September 30, 2007

We Have A Winner

Paul H. is the winner of the W-L contest.

Three other people also picked 96-66 as the Red Sox's final record, but Paul's guess of 3.83 was closest to Daisuke Matsuzaka's ERA of 4.40.

ALDS / NLDS

ALDS
Angels at Red Sox
Yankees at Cleveland
NLDS
Cubs at Diamondbacks
[Padres/Rockies] at Phillies
The Rockies won 13 of their final 14 games (including 11 in a row from September 16-27) to force a one-game playoff in Denver tomorrow against the Padres that will decide the NL wild card winner.

Meanwhile, the Mets lost six of their last seven games (and 12 of their final 17), falling from 7 GA in the NL East to 1 GB. They were out of today's game right from the start, as the Marlins scored seven runs in the top of the first against Tom Glavine.

If the Rockies prevail tomorrow night, there will be seven teams (out of eight) in this year's post-season that did not make the playoffs last season.

G162: Twins 3, Red Sox 2

Sexy Lips had a rough first, allowing a walk, single and double before getting his first out. Another walk, a sac fly and a single gave the Twins a 3-0 lead.

After Tavarez got the last out of the first, he threw a perfect second inning on eight pitches and a perfect third inning on 15 pitches. Then Jon Lester pitched a perfect fourth inning (11 pitches) and a perfect fifth inning (nine pitches). Mike Timlin threw a perfect sixth inning (six pitches), Manny Delcarmen pitched a perfect seventh inning (serven pitches) and Eric Gagne pitched a perfect eighth inning (12 pitches).

When Jonathan Papelbon recorded the first out in the ninth inning, it was the 23rd consecutive batter the Red Sox had retired (only three of the 23 outs left the infield). Jason Kubel whacked a ground-rule double to right before Bot got the last two Twins.

Manny Ramirez singled home Julio Lugo in the fifth and Jason Varitek homered in the sixth to bring Boston to with in 3-2.

The Red Sox rallied in the ninth against Joe Nathan. Brandon Moss walked and went to third on Jacoby Ellsbury's single to right (but Ellsbury was caught off first base and thrown out). Julio Lugo walked and stole second and Alex Cora was walked intentionally. Bobby Kielty and Doug Mirabelli both struck out to end the regular season.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 10-4, so Boston finished two games ahead of New York in the AL East.

***

Matt Garza (3.92, 113 ERA+) / Julian Tavarez (5.33, 90 ERA+)

Sexy Lips makes his first start since August 31. He's pitched only 5.2 innings in four September appearances.

Life Is Good

From this collection at Kelly O'Connor's Sitting Still.

September 29, 2007

Red Sox Host Angels On Wednesday

Once we get G162 out of the way, we can pace nervously for almost three full days.
Wed 1003 - Angels at Red Sox
Thu 1004 - OFF
Fri 1005 - Angels at Red Sox
Sat 1006 - OFF
Sun 1007 - Red Sox at Angels
Mon 1008 - Red Sox at Angels
Tue 1009 - OFF
Wed 1010 - Angels at Red Sox
Picking the eight-day schedule means the Red Sox will use three starters in the ALDS, moving Tim Wakefield in the bullpen. Josh Beckett will pitch Game 1 and would pitch Game 4 (if necessary) on four days rest. He would then be in line to pitch Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday the 13th -- again on four days rest.

The Yankees will start their series (Chien-Ming Wang in Game 1) in Cleveland on Thursday.

G161: Red Sox 6, Twins 4

10:21 PM:
The Royals beat Cleveland 4-3, so the Red Sox have home field advantage for the entire post-season. They have also clinched the best record in MLB for 2007.

The front office has one hour to decide which ALDS schedule it wants to play: the 7-day Series A (which starts Thursday) or the 8-day Series B (which starts Wednesday).
***

Trailing most of the night, the Red Sox scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win their 96th game of the season.

Three of those four runs came on a three-run home run from Mr. On Fire (J.D. Drew), who also singled and tripled. Drew thought he had walked on the pitch before -- which was at the letters -- but it was called a strike. Drew promptly clubbed the next offering over the visiting bullpen in right-center.

Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-4 and Coco Crisp had two hits. Wakefield was so-so (7-6-4-3-0-1, 92). Javier Lopez pitched a perfect eighth on nine pitches. Hideki Okajima allowed two singles to start the ninth, but then got Justin Morneau looking and started a 1-4-3 DP against Michael Cuddyer.

***

Carlos Silva (4.22, 105 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.80, 95 ERA+)

These guys faced each other on May 4; Boston won 2-0.

Surf's Up

New stuff added.

Five videos of the celebration (40+ minutes), including Bot wandering around with the beer case on his head.

Jere has pictures from the On-Field Clinching Party.

Nate Silver at BP gives us the thirteen worst collapses in baseball history. Gene Mauch's 1964 Phillies are at #10. (The 1978 Red Sox are #7, the 2002 Red Sox are #11, and the 2000 and 2001 teams almost made the list. Jesus.)

Chris Jaffe informs us that the 1971 Red Sox "got a worse OBP from their leadoff man than their No. 9 slot. This was before the AL adopted a DH. The mind boggles." ... And it wasn't close: the #9 spot was 10 points higher! The #9 spot also had more RBI and hit the same number of home runs.

Reason #4,502 Why Former Players Should Not Be Analysts: A group of 257 MLB non-pitchers were asked: "Which individual hitting statistic is the most meaningful?" Almost half of them said: RBI. ... Also, the 100 RBI benchmark should be abolished.

Will Fat Billy pitch for the Yankees in the post-season? The team has no idea. It's probably better for them if he doesn't.

John Walsh's Pitch Identification Tutorial. Very cool stuff!

Rookie hazing pictures from around the leagues! (Thanks to RSM, who also links to some crazy Wiffleball video.)

The Cubs won the NL Central and the Diamondbacks clinched a playoff spot (while flipping the bird to Pythagoras).

Think Of It This Way

On the morning of July 6, the Red Sox led the AL East by 11.5 games. On September 24, that lead was down to 1.5 games.

But the Red Sox were able to spend those 10 games of credit to:
give Matsuzaka and Okajima some much-needed rest (last night, Dice looked as good as he has all year);

give Ortiz time to rest his right knee (he's hitting .388/.514/.800 in September);

not rush Manny back from his oblique injury (he's 5-for-9 with a .636 OBP since coming back and has had no trouble running the bases);

not rush Youkilis back from his numerous bruises;

not have to push Beckett to throw 120-125 pitches (3.01 ERA since August 1);

not have to use Papelbon three games in a row (even with an additional month of work this season, he's thrown about 100 fewer pitches than last year); and

be able to give occasional days off to Pedroia, Varitek, Drew and Lowell.
Having the ability to do all of these things will make the Red Sox a stronger team in October. So imagine Theo and Francona trading a game or two in the standings for each of these things.

