusted, frustrated ... every player on the team should feel all of those emotions. They just got their ass kicked every which way a team can get its ass kicked. By its main rivals and the one team ahead of it in the standings.

Imagine a player was laughing in the dugout. You know damn well they'd be getting ripped by every knight of the keyboard (including McAdam) for yukking it up as the season went down the tubes. (Actually, Manny has been criticized for stuff like this, smiling after making an out. I guess he's got to throw his helmet or smash a water cooler to show he cares.)

So for showing the proper response to this weekend's events, McAdam decides to chronicle what he calls "the team's descent into selfishness". And the person he decides to call out the loudest is the guy who deserves none of the blame -- the guy who reached base 19 out of 20 plate appearances, batted .727 and slugged 1.455.

There are plenty of reasons why playing for the Red Sox would be attractive, but it's days like this that I'm amazed that any athlete in his right mind would want to come to Boston (for any amount of money) and deal with this kind of crap on a daily basis.

August 21, 2006

G124: Yankees 2, Red Sox 1

Watch out, Toronto, here we come.

***

Cory Lidle (4.64) / David Wells (6.06), 1 PM

Wow. Craig Hansen was sent to Pawtucket after the game. Bryan Corey takes his spot.
Cabrera, LF Crisp, CF
Jeter, DH Loretta, 2B
Abreu, RF Ortiz, DH
Rodriguez, 3B Ramirez, LF
Cano, 2B Hinske, 1B
Wilson, 1B Lowell, 3B
Williams, CF Pena, RF
Fasano, C Lopez, C
Green, SS Gonzalez, SS

Was This Your Celebrated Summer?

I don't even want to hear his excuse.

There can be no rational explanation. It's impossible. His decision to go with Timlin and then Lopez -- and leave his best arm (who had not pitched at all in the series) in the pen -- was inexcusable. He should be fired. This is a man who does not want to win.

In a playoff-caliber battle, Curt Schilling gave everything he had. He had waited through a one-hour rain delay, and thrown 73 pitches through four innings. Knowing he had to go deep into the game, he fought his way through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, needing only 10, 14 and 12 pitches, retiring nine of 10 Yankees.

David Ortiz wanted to win. His long home run broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning and he hustled his way to a double leading off the bottom of the ninth. Manny Ramirez drove in the first run of the night and was on base five times. Coco Crisp tried, in vain, to snare HGH's home run in the 10th and possibly hurt his left wrist.

(Did you see the sweat pouring off Giambi when he was back in the dugout? I could have put him in front of my house and watered my lawn. ... Jon Miller said he got that sweaty running out the home run.)

But the man at the helm -- in what was the first must-win game of the summer -- did not go for the throat. He didn't want to win. The choice of pitcher to start the eighth was not his only misstsep. Having Kevin Youkilis, the team's third-best hitter, bunt in the ninth was also the decision of an idiot (even Joe Morgan was surprised). The bunt did not work, and the Yankees intentionally walked Mike Lowell, leaving the game in the hands of Eric Hinske and Doug Mirabelli.

In the eighth inning on October 16, 2003, when the manager walked away from the mound and did not make a pitching change, John Henry -- who had wanted to fire the Grinning Jackass before the 2003 season even began -- turned to Larry Lucchino and asked (through gritted teeth, no doubt): "Can we fire him now?"

Last night, as he watched Francona make decisions that were 180 degrees away from everything the organization has been preaching for three years, I wonder what Henry was thinking.

G123: Yankees 8, Red Sox 5 (10)

Another game, a new worst loss of the year -- as Tito descends to a depth of managerial idiocy that might surprise even Grady Little.

***

9:45 PM -- Mark your calendars. John Kruk said something intelligent: "You can't count a team with Ortiz and Manny out. They need a leadoff hitter to get on base. Frankly, I'm not sure why they ever moved Youkilis out of the leadoff spot."