The shrinking lead was the cause of much annoyance -- not panic, though, as the Sox's playoff spot was never seriously in doubt -- but it seems like a very fair trade.

Soak It Up


I was really hoping for some schadenfreude this morning, but the damn Mets are all over the tabs instead.

Pap Smeared

From SoSH:

Obscure Name
Papelbon wearing a Bud Light box on his head.
majorwibi
Paps is plowed
Foulkey Reese
he's wearing it as a mask
Southpaw67
At least Paps ripped some eyeholes in his Bud Light box so he doesn't trip and fall and bust something.
Kitchkinet
We can forget about him for the next two nights.
NYCSox
Paps will need to check into AA rehab at this rate. And I don't mean AA in the baseball sense.
Comfortably Lomb
Did Papelbon finish the 30 between closing tonight's game out and the Yankees losing? It looks like it.

The Celebration






The Globe has 34 pictures of the celebration. NESN has video.










ALDS:
Angels at Red Sox
Yankees at Cleveland

September 28, 2007

G160: Red Sox 5, Twins 2

RED SOX WIN AL EAST!

Dice was superb (8-6-2-2-8, 119). The Twins' two runs came in the seventh inning. Bot needed only six pitches to slam the door.

Tizzle remained white hot, with a double (#53), single and home run (#35). Lowell singled, doubled and drove in three. Drew (double) and Yook (single) drove in one run apiece.

In Baltimore, the Orioles got three runs off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth (Jay Payton's three-run triple tying the game) and one in the bottom of the tenth off Edwar Ramirez (Melvin Mora's bases-loaded squeeze bunt) and win 10-9.
Yankees - 004 031 010 0 -  9 14 0
Orioles - 011 040 003 1 - 10 20 0
***

Kevin Slowey (4.57, 97 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.48, 102 ERA+)

Let's try that again: Red Sox W + MFY L = East.

Elsewhere:
Yankees at Orioles, 7 PM
Cleveland at Royals, 8 PM
Angels at Athletics, 10 PM

Buchholz Shut Down For Rest Of Year

Amalie Benjamin, Globe:
The Red Sox today announced that rookie pitcher Clay Buchholz will be shut down for the rest of the season, including the postseason.
Q&A from Francona's press conference here.

Bot Illustrated

Late & Great
Summer's over, but the heat's being turned up on some of the game's biggest stars as they take the October stage. Jonathan Papelbon's reply: Bring It
By Tom Verducci

September 27, 2007

G159: Twins 5, Red Sox 4

Bad news everywhere.

Boston's ninth inning rally falls short (box) and the Yankees beat the Devil Rays 3-1. Up by 2 with 3 to play.

It initially looked like the Sox would rout Bonser, as he threw 39 pitches in an eight-batter first inning, allowing three hits and two runs. But he recovered and lasted five innings (5-6-3-2-2, 97). Beckett was not sharp at all (6-10-5-0-6, 99), allowing the Twins to put their leadoff man on base in each of the first five innings. He also gave up solo home runs to Cuddyer and Jones.

Boston trailed 5-3 after six innings. Varitek hit a solo shot in the eighth and, with two outs, Hinske and Lugo both singled. Joe Nathan came in from the pen and got Pedroia to pop out to first base. In the ninth, Moss doubled to left and Ortiz walked (Tiz also singled twice, doubled and homered, with 2 RS and 2 RBI). Lowell moved the runners to second and third on a grounder to first, and Nathan walked Drew intentionally to load the bases.

Varitek fell behind 0-2, fouled off a couple of pitches and brought the count back to 2-2 before striking out on a slider down and in. Youkilis pinch-hit for Kielty and fanned on three pitches, the last one a check swing on a high fastball.

Okajima pitched the Twins eighth. He threw 14 pitches. Morneau flew to right on an 0-1 pitch. Cuddyer hit a first-pitch single to center and stole second, but Jeemer whiffed both Jones (bbffs) and Lecroy (bbfcbs).

In Tampa, the Yankees pounced on the Rays pen and broke a 1-1 tie as soon as Kazmir left the game (6-3-1-0-10, 100).

***

Boof Bonser (5.09, 87 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.14, 145 ERA+)

A win tonight, coupled with a Yankee loss in Tampa (Hughes/Kazmir), clinches the East.

Game thread here.

September 26, 2007

G158: Red Sox 11, Athletics 6

Manny, again in the second spot, went 3-for-3 with a walk, Pedroia scored four times with a walk, two doubles and a home run, Ortiz smacked three hits, including two doubles off the LCF wall (he has 50, the 7th Sock to do so), Lowell singled three times and drove in five, and the Red Sox cruised to victory.

Magic number is 2.

Lester struck out nine in 4.2 innings, though he also allowed seven hits, three walks and five runs. Synder, Lopez, Timlin, Gagne and Tavarez relieved.

We had the computer/GDGD outside and once the sun went down, L got WTIC on the box. I think Pedroia's sixth inning dong was when we tuned in. I brought out a lamp to plug in so I could keep scoring in the autumn chill.

***

Joe Blanton (3.84, 114 ERA+) / Jon Lester (4.45, 102 ERA+)

Early start -- 5:00 PM! At ThreadSox.

September 25, 2007

G157: Red Sox 7, Athletics 3

And Devil Rays 7, Yankees 6 (10). 3 games up with 5 to play. Magic #: 3.

During the day we had a nice hike with the pups, then returned for afternoon tea, grilling and the Red Sox. (Much more about our day here.)

We had a nice connection -- good enough for GDGD -- but when it rained after dinner, our connection disappeared. At 6:50 pm, I went to ask out hosts about it; perhaps they needed to reboot the router.

It turns out they had turned it off as the storm moved in. They have had some problems with routers being fried during storms. I said we had hoped to follow a baseball game, but it didn't sound like they would turn it back on -- thunder rumbled in the distance as we spoke and it started raining again as I walked back to the cottage.

But about 10 minutes later, the connection was back. Maybe they took pity on us! So everything was good. But then, in the bottom of the first, with a 2-0 count on Ortiz, GDGD stopped. With more thunder and lightning, our hosts probably had second thoughts. Shit.

In the meantime, we figured we'd check the AM radio dial on our box. We heard an MFY station driving home from Skydome recently, so why not. I was creeping along the band and at about 1000 or so, we heard the name Barton. ... Hey, a Barton hit a dong off Curt in the first inning. Then we learned his first name was Daric. Bingo !!! It was the Red Sox game from WTIC in Connecticut! We had to twist the box around and fiddle with the antenna a bit, and we missed a few pitches because of static, but we listened to the entire game.

And then I found the MFY game for the ninth and tenth innings. We knew New York had blown a 5-1 lead -- then we heard Navarro bang a walk-off dong to end a wonderful day.

***

Chad Gaudin (4.52, 97 ERA+) / Curt Schilling (3.97, 115 ERA+)

With a weak and possibly inconsistent internet connection out here in the wilds of Ontario, game discussion will be at ThreadSox for the two Oakland games.

Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis both took BP at Fenway yesterday, but there was no word on if they will play tonight.

The Yankees (2 GB) visit the Devil Rays (Fat Billy/Hammel) at 7 PM.

September 24, 2007

Futher To My Canadian Assimilation

Toronto 4, New York 1 -- behind starter Jessie Litsch.

East lead at 2 GA (with 6 to play) and the magic number at 5.

***

This morning, we are driving north for four days of Canadian cottage relaxation.

L and I and the dogs will be here, on Katchewanooka Lake. We are told the resort is 1.5 hours from Toronto (naturally).

There is wireless internet, so I can post, watch MLBTV and handle the game threads. The plan is to check the papers and post in the morning, then pretty much stay away from the computer until game time. If we're around, I'll put through comments every hour or so.

The Sox are off, but it's Burnett/Pettitte at 1 PM.

P.S.: If your name is ish, SoSock, phenrile, chief, Nixon33, David, s1c, or Woti-woti, could you email me: joyofsox at gmail dot com?

September 23, 2007

Races

Both Cleveland and the Angels clinched their respective divisions today. We know now three of the eight playoff teams.

AL East: Red Sox 1.5 GA Yankees. Magic #: 6.

AL Wild Card: Yankees 5.5 GA Tigers. Magic #: 2.

NL East: Mets 2.5 GA Phillies. Magic #: 5.

NL Central: Cubs 3.5 GA Brewers. Magic #: 4.

NL West: Diamondbacks 2.5 GA Padres. Magic #: 5.

NL Wild Card: Padres .5 GA Phillies, 1.5 GA Rockies, 3.5 GA Atlanta.

Cleveland (92-63) has the best AL record; the Red Sox and Angels are both .5 GB (92-64).

W-L Contest Update - Final Week

With only six games remaining, and the Red Sox at 92-64, I looked back at the entries.

Dice's ERA will be much higher than almost everyone predicted, so in any possible tiebreaker, the person who had the highest ERA guess will win. Here's a list of who is still in the running:
Last Six    W-L     Winner
6-0 98-64 Thomas Chan
5-1 97-65 Jeff Davis
4-2 96-66 Paul H.
3-3 95-67 Franco Baseggio
2-4 94-68 Chris Jones
1-5 93-69 Matt B.
0-6 92-70 Matt Meltzer

G156: Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 4

Down 4-0 after five, the Red Sox scored three times in the sixth, fell back 5-3, got within one on Cora's eighth inning dong, then went meekly in the ninth against Gas Can Reyes.

New York beat Toronto 7-5, so the East lead is back to 1.5. The Jays and Chokers play tomorrow afternoon while the Sox head back to Fenway. (Tigers also won today, so NY's magic number to eliminate them is 2.)

***

Tim Wakefield (4.73, 96 ERA+) / Edwin Jackson (5.99, 77 ERA+)

This is Wakefield's sixth start against Tampa Bay this year. In 30.1 innings, he's allowed 29 hits, 8 walks (against 24 strikeouts), a 3.56 ERA and a .643 OPS. He's made two starts at the Trop this year (13 IP, 0.69 ERA).

Blue Jays/MFY (McGowan/Mussina) at 1 PM.

In




And at 92-63, Boston once again has the best record in MLB.

September 22, 2007

G155: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6

Red Sox Clinch Playoff Spot!
Red Sox   -  001 202 003 - 8 13 0
Devil Rays - 000 201 300 - 6 7 0
With Boston trailing 6-5, Varitek started the top of the ninth with a solo home run off Al Reyes. Hinske, who had looked horrible all night, followed with a double. After Crisp popped to third, Lugo homered to left!! Then Ellsbury doubled and took third on a foul pop to first, but was stranded at third.

Drew continues to be ON FIRE with a double, a home run, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. Varitek was on base all four times tonight: walk, 2 singles and home run. And Eric Gagne looked fantastic once again and he picked up the victory.

***

A wild one this afternoon:
Blue Jays - 000 300 530 0 - 11 18 0
Yankees - 010 014 320 1 - 12 17 1
***

Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.41, 103 ERA+) / Andy Sonnanstine (5.68, 81 ERA+)

Matsuzaka's ERA is 11.20 in three September starts -- and 7.15 in his last seven outings. In 26.1 innings against Tampa, his ERA is 3.42. ... Sonnanstine has a 9.00 ERA in three starts (15 IP) against the Red Sox.

Manny Ramirez will likely return no earlier than Tuesday at home against Oakland.

The Blue Jays play the Yankees at 1 PM: Marcum/Hughes.
East
Boston 91 63 .591 -- 8 games left
New York 88 65 .575 2.5 9 games left

Wild Card
New York 88 65 .575 -- 9 games left
Detroit 84 70 .545 4.5 8 games left
Seattle 82 71 .536 6.0 9 games left
Detroit hosts Kansas City at 7 PM.

Okajima Back Thursday; Yook: No Fracture

The plan for Hideki Okajima: throw a side session Tuesday, rest Wednesday, and see action against the Twins on Thursday.

Kevin Youkilis, on his MRI: "No fracture, just inflammation in the joint." Speaking of Youkilis, when David Ortiz explained why he did not take a planned night off on Friday, he said: "We've got no choice. We've got [Kevin Youkilis], we've got Manny [Ramirez] out. So, we just have to keep on playing."

Tiz said only Manny's first name, but how did he refer to Youkilis? Thinking it might be something obscene (and humourous), I emailed Jeff Goldberg of the Courant. His reply: "He said 'Youk' and since it was first reference, I bracketed it. No biggie." Rats.

Mike Lowell, on Tiz beating out a squibber to Scoitt Kazmir in the first inning: "What David doesn't know is that Kazmir ate a sandwich before throwing to first." ... The Red Sox struck out 17 times last night -- their highest one-game total since August 12, 1974, a 4-2 loss to Nolan Ryan (9-7-2-2-19).

In 18 September games, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .388 with a 1.037 OPS (with at least one hit in 17 of those 18 games), but he has been swinging and missing at a lot of low inside fastballs. ... Sean McAdam notes that Curt Schilling put his house in Medfield on the market this week.

NYP: 1.108 OPS = Horrible Slump

A crayon-user at the New York Post says Alex Rodriguez's bat has gone cold in September. He's batting .333 and slugging .696 this month. The Post calls the guy who should be the unanimous choice for AL MVP "the hole in the middle of" his team's lineup.

Ken Tremendous does the rest. Many members of the traditional sports media love to ridicule bloggers, but most of the basement dwellers I know and read would be embarrassed at even thinking of typing such twaddle.