9:15 PM -- Rain delay with the Red Sox ahead 2-0 after two innings. Boston strung together four straight hits against Mussina in the first (Loretta single, Ortiz single (w/Damon error), Ramirez RBI double, Youkilis RBI single).

Schilling has thrown 41 pitches already (including 10 to strike out Derek Jeter in the first), but looks great (fastball at 96-97 and a good split). ... Before the game, Jermaine Van Buren was sent down and Javy Lopez called up.

***

Mike Mussina (3.54) / Curt Schilling (3.83), 8 PM

A matchup of pitchers of Game 1 of the 2001 World Series and Game 1 of the 2004 ALCS.

The ever-so-comfy at the plate Yankees are the first team to score 12 or more runs in three straight games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

This shit has got to stop. Now. And while Schilling should not waste any time brushing a Yankee back -- his first opportunity would be Johnny Damon -- he should also shave Bobby Abreu, who has reached base 12 times in 18 plate appearances in the series.

August 20, 2006

New Day Rising

In trying to find some good news for the remaining 40 games of the regular season, we have to look almost exclusively at the offense. (Which is sad, because at the start of this season, I was thrilled at our staff -- and thought it was a strength.)

Last Tuesday night (8/15), Mike Timlin said: "We've been throwing the ball really well. I'm not calling anybody out, but we haven't scored a whole lot. We're pitching well, we're holding teams down, and they're doing the same to us."

I'll avoid an obvious political crack about claiming things are peachy when they are going down the crapper and simply note that this is very silly. And wrong. Only three Red Sox pitchers have an ERA under 5.18 since the All-Star Game -- and Mr. Timlin, with a spiffy 6.46 (11 runs in 15.1 innings), is not one of them. They are Jonathan Papelbon (1.80), Curt Schilling (4.47) and Rudy Seanez (4.73). That's it.

No one expects any team to get through a six-month season without injuries, but we have missed significant time from many pitchers: David Wells (103 games), Matt Clement (59), Tim Wakefield (31), Keith Foulke (59), Lenny DiNardo (81), David Riske (41), and Timlin (16). The constant shuffling of bit parts to fill these holes has been very difficult. Plus the unexpected (though not exactly shocking) failures of Clement and Tavarez. The younger pitchers have been as good as could be expected (I contend Jon Lester has been better) and we have been too quick to expect them to dominate.

BTW: Did you know that Papelbon is only six months younger than Beckett? Or that Kevin Youkilis is more than seven months older than Coco Crisp?

Among the 15 AL teams, the Red Sox are currently 11th in ERA (NY is 5th), 9th in WHIP (NY 4th), 9th in batting average against (NY 3rd), 10th in on-base against (NY 4th), and 11th in slugging against (NY 5th). ... The good news is that if the pitching can simply be passable, things should be fine if the bats wake up. (Two big ifs in that sentence.)

One thing I have mentioned before is the way Red Sox batters often give away at-bats, as if they cannot concentrate for the entire plate appearance. This seems mirrored in the way Francona will concede certain games about the 6th inning or so. Actually, this has been recurring problem with Sox hitters for several years, and our manager in 2003 used to give up on games all the time, which was one big reason why that club had so many late inning rallies and wins. (The Yankees of 1998-2001 made plenty of outs, they struck out and grounded into double plays, but they concentrated for each and every at-bat, even the scrubs, in a way I've not seen Red Sox hitters do. This pains (and annoys) me.)

So. Right now, the Red Sox are 3rd in the AL in runs scored (7 fewer than NY and 10 fewer than the White Sox), 1st in on-base percentage, 4th in slugging and 4th in extra-base hits. Boston also leads all MLB teams with 518 walks (26 more than the Yankees). ... Since the ASG, Manny Ramirez is hitting .374/.449/.672 and David Ortiz is at .297/.424/.656. ... Mike Lowell is slumping (.228/.295/.360) and Eric Hinske should offer some relief. Whether Terry Francona will sit Lowell now and again is a different matter. Alex Gonzalez is also regressing (.235/.291/.435).

We are currently 39-22 at home (as opposed to 30-31 on the road) and after this weekend and a nine-game west coast swing, Boston will play 18 of its last 29 games at home. So that's a plus.

In summary (though the situation is not nearly as dire):
One. One game. One win. That's all.

Not four, not three, not two.

One.

Tonight.

The game won't start for a few hours, so please enjoy this picture of a puppy:

Example

August 19, 2006

Rant

Example

G122: Yankees 13, Red Sox 5

.

***

Mid 6th: Yankees 10, Red Sox 5

This team is a fucking joke. Wells is a colossal a-hole, but I have way more respect for him than I do for Beckett. Sox tied it in the 5th, so what does Josh do? Give up a double and three more walks, of course. Of his eight non-intentional walks today: 5 on 4 pitches; 1 on 5 pitches; 1 on 6 pitches; and 1 on 8 pitches. ... We're gonna put up with three more years of this braindead idiot? ... Delcarmen came in and walked in a run (on four pitches) before giving up a three-run triple to Dumbo (on a 3-1 cookie).

I'm reaching the end of my rope with these fuckers. ... Still hoping for a Papi walkoff though.

After 5: Red Sox 5, Yankees 5

And the Eunuch gives the lead away. He hits Cora with his first pitch, walks Yook on four straight. Loretta bunts the runners over on the first pitch, then Ortiz hits a sacrifice fly to LF on the first pitch. Posada was not in position to catch the ball and it hits off his glove as Cora scores. Manny intentionally walked. Lopez hits the first pitch to center. It's a pretty routine play, but Bernie has to slide/dive for it. He has no range whatsoever. Tie game.

Mid 5th: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4

Hey look -- Beckett gave the runs right back! What a surprise! ... Two doubles (one to Slappy on an 0-2 pitch), two walks (one intentional) and an uncontested steal of second from Dumbo.

Jason Johnson sucks, Jon Lester is raw, but Beckett is supposed to be a major league pitcher. And so often this year, he has not been. I'd love to see someone come out of the Sox dugout, walk to the mound, grab Beckett's chin hair and slap him in the face -- hard -- and tell him to get his head out of his ass.

I'm really starting to hate him.

***

Mid 4th: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3.

With one out, Johnson walked Loretta and Ortiz. Manny then crushed a slider over the Monster and onto the roof of the parking garage, ending the no-hitter, the shutout, and the NY lead. Lopez singled down the left field line, Lowell reached when E-Rod couldn't make a good throw on his dribbler (ruled a hit) and Pena also singled down the left field line (the 6th straight Sock to reach safely). Lopez scored on WMP's hit and gave the Sox the lead.

Johnson threw more pitches in the 4th (30) than he did in the first 3 innings (29).

***

After 3: Yankees 3, Red Sox 0.

Beckett has thrown 64 pitches. His near-refusal to throw his curve (fear of blisters?) means that every single hitter is waiting for his fastball. And yet, even though the Yankees scored 386 runs yesterday, no Red Sox pitcher will throw inside -- even once -- to brush a New York hitter off the plate. Why not?

Beckett has walked four in three innings and allowed a solo HR to Bernie Williams. He looked like absolute shit in the first inning -- and only escaped trouble because of a stupid bunt by Jeter and a Slappy GIDP. Cabrera and Abreu have both stolen second, as Beckett didn't even bother to look over to first base.

Manny has been the only Sock on base, courtesy of a walk. After that, Lopez struck out and Lowell GIDP. Exactly what you'd expect from Tito's moronic lineup.

There must be some Tito-Theo tension going on re: roster construction, because while I yell at Francona a lot, but he can't be this dumb. Can't be. It feels like one of the Jimy-Duquette feuds of yesteryear.