Yes, Slappy is 5-for-35 in his last nine games. New York is 6-3 in those games. I guess that's the point of this silliness. The Yankees can still win with this anchor (who is having the best season of his astonishing career) dragging their offense down.

Schadenfreude 27 (A Continuing Series)

There hasn't been a lot to smile about this week, but remember -- whether you're 20 games up or 20 games back -- you can always laugh at the Yankees.




Plus: Ian Kennedy was scratched from today's start after experiencing stiffness in his upper back and his planned replacement, Roger Clemens, has been bumped back to Monday after reporting tightness in his left hamstring.

September 21, 2007

G154: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 1

Beckett (6-4-1-2-8, 113) pockets his #20 win - Ortiz (4 RBI, 3 hits) and Lowell hit back-to-back dongs in the ninth -- Varitek bopped a solo dong in the eighth -- Ellsbury and Pedroia each scored twice -- and Gagne looked great with a 1-2-3 ninth inning in which his pitch speed ranged from 68 to 95. (box)

The Yankees scored four times in the bottom of the ninth to erase a 4-0 Blue Jays lead, but then lost when Gregg Zaun hit a solo dong in the 14th inning.

2.5 GA. Magic #: 7.

(And the Tigers crept closer to New York in the WC race (4.5 GB).)

***

Josh Beckett (3.20, 142 ERA+) / Scott Kazmir (3.54, 130 ERA+)

Two excellent pitching match-ups tonight, with Halladay/Wang in New York, also at 7 PM.

The big question: Can (or Will) the battling Blue Jays, now officially eliminated from the wild card race, roll over for the Yankees? On their off-day yesterday, the team announced Vernon Wells is done for the season and will have shoulder surgery. Since Wells struggled to keep his OBP above .300 since mid-June (and he slugged .202 over the last 28 days), his absence may actually help Toronto's chances for victory. But still -- Eff you, Ricciardi.

NESN's Analysis (sic)

With Extra Innings, I get only the day's game -- nothing before or after. Sometimes I think I'd like more NESN, but then I actually hear some of the post-game show (thanks to an asleep-at-the-switch EI programmer) and immediately have second thoughts.

Boston Dirt Dogs posted some commentary from Tom Caron and Jim Rice after Eric Gagne's meltdown in Toronto on Tuesday.

Caron:
Panic in the streets of Red Sox Nation, Jim. This is as bad as it gets.
Really, Tom? That is as bad as it gets? A 2.5-game lead with 10 games to go? Without taxing my brain too much, I can think of several moments in recent Red Sox history that were far worse that that. A fan watching that night can be forgiven for voicing some despair. A professional like Caron should be above that.

Rice:
I've always felt this way, if Papelbon my horse, I'm going to use Papelbon every day ...
Every day ... That sounds like an excellent plan, Jim.

Has Rice bothered to follow the two seasons-long discussion about Papelbon's usage? It appears not. Perhaps someone could bring him up to speed.

In a field of ignorant talking heads -- where the bar for maintaining your job is shockingly low -- Rice is among the absolute worst. On his best days, he merely spouts meaningless cliches. At other times, like the above, he appears to have absolutely no knowledge of the Red Sox players or management's philosophy for the team.

September 20, 2007

The Iraq Moratorium

September 21 is the first day of The Iraq Moratorium.

On the third Friday of every month, Americans (and others outside the States) will engage in local, decentralized, personal actions against the assault, destruction and occupation of Iraq. I encourage you to participate in any way you can: wear a peace button, hang an anti-war sign in your window, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

There is a huge anti-war movement in the US -- and it has been raging for more than four years -- but it has been deliberately hidden from the general public. Here is a recent example of the media's ongoing distortion. (Or go to Left I and search for "It's an old story".)

Here in Ontario, we have become involved in the War Resisters Support Campaign, which is helping men and women (and their families) who have deserted or gone AWOL from the US military and are seeking refuge in Canada.

***

morals, ideals, awareness, progress / let yourself be heard!
Minutemen, Shit From An Old Notebook (1984)

Twelve Off-Day Thoughts, Some Of Which Might Make You Feel Slightly Better

1. I hate the wild card. I accept it, as I accept the DH, but I hate the idea of it. Imagine this season if the wild card did not exist. Win the division or go home. Wouldn't that put an extra knot or six in your stomach?

2. But we do have the wild card. And so it is a virtual certainty at this point that both the Red Sox and Yankees will make the playoffs. So what exactly is being "choked away"? Not a whole hell of a lot, even if you subscribe to the "choking" theory -- and I do not. The dubious edge of home field advantage? Bragging rights for the AL East? I remember joking at SoSH about the Yankees proudly holding a 2004 AL East parade and wondering how many fans would have shown up for that.

3. There's not a whole hell of a lot you can do when your main rival plays .656 ball for four months (63-33). If the Yankees stay hot for another week and a half, well, bully for them. All we have lost is the massive cushion we built to prepare ourselves when the Yankees finally got their heads out of their asses. We are in first place and I expect us to be in first place on October 1.

4. Of course, if the Yankees do win the East, all you will read and hear about is how the Red Sox "choked away" the division, but since when have we given the time of day to misinformed media writing stuff that has no basis in reality? Since never, that's when.

5. As Newsday (and JtC, apparently) proclaims:


If you care about winning the East, yes, it's a race. As we expected way back in March. If you care about making the playoffs by any means necessary, then, there is no race. As we kind of expected before the season began. (Blame or give thanks to the wild card for that.)

6. We have nine games left. New York has 10. Both Boston and New York will be playing playoff baseball -- so what's the big deal?

7. The 1997 Florida Marlins finished the season 2-7 -- and won the World Series.

8. The 2000 Yankees lost 18 of their final 21 games -- and won the World Series.

9. The 2002 Anaheim Angels finished the season 4-7 -- and won the World Series.

10. The 2005 White Sox saw their 15-game lead on August 1 shrink to 1.5 -- and won the World Series.

11. The 2006 Cardinals were 7 GA on September 20, saw their division lead drop to .5 GA in only eight days (and with three games remaining) -- and won the World Series. (The 2006 Tigers were 10 GA on August 7, went 19-31, finished 1 GB the Twins, and won the AL pennant.)

12. Playoff bound teams fall into four categories:
Suck in September, dominate in October
Suck in September, suck in October
Dominate in September, suck in October
Dominate in September, dominate in October
What category do the Red Sox fit into? What about the Yankees? We have no idea. All we can do is watch the games (and live and die by their results). The games in September -- and the upcoming games in October.

September 19, 2007

G153: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1

1.5 GA.

***


So let it be posted, so let it be done.

***

Clay Buchholz (1.50, 304 ERA+) / Jesse Litsch (4.37, 107 ERA+)

Once again, ThhreadSox hhas tonight's game thhread. If you're at Skydome, swing by Aisle 115, Row 18, Seats 105 & 106 and say Hhi.