***

Randy Johnson (4.92) / Josh Beckett (5.02), 1:20 PM

Lineups:
Damon, DH         Youkilis, 1B
Jeter, SS Loretta, 2B
Abreu, RF Ortiz, DH
Giambi, 1B Ramirez, LF
Rodriguez, 3B Lopez, C
Cano, 2B Lowell, 3B
Posada, C Pena, RF
Williams, CF Kapler, CF
Cabrera, LF Gonzalez, SS
Looking at that 5-6-7 order, it's obvious Tery has taken his stupid pills this morning.

Finally: Rudy Seanez was designated for assignment last night and Jermaine Van Buren was recalled. The Rudy move comes about three months too late. I still can't believe they sent Breslow back down before this series. Oh no, Theo, we won't need a LHP who throws 90-92 with control.

Reality Check: Winning three games with with Beckett, Schilling and Wells is quite possible. Taking two of those three leaves the Red Sox 2.5 out with 38 games left. Not a disaster. But the turnaround for the hitting and pitching must begin now.

G121: Yankees 14, Red Sox 11

Ugh. What is there to say?

If you saw it, you know Lester, Hansen and Timlin all shit the bed. (You still sure the problem is the hitting, Mike?) If you missed it, well, good for you.

Boston pitchers allowed 34 hits, 15 walks and 26 runs to the Yankees today, who now lead the East by 3.5 games. ... Tonight's game set a new MLB record for the longest nine-inning game: 4:45.

Beckett throws his first pitch in about 12 hours.

And so to bed.


***

Holy Shit!!! Does Tito read JoS?
Youkilis, 3B
Loretta, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Hinske, 1B
Pena, RF
Crisp, CF
Mirabelli, C
Cora, SS
More likely, Theo visited the manager's office and said (quietly and slowly): "We've tried it your way for too fucking long. Now we're gonna do things the smart way. Here's tonight's lineup. Get any crazy ideas in the next hour and decide to change it, you're fired."

***

Don't let us win tonight.

Dear Tito: Please write out this lineup tonight:
Youkilis
Loretta
Ortiz
Manny
Hinske
Pena
Crisp
Mirabelli
Gonzalez
Thanks.

August 18, 2006

G120: Yankees 12, Red Sox 4

The game was not as close as the final score would indicate.

Johnson did alright, considering who he is, but Francona stayed with Snyder way too long. Contrast Tito allowing Snyder (trailing 4-3) to allow four straight batters to reach base in the top of the seventh with Torre pulling Wang (up by 8-3) after the leadoff Sock got on in the bottom of the 7th.

Torre said he was managing this game as if there was no second game. Tito appeared to do the exact opposite. ... And Lester is no lock tonight.

I would comment on Francona failing to hit Pena for Gonzalez in the 8th -- when a long ball could have brought the Sox to within 8-6 (but decide to have him bat for Ortiz down by 9 in the 9th) -- but I fear I would throw my computer out the window and have a stroke.

***

Yankees 1st: I opt for ESPN -- with former Red Sox announcer Sean McDonough and current baseball moron Steve Phillips -- over the YES broadcast on Sportsnet. ... 86 degrees. ... Jason Johnson making his 20th start, 6.26 ERA and a .337 OBA. ... Damon looks at ball 1 at 1:10. Clubs a 2-2 pitch over Crisp's head into the triangle, standup triple. Jeter grounds a single past JJ (on the 7th pitch) and into center field. 1-0. Abreu singles to center, Jeter to second. Giambi pops to Gonzo in short center. Slappy (full count, 7th pitch) pops up to pretty much the same spot, this time caught by Coco. Cano grounds quietly to second. Very nice, could have been WAY worse. Johnson staying away from most of the hitters. 29 pitches.

Red Sox 1st: Crisp bunts the first pitch from Wang right back to the mound, easy out. Fucking A. Way to "get something started", leadoff man. Loretta lines a 2-1 pitch down the LF line and into the corner. Just gets into second, looking like he's running underwater. Ortiz swings at the first pitch (grrr) and pops up to short left. Manny gets ahead 3-0 and Wang throws an intentional ball four. Youkilis works a full count and flies to left. Abreu makes the catch about 10 feet in front of the track. Wang: 17 pitches.