The idea that the Red Sox front office (and, by extension, Francona) believes that heading into the post-season with a healthy, well-rested team is more important than either forcing players to play hurt or pushing pitchers (starters, closer) too hard in an all-out attempt to win the East makes sense from a pure baseball standpoint.

However, if pursuit of that goal over the next 10 days is going to result in a few more losses like last night's debacle, it's going to drive this fan (who takes prides in his ability to usually separate emotion from analysis) absolutely fucking batty.

I think we have to face the fact that as long as the Tigers are not making a run for the wild card -- Boston's magic number for eliminating Detroit (and clinching a playoff spot) is 4 -- this is how Francona will manage.

He doesn't care if the Yankees win the East. He doesn't care how the national media and MFY fans will react (and believe me, if we lose the East and don't go on to win the World Series, we'll be hearing about it for years). He wants to go into October with the best team he can have.

I have to keep telling myself that that's the most important thing right now.

Odds

The future is unknowable -- 1986 and 2004 showed us that -- but if you could play the rest of this season one million times, chances are good you'll know what "should" happen.

Cool Standings
       W   L   PCT  DIV%   WC%  POFF%
0913 89 58 .605 95.4 4.6 99.9
0914 89 59 .601 91.3 8.7 99.9
0915 90 59 .604 97.1 2.9 99.9
0916 90 60 .600 93.5 6.5 99.9
0918 90 61 .596 87.4 12.6 99.9
0919 90 62 .592 77.2 22.8 99.9
Our chances of winning the East dropped 10% with last night's loss (thanks, Tito) and 16% in the last two days. (But, hey, our chances of winning the wild card more than tripled (cough). Still, we're as close to a lock for the playoffs as you can get without clinching.

From Baseball Prospectus:

General Post-Season Odds
          W   L   East   Card  P-Offs
Red Sox 90 62 89.77 10.21 99.98
Yankees 87 64 10.23 87.17 97.40
In this standard sim, in 1,000,000 seasons, the Red Sox made the playoffs 999,784 times.

PECOTA version:
          W   L   East   Card  P-Offs
Red Sox 90 62 89.52 10.46 99.98
Yankees 87 64 10.48 87.07 97.55
ELO version:
          W   L   East   Card  P-Offs
Red Sox 90 62 78.78 21.18 99.95
Yankees 87 64 21.23 77.73 98.96
In all of these cases, the Tigers have an approximate 3% chance of making the playoffs.

Francona's Excuse As Bad As Gagne's Pitches

Gordon Edes writes that "Terry Francona felt he had to find out last night whether he could trust Eric Gagne in October. ... For the first time in almost a month, Francona called upon Gagne to protect a lead." Tito:
There were a lot of reasons to keep him out there and pitch and have success. If it doesn't work, it hurts. It hurts all of us. I think it's the right thing to do. That doesn't make it easier. ... We believe, even when other people don't or it's hard to believe. I think that's part of why we are successful. It certainly doesn't feel like it tonight.
That's unacceptable.

Francona is not stupid. He knew Gagne had nothing -- after a two-out walk, a single, a walk, a walk (and a line-drive double that resulted in the inning-ending out) -- yet he did nothing. He chose to stay with Gagne and lose the game. Gagne already feels like shit; leaving him out there thinking his manager has faith in him to get out of his own jam is meaningless.

This has been a blind spot for Francona for several seasons. The two worst (or best) examples were his unyielding belief in the talents of Kevin Millar in 2005 and Mark Loretta in 2006. Both players were out-making machines in the lineups, yet they played day after agonizing day. Faith-based managing does not result in wins.

More Tito:
It seemed like [after walking Thomas], it looked like he wanted to throw the ball through the backstop. He got a little revved up and it didn't end very well. ... We wanted Gagne to get out of it. Two quick outs, that's his inning to get out of.
There won't be any games in October if Francona doesn't start managing to win.

Rookie Hazing

As the Red Sox left Fenway Park for their last road trip of the regular season, tradition dictates that the rookies have to wear whatever costumes the veterans hand them.

So Daisuke Matsuzaka was dressed in a Teletubby outfit (his translator wore one too!), Clay Buchholz was a female pirate, Jacoby Ellsbury was Little Red Riding Hood and Brandon Moss was Dorothy from the "Wizard of Oz," complete with pony tail wig and Toto in a basket.

The Globe has a video link and I found an AP picture of Dice, but no other pictures.

September 18, 2007

G152: Red Sox at Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3

Did I miss the announcement that we had rehired Grady Little?

How in the fucking hell can Terry Francona sit on his ass in the dugout while Eric Gagne throws away this game? Seriously. (Did I read correctly at ThreadSox that Jonathan Papelbon wasn't even warming up?)

WTF? Was Bot totally off limits tonight? If so, who was going to pitch the ninth assuming Gagne was fine? Why not have MDC start the eighth?

What's Francoma's thought process? Did he keep Gagne out there on the mound -- throwing 14 balls in 19 pitches at one point with the Jays fans howling with glee -- with the irrational hope that he'd suddenly regain his confidence? Or did he not want to Gagne to think he had no faith in him? Is that important at this point?

Many SoSHers think that Tito is managing this series (and the Yankee series last weekend) as if the Red Sox have already clinched a playoff spot and he's playing out the string, not necessarily managing to win every single game. Tonight was a perfect example of that mindset.

Gagne retired Reed Johnson on a nifty 3-1 play to start the bottom of the eighth. Alex Rios lined out to shortstop. Two quick outs -- Sox still holding a 2-1 lead. Frank Thomas walked on five pitches, then Gagne fell apart.

Aaron Hill looked at two balls and singled through the infield to left. Matt Stairs fell behind 0-2, but then looked at four straight balls -- none of them even close to the strike zone. Bases loaded. And no one was warming up in the bullpen. No one!

Gregg Zaun looked like he had no intention of swinging the bat at all -- who could blame him? -- and he walked on five pitches, forcing in the tying run. And Gagne was still left out there to allow a line drive double to Russ Adams, which brought in two more runs. A possible third run on that play was cut down at the plate to end the inning.

Julio Lugo hit a two-out home run to left in the top of the ninth, but the Sox came no closer. Coupled with New York's 12-0 win against the Orioles, the East lead is down to 2.5 games.

And it is more than past time for Francona to get his thumb out of his ass, wake the fuck up, and start trying to win a few ballgames. His actions tonight are an absolute mystery. I can't imagine what excuse or reason he could give for what he did (or didn't do) tonight.


***

Jon Lester (4.86, 94 ERA+) / A. J. Burnett (3.42, 136 ERA+)

In his last seven starts, Burnett has a 1.78 ERA (he's allowed only one earned run in five of those seven starts).

This is Burnett's first start against Boston in 2007. Lester has never faced the Blue Jays.

We'll be sitting in Skydome Aisle 116, Row 18, Seats 5 and 6, so head over to ThreadSox for game chat.

Buchholz To Start Wednesday

Clay Buchholz will make his third major league start tomorrow night in Toronto. He has not pitched in a game since September 6.

September 17, 2007

G151: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1

Silenced by McGowan (9-5-1-0-9, 122) and The Corpse of Frank Thomas (3 dongs, 5 RBI).

Elsewhere:
New York 8, Baltimore 5
Cleveland 6, Detroit 5 (11)
As a wise man once said, "I'm gettin' too old for this shit."

***

Tim Wakefield (4.68, 97 ERA+) / Dustin McGowan (4.01, 116 ERA+)

L-girl and I will be at Skydome for the next three nights, so Cakey will be your Game Thread Host at ThreadSox. Have fun!

"He Kept His Mask On!!!"


Thanks to SoSHer mt8thsw9th.

September 16, 2007

G150: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3

Yankees - 000 010 030 - 4  7  1
Red Sox - 100 000 011 - 3 5 0
The seven-batter rally against a shaky Rivera falls short, as Tiz pops to Jeter in short center with the bases loaded. And CI's three-run homer into the Monster Seats off Schilling -- who maybe should have been pulled a few batters earlier -- is the difference.

The Sox blew an excellent chance at scoring off Joba in the seventh. Hisnke doubled and was bunted to third. But Lugo fanned and Ellsbury grounded to first. The Doctor doubled his pleasure and homered in the eighth, finally tagging an earned run on JtC's ERA.

***

The Tigers won this afternoon 6-4, as the Twins left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Detroit is now only 2 GB the Yankees for the wild card spot.

***

Roger Clemens (4.45, 98 ERA+) / Curt Schilling (3.93, 116 ERA+)

If the Yankees want to entertain even a slim hope of winning the East, Fat Billy has to come through. More importantly, his team's wild card lead has been cut to 2.5 games (the Tigers play the Twins at 2 PM). And we know he's always done so well under pressure.

So while Wimpy Clemens promises to pay us Tuesday for a hamburger today


Schilling will rely on the breakfast of champions:


Steamed.

Schadenfreude 26 (A Continuing Series)





Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
After winning nine consecutive American League East titles, the Yankees needed a sweep this weekend at Fenway Park if they had any hopes of extending that streak to 10.

So much for that.
Bill Madden, Daily News:
So much for the euphoria of the eighth inning to end all Yankee-Red Sox eighth innings.
George King, Post, September 15, 2007:
Hold off on those toe tags. Keep the body bags in the ambulance. Maybe the music hasn't been muted forever in the AL East dance.
George King, Post, September 16, 2007:
In the process of executing pitches, Beckett left the Yankees toe-tag dead in regard to winning their 10th straight AL East title.

September 15, 2007

G149: Red Sox 10, Yankees 1

Yankees - 100 000 000 -  1  4 0
Red Sox - 100 013 41x - 10 12 0
Win #90. The lead's back up to to 5.5 and the magic number is down to nine. (The sportswriters for the New York tabloids will have to do a 180-degree turn from today's "alive" articles.)

Boston pulled away against the feeble New York bullpen. Torre used five pitchers in the seventh inning as the Red Sox got two hits and drew five walks, scoring four times.

David Ortiz reached base five times (two singles, two walks, and a two-run double), Jacoby Ellsbury scored a run as a pinch-runner for Kevin Youkilis (HBP, contusion to his right wrist) in the sixth, then singled in two runs of his own in the seventh. JD Drew reached three times, thanks to two walks and a single. Eric Hinske doubled, walked and homered.

Beckett (7-3-1-2-7, 108) was superb. A solo home run by Derek Jeter gave New York a 1-0 lead in the first. After two walks, also in the first inning, Beckett settled down. The Yankees managed only one baserunner over the next 19 batters -- when there were two outs in the seventh inning.

***

Chien-Ming Wang (3.69, 118 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.27, 140 ERA+)

Comeback Threats

At MLB.com, Mike Bauman's column on last night's game began:
The New York Yankees cannot be counted out of any game in which they still have at-bats remaining.
It was a remarkable comeback for New York, and a tough loss for the Red Sox, but the 2007 Red Sox have a better record than the 2007 Yankees when they are trailing after:
             Red Sox      Yankees
1 inning 11-16 .407 9-23 .281
2 innings 17-25 .405 9-28 .243
3 innings 17-29 .370 12-41 .226
4 innings 17-40 .298 10-44 .185
5 innings 11-44 .200 10-48 .172
6 innings 10-51 .164 6-48 .111
7 innings 8-52 .133 6-53 .102
and
8 innings 3-51 .056 3-55 .052
The Yankees (which have a better record in extra innings than Boston: 6-14 to 4-10) are always a threat for a big inning, so while Bauman's statement is not wrong, the Red Sox are the better example of a team not to be "counted out of any game in which they still have at-bats remaining".

A Battle For The Cy Young? No.

This afternoon's game is being billed as a duel between the top two Cy Young Award candidates.

Which is nuts. Beckett deserves some votes -- though he has not been the top pitcher in the league. The only thing Wang -- a very good pitcher -- has going for him is his win total.

Wang and Beckett each have an 18-6 record. However, a pitcher's won-loss record is just about meaningless. A guy can allow nine runs in five innings and get a win and then allow one run in nine innings and get a loss. Much like RBIs for a batter, a W-L is dependent on too many factors out of the pitcher's control. It comes down to: does he allow runs?

In ERA, Beckett is 8th in the AL (3.27) and Wang is 14th (3.69).

Wang's ERA+ (the ratio of the league's ERA, adjusted to the pitcher's home park, to that of the pitcher) is 118. That's good, but Kelvim Escobar is 10th the AL in ERA+ and he's at 134. Beckett is 5th (140), behind Johan Santana (143), Erik Bedard (141), Brian Bannister (141) and Dan Haren (141).

Wang's 118 ERA+ is almost identical to Curt Schilling's 116. Is anyone saying Schilling deserves the Cy Young Award? I don't think so. (Sure, Rick Sutcliffe is touting Roy Halladay (119 ERA+ and 20th in ERA) as the top AL pitcher, but he has the cognitive power of a Chiclet.)

In fact, there are two pitchers on each of the other two playoff-bound clubs -- CC Sabathia (138) and Fausto Carmona (138) of Cleveland and John Lackey (135) and Escobar (134) of the Angels -- that are worthier candidates than Wang.

Back in late June, when Beckett's record was 11-1, everyone was calling him the best pitcher in baseball. Hogwash. Haren was a much better pitcher than Beckett at that time (witness his 1.91 ERA to Beckett's 3.07).

This is a great matchup, but it is in no way a Battle for the Cy Young.

September 14, 2007

G148: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7

There are people who think baseball is boring.
Yankees - 000 101 060 - 8 12 2
Red Sox - 011 302 000 - 7 13 2

Time of Game: 4:43
It was more than a bit odd that while Okajima melted down, Tito had only Papelbon up in the pen. Especially, since he went straight to Timlin in the 6th to put out a fire.