Yankees 2nd: Posada lines out to Manny in left. JJ threw him 7 pitches -- MFY working the count like the Sox should be doing. Craig Wilson strikes out. Cabrera pops out to Lowell, who makes thecatch on the lip of the Yankees dugout. he fell in, but no damage. Good inning for JJ -- he absolutely has to get the lower half of the MFY lineup. JJ PC: 12, 41 total.

Red Sox 2nd: Lowell hacks at the first pitch and grounds weakly to second. WTF? Hinske (wearing #12) sees three balls, takes a strike, then doubles to the gap in LCF. Damon watches it roll the wall, then throws it in. Lopez flies to straightaway center and Gonzalez flies to right. ESPN's gun has Wang at 94-96, so why does he have one of the worse K rates in baseball? Wang: 11 pitches, 28 total.

Yankees 3rd: Damon grounds out to first, Yook unassisted. Jeter grounds to shortstop -- Gonzo grabs it on the short hop and throws him out. Two outs on six pitches. JJ brushes Abreu back with ball 1, gets a couple of quick called strikes, but walks him in a 9-pitch AB (ball 3, the 8th pitch, was a very nice strike). Abreu steals second on a 2-1 pitch to Giambi, who strikes out. JJ: 21 pitches, 62 total. (Looks like we'll see Snyder soon.)

Red Sox 3rd: Crisp tries to bunt on the first pitch -- again -- and fouls it off. Cut that shit out, Coco!! (Tito, if you're not calling that crap, please have a chat with Crisp. And if you are calling for bunts, you're fired). Crisp ends up grounding to second. Loretta pulls an inside pitch that hits off the Wall, above the linescore. It bounces away towards the corner, but it's a double anyway. After two balls in the dirt, Ortiz lines right to Wilson at first. Wang falls behind 2-0 to Manny, and then walks him intentionally (again). Youkilis walks on five pitches (see? making Wang work is good), loading the bases. Lowell lunges for an outside pitch and flies routinely to right. He should not be hitting 6th. Wang: 23 pitches, 51 total.

Yankees 4th: Slappy grounds a single through the hole into left field. Cano grounds the first pitch to second. Loretta moves to his right, backhands it, takes two more steps to the bag, then turns and throws to first. Youkilis gloves the ball on a short hop for the double play! Posada, who should have been called out on strikes on what was ruled ball 3, flies to center. JJ PC: 15, 77 total.

Red Sox 4th: Hinske doubles again -- this time to right center, one hop to the bullpen wall. (It's a crime that Lowell is hitting ahead of him.) The strike zone is quite small and Wang is struggling when he has to throw more than a few pitches per AB. So naturally, Lopez hacks at the first one, and flies to right. It's towards the corner, so Hinske can take third. Gonzalez grounds the first pitch to Jeter's left. It's a pretty routine play -- we've seen Gonzo make it many times this season while stifling a yawn -- but Jeter has to dive for it. He makes the play and Hinske scores. Tie game 1-1. Crisp tries to turn away from a 1-2 pitch inside and gets rung up by the third base ump. Wang PC: 8, 59 total.

Yankees 5th: Wilson strikes out again, this time looking. #9 hitter Cabrera works a six-pitch walk. Big mistake. Damon golfs a 0-1 pitch for a two-run home run to right and starts smirking. All Hinske can do is watch it land about 5-6 rows up. Yet another give-back. NY 3-1. ... Synder up in the pen. ... Jeter grounds a single past Gonzalez's dive towards the hole into left field. ... Dave Wallace out for a talk. ... Abreu lines the first pitch over into LCF for a hit, Crisp throws it in. ... And here comes Tito. ... Snyder (10th game, 6.23 ERA) in. 1st & 3rd with 1 out. ... Giambi chops a single that gets past both Yook and Loretta, into right. Jeter scores, Abreu to second. NY 4-1. Slappy hits a high fly to center. Crisp battles the sun, and makes the catch as Abreu tags and goes to third. Cano grounds out to third. Johnson's line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 21 BF, 95 PIT.