Jeemer came in with a 5-2 lead in the seventh and a man on base. Francona was managing the pen exactly right -- bringing in the best guys with the game on the line, completely ignoring what inning they have been "assigned" in the past. But he should have had another arm up -- MDC or Gagne -- alongside Bot.

It doesn't sound like Francona talked about this too much in the post-game interview (according to commenters). On a surface level, his explanation makes sense -- who would expect Jeemer and Bot to give up six runs before recording an out? Anyone wanna bet how long it'll be before that happens again?

But considering his decisions to call on with Timlin and Okajimna, I expected Francona to not be caught with his pants down in the eighth.

***

Lineups are in comments.

***

Andy Pettitte (3.78, 115 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.44, 103 ERA+)


Hitori Zumo

A Japanese newspaper says Daisuke Matsuzaka is engaging in "hitori zumo" -- roughly translated as "sumo-wrestling himself".

In the second half of this season, Matsuzaka has a 5.57 ERA, having allowed 65 hits and 32 walks in 64.2 innings. He has thrown 3,125 pitches this season, more than threw last season in Japan (2,770).

John Farrell, after Dice's last start:
I think he relied a little too much on just throwing the ball, rather than pitching and hitting his spots and changing his speeds. As that inning started to build on him, the use of his fastball, he tried to over-throw it. He elevated some pitches, then used his cutter and slider to get the ball back down in the zone. But his cutter is 4 to 5 [mph] down from his fastball, not a lot for hitters to adjust to. ...

I don't think it's physical. When he gets in a big inning like that he has a tendency to rely solely on his fastball and when he does that he sacrifices location.
In "Dissecting Daisuke", Rob Bradford writes "the one aspect of Matsuzaka's game that jumps out is his unwillingness to use what many considered his best pitch coming out of spring training, the change-up".

Also:

Kevin Youkilis, wondering why Yankees fans hate him:
People find things to hate about everyone. ... Some people congratulate me. Some people say, 'Stop whining about this or that.' I can't please everyone. It is what it is. ...

They play 'Yankeeography' on Paul O'Neill every day. So, what's the problem? I've been compared to Paul O'Neill. I know Paul O'Neill. We have the same agent."

September 13, 2007

Who Am I?

Two baseball players:
    PA  AVG  OBP  SLG OPS+ RS RBI  TB  RC
A 496 .263 .367 .399 101 77 50 167 64
B 453 .268 .373 .394 98 59 52 102 59

David Ortiz In Walkoff Situations II

All 2007 stats included.

This is an update to an August 1, 2006 post.

When I wrote that original post, Ortiz's performance in potential game-winning situations at Fenway Park was nearly super-human. I discovered that:
Since the end of the 2004 regular season [to August 1, 2006], Ortiz has come to the plate in a walk-off situations 19 times -- and reached base 16 times. He is 11-for-14 (.786), with 7 HR and 20 RBI.

In 2005 and 2006, he is 8-for-9, with 5 HR and 15 RBI!
Since then, Flo has cooled down somewhat.

He walked and grounded out in two chances in late 2006. He has had four chances for a walk-off hit this season and has been successful once -- last night against Tampa Bay.
2003:    2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, BB
2004: 2-for-8, HR, 3 RBI
2004 PS: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB
2005: 3-for-3, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB
2006: 5-for-7, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 3 BB
2007: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB
Total: 16-for-32, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 8 BB
Ortiz Walk-Off Chances At Fenway:
Date Opp Inn On Out Score Pitcher/Result

2003

0615 Hou 10 1 1 2-2 Dotel
BBI
12 0 0 2-2 Bland
3U (Sox 3-2 in 14)
0719 Tor 9 1 2 4-4 Acevado
4-3 (Sox 5-4 in 10)
0726 NYY 9 2 2 4-4 Benitez
Single to CF (Sox 5-4)
0823 Sea 10 1 1 6-6 Rhodes
P6 (Sox 7-6)
0923 Bal 10 0 0 5-5 Ainsworth
HR (Sox 6-5)

2004
0411 Tor 9 1 2 4-4 Kershner
F8 at track
12 1 0 4-4 Lopez
2-run HR to LF (Sox 6-4)
0415 Bal 9 0 1 7-7 Ryan
F8 (Bal 12-7 in 11)
0507 KC 9 0 0 6-6 Macdougal
K (Sox 7-6)
0529 Sea 9 1 2 4-5 Guardado
F8 (Sea 5-4)
0530 Sea 11 0 1 7-7 Putz
K (Sox 9-7 in 12)
0611 LAD 9 2 0 1-1 Martin
Single to RF (Sox 2-1)
0923 Bal 9 2 2 7-9 Ryan
F9 (Bal 9-7)

2004 Post-Season
1008 Ana 10 1 2 6-6 Washburn
2-run HR to LF (Sox 8-6)
1017 NYY 9 3 2 4-4 Rivera
P4
12 1 0 4-4 Quantrill
2-run HR to RF (Sox 6-4)
1018 NYY 10 0 0 4-4 Heredia
K
12 0 1 4-4 Loaiza
BB
14 2 2 4-4 Loaiza
Single to CF (Sox 5-4)

2005
0602 Bal 9 2 2 3-4 Ryan
3-run HR to CF (Sox 6-5)
0830 TB 9 0 1 6-6 Borowski
BB (Sox 7-6)
0906 LAA 9 0 1 2-2 Shields
Solo HR to RF (Sox 3-2)
0916 Oak 10 2 1 2-2 Cruz
BBI (Sox 3-2)
0929 Tor 9 2 1 4-4 Batista
Single to LF (Sox 5-4)

2006
0611 Tex 9 2 2 2-4 Otsuka
3-run HR to RF (Sox 5-4)
0624 Phi 10 1 1 3-3 Gordon
2-run HR to CF (Sox 5-3)
0626 Phi 9 0 0 6-6 Cormier
4-1
11 1 1 6-6 Gordon
BBI
12 2 2 7-7 Condrey
Single to LCF (Sox 8-7)
0729 LAA 9 1 1 6-6 Rodriguez
BBI
11 2 1 6-6 Romero
Single to LF (Sox 7-6)
0731 Cle 9 2 1 6-8 Carmona
3-run HR to CF (Sox 9-8)
0812 Bal 10 1 0 7-7 Chen
BB (Sox 8-7)
0909 KC 10 1 1 4-4 Peralta
6-3 (KC 10-4 in 12)

2007
0701 Tex 9 1 2 1-2 Gagne
P3 (Tex 2-1)
0713 Tor 9 1 1 5-6 Accardo
F8 (Tor 6-5)
0815 TB 9 1 2 5-6 Reyes
BB (TB 6-5)
0912 TB 9 1 1 3-4 Reyes
2-run HR to RF (Sox 5-4)
0916 NYY 9 3 2 3-4 Rivera
P6 (NYY 4-3)

September 12, 2007

G147: David Ortiz 5, Devil Rays 4

WALK OFF!