Red Sox 5th: The 2-3-4 hitters against Wang. Loretta is called out on strikes, as the home plate ump's zone is now expanding. Bastard. Ortiz grounds out to first on the first pitch. Ramirez barks at a "strike" on 0-1, then Wang is miffed when he throws a strike on 0-2 and it's called a ball. Manny flicks the next pitch -- a good pitch on the outside black -- down the right field line. It lands on the good side of the pole -- HR. NY 4-2. Youkilis lines out to third. Sox get one back.

Yankees 6th: Posada flies deep to right. Hinske drifts back and makes the catch over his head with his back against the short wall, where the pen meets the stands. Wilson grounds out to third and Cabrera pops to Gonzo in short left. A quick, seven-pitch inning from Snyder (19 pitches total). ... Let's go bats!

Red Sox 6th: Lowell walks to start things off. And Hinske crushes another double -- his third in three Red Sox AB! -- that hops into the Boston pen. Theo = Genius! ... Mound visit for Wang and the oft-used Proctor is up. ... Lopez grounds back to Wang, who looks the runners back and throws him out. Gonzalez -- after waving at absolute crap outside -- lines to left center. Damon makes a sliding catch for the out, but Lowell comes across. NY 4-3. Crisp (1st pitch) flies out to Damon in left center. Coco has seen a total of 9 pitches in his 4 AB (and he bunted at 2 of them) and Tito wants to give him the most PA of any player.

Yankees 7th: Snyder facing the top of the order. Damon flies to Manny in short left. Jeter reaches when his grounder to Lowell's left hits off his glove for an error. Abreu singles to center (he's 3-for-3 with a BB) and Jeter stops at second. Snyder to Giambi: ball 1, ball 2, Wallace visit/Delcarmen up, ground ball to where Loretta would be, except he's shifted way over towards first. Ball rolls into right-center, Jeter scores, NY 5-3, Abreu to second. On 1-2, Slappy drills a double to left that gets by Manny to the wall. NY 6-3. (Love giving those runs back.) ... And it's Delcarmen time. ... Cano lines a single just over Loretta's glove to right-center. NY 8-3. Posada lines out to Manny, who makes a tumbling catch in left. Two outs. Cano steals second and goes to third on Wilson's single to left. He doesn't challenge Manny's arm. Cabrera lines out to center. (Snyder: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER)

Red Sox 7th: Loretta doubles into the left field corner, his third double of the afternoon. ... Wang out, Myers in. ... Ortiz taps a 2-2 pitch weakly back to the mound. One out. ... Myers out, Proctor in. ... Manny pops up the first pitch to left. Two outs. (The Sox are sure making this easy for Torre.) Youkilis pops up the second pitch to Posada near the Sox on-deck circle. ... Wang'sline: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2K, 29 BF, 90 PIT

Note: It would have been nice to have Craig Breslow to face Giambi and other MFY lefties. But he was sent down to make room for Hinske -- and so we have no LHP in the pen. Meanwhile, Tavarez is using up a roster space. If the Sox lost him on waivers -- though with his contract, I doubt it would happen -- but if it did, who cares? Very poor decision by the front office on the eve of this series.

Yankees 8th: Damon grounds to Loretta's right and Yook makes a great stretch for the out. Jeter grounds to shortstop. Two outs on four pitches. Abreu doubles to the left fielde corner and Giambi walks on five pitches. ... MDC out, Seanez in. ... Slappy strikes out on a pitch in the dirt and the ball goes to the backstop, but Lopez makes the throw to first.

Red Sox 8th: Lowell opens with a single into the left field corner off Proctor (yes, he's very slow). Hinske strikes out looking, frozen on a curve after hitting a hard foul down the RF line. Lopez gets a ground-rule double into the right field corner. Then Gonzalez strikes out -- as Wily Mo Pena rots away on the bench. ... Christ, Tito, this is a pennant race, you moron. Does Wallace have any smelling salts? Is anyone awake in that dugout? ... Crisp lines out to first.

Yankees 9th: Seanez still in. Cano singles. Posada walks on four pitches. Wilson walks, bases loaded. Cabrera pops up (1st pitch, after two walks, ha!) to left. Damon singles to center, NY 10-3. Jeter flies to right, Hinske has the ball hit off his glove (sun) for an error, bases reloaded. Abreu strikes out. Giambi walks, NY 11-3. Slappy walks, NY 12-3. (ESPN shows Tito turning and walking out of the dugout, down the runway. Kudos for not pulling Seanez and wasting another arm.) Cano strikes out.

Red Sox 9th: Farnsworth in. Loretta flies to center. Pena hits for Ortiz. Now that bald fucker sends up? Unbelievable! WMP fouls to Posada. Kapler walks. Youkilis doubles to left-center, Kapler scores. 12-4. Lowell flies out to center.

Showdown

Lineups:
Damon, CF         Crisp, CF
Jeter, SS Loretta, 2B
Abreu, RF Ortiz, DH
Giambi, DH Ramirez, LF
Rodriguez, 3B Youkilis, 1B
Cano, 2B Lowell, 3B
Posada, C Hinske, RF
Wilson, 1B Lopez, C
Cabrera, LF Gonzalez, SS
Pena sits for Game 1. However, no wailing and gnashing of teeth yet -- he'll probably play tonight.

Wang has made three starts against the Red Sox this year, allowing 23 hits, 7 walks and 11 runs in 18 innings (5.50 ERA). In his two Fenway starts (May 6 and 22), he gave up 10 runs and 15 hits in 11 innings.

***

Here we go.

When asked when he last pitched in a game as important as this afternoon's contest, Jason Johnson said, "Never? Something like that, it's been a long time, if at all. ... I'm a little bit jittery."

The Yankees speak: Damon: "We know it could be for the division." ... Slappy: "It's very important for us to play well." ... Craig Wilson: "It's my understanding they don't like us." ... Steinbrenner: "We better play better than we did [Thursday]."

Friday, 1 PM - Chien-Ming Wang (3.84) / Jason Johnson (6.26)

Friday, 8 PM - Sidney Ponson (5.82) / Jon Lester (4.09)

Saturday, 1 PM - Randy Johnson (4.92) / Josh Beckett (5.02)

Sunday, 8 PM - Mike Mussina (3.54) / Curt Schilling (3.83)

Monday, 1 PM - Cory Lidle (4.64) / David Wells (6.06)

Note: Manny Ramirez is batting .500 (17-for-34) with five home runs and 14 RBIs against the Yankees this season.

***

History: The last time the Yankees came to Fenway for a five-game set -- in mid-July 1959 -- the Red Sox swept the series. (In all of the Fenway games, the Red Sox scored runs in bunches.)

Thursday, July 9 -- Red Sox 14, Yankees 3 (Sox score 7 in 3rd)

Friday, July 10 -- Red Sox 8, Yankees 5 (Sox score 5 in 4th)

Saturday, July 11 -- Red Sox 8, Yankees 4 (10) (Don Buddin hits grand slam off Bob Turley in bottom of 10th)

Sunday, July 12 -- Red Sox 7, Yankees 3 (Sox score 4 in 1st)

Monday, July 13 -- Red Sox 13, Yankees 3 (Sox score 4 in 1st and 9 in 6th)

Actually, it was kind of a six-game series -- on July 8, the day before the Fenway series began, the Red Sox lost at Yankee Stadium 11-5. (I'm assuming this was a makeup game.)