The days are getting shorter, the evening air is getting cripser. David Ortiz knows it's gettin' close to playoff time.

After Lester allowed four runs in the first, Flo got three back in the third with a dong into the bullpen. Then, with Lugo on first, he whacked a second tater to right field in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.

Snuffer get his first win of the year!

And "Brian the Red" wins the Walk-Off Book Contest.

***

Edwin Jackson (6.00, 77 ERA+) / Jon Lester (4.47, 102 ERA+)

Runs scored in last three games against Tampa Bay: 1, 0, 16.

It looks like the four AL playoff teams are set: Boston, New York, Cleveland (6.5 GA) and Los Angeles (9.5 GA).

Yankees (5 GB in East, 4 GA in WC) at Skydome: Mussina/McGowan. Can the MFY win their seventh in a row with Mussina, who has allowed 20 runs in his last 9.2 innings?

Varitek: Drew Deserves Cheers

Jason Varitek:
I wish the fans understood how much power they have. They can help J.D. Drew. They really can. ...

He's not the kind of guy that throws his bat. Is his hat going to be as dirty as Trot's was? No. But that doesn't mean he doesn't care. And that doesn't mean he isn't good. ... Is he having the year a lot of people hoped? No. But he can still help us. In fact, I really believe we are going to need him. ...

Why not give him a standing ovation when he comes to plate. They did it for Julio Lugo and it helped. It really did. The energy the fans give you can carry a team. Trust me, I know. I can feel it. But the fans can also make you want to get under a rock.
SoSHers offer their comments, including Myt1:
I think Tek's comments may speak to the emotional state of JD Drew right now. Drew's usually seen as a very even-keel player, but perhaps the mask slipped a little in the clubhouse, and he's let on a bit about how he's feeling.
By the way, in 32 games since August 6, Drew is hitting .300/.390/.450.

W-L Contest Update

The Red Sox are 88-58.

With 16 games remaining, they could finish anywhere from 104-58 to 88-74. As long as they do not go 15-1, someone will win.

Maintaning their current .603 pace would mean 97.6 wins.

Clemens Expects To Face Red Sox on Sunday (But He Has 5 Days To Change His Mind)

Roger Clemens says tests revealed ligament damage in his right elbow, but says "right now I expect to" face the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday night.

Rotoworld notes that "the Yankees said his MRI came back negative" -- Newsday says "only inflammation" -- so someone is fibbing.

Joe Torre did say that if for some strange reason Fat Billy does not take the mound against Curt Schilling -- which would be downright bizarre, as William has never backed down from a challenge or a big showdown before -- Phil Hughes will pitch.

SoSher The Grey Eagle offers "Secret Special Intangible Winning Tips and Advice For Young Pitchers That Influences Them to Become Winners, by Roger Clemens". Gold!

Terry Francona says he will not have Daisuke "9.57 ERA in his last five starts" Matsuzaka skip his next turn -- Friday against the Yankees.

Julio Lugo was a member of the Devil Rays when they began the 2004 season in Japan and he would love for the Red Sox to do the same in 2008.

September 11, 2007

G146: Red Sox 16, Devil Rays 10

Devil Rays - 040 410 001 - 10 18 1
Red Sox - 001 436 20x - 16 20 0
Down 8-1, the Red Sox rallied. And then some!

***

Andy Sonnanstine (5.73, 80 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.39, 104 ERA+)

Wakefield has pitched 19 straight scoreless innings against Tampa, dating back to July 27. ... On August 21, Boston battered Sonnanstine for eight hits and seven runs in five innings.

The Yankees are in Toronto tonight: Hughes/Marcum. The Tigers (3.5 GB in the WC) host Texas this afternoon.

Ortiz Confirms Need For Surgery

David Ortiz says he "definitely" needs off-season surgery on his right knee.

Sox Could Have Choice Of ALDS Schedule

The New York Post reports that the team with the best record in the American League will be able to choose whether to play Division Series A (a seven-day schedule) or B (an eight-day schedule).

The seven-day series features two sets of back-to-back games, with off-days for travel scheduled between Games 2 and 3 and between Games 4 and 5. The eight-day series features only one set of back-to-back games (Games 3 and 4), with off-days scheduled between Games 1 and 2, another between Games 2 and 3, and still another between Games 4 and 5. ...

It's nearly impossible to conjure the scenario in which the team with the best record would choose to play five games in seven days when it can establish a three-man rotation by virtue of the extra off-day.
The paper says the team with the best record must make its decision within an hour after the Division Series matchups are known.

AL Records
Boston       87  58  .600    --
Los Angeles 84 59 .587 2.0
Cleveland 84 60 .583 2.5
New York 81 62 .566 5.0
Detroit 78 66 .542 8.5

September 10, 2007

G145: Devil Rays 1, Red Sox 0

Kazmir (7-5-0-2-10, 118) bested Schilling (6-5-1-1-5, 99) on a night when the Red Sox did not get a man to third base.

Norton doubled to start the fifth. It looked like Ellsbury had a play on it with a leap at standings on the Wall. It dislodged the "70" for Toronto's losses. Navarro bunted Norton to third and Wilson brought him in with a fly ball to right.

Boston's best chance at a run came in the seventh. Kielty singled to left and, after Yook struck out, Varitek walked. Ellsbury fanned and Cora grounded into a force play at third.

It looked like the Red Sox might have a little momentum when Crisp started a 8-6-3 DP in the top of the ninth with a leaping grab at the garage door in center, but Reyes shut the door: Ortiz 5-3, Youkilis L5, Varitek K.

***

Scott Kazmir (3.79, 121 ERA+) / Curt Schilling (4.04, 113 ERA+)

This is Kazmir's fifth start against the Red Sox this year. His IP: 6, 6, 6, 5.2. 3.42 ERA. ... Bobby Kielty is hitting .438 (7-for-16) against Red Dot.

Schilling has not faced the Devil Rays this season.

The MFY (5.5 GB in the East, but 4 GA in the WC) are off tonight before starting a series in Toronto on Tuesday.

September 9, 2007

G144: Red Sox 3, Orioles 2

Beckett (7-7-2-0-8, 116) lowered his ERA to 3.27. He allowed two solo home runs. Jemmer and The Bot finished up.

For those who care about such things, Beckett received credit for his 18th win (18-6). (Please keep in mind that in his absolutely shitty 2006 season, Beckett led the Red Sox with 16 victories.) Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees won today in Kansas City and is also 18-6.

With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth, JD Drew lead off with a single. Youkilis lined out to second. With Jason Varitek batting, Drew stole second and went to third as Tek flew to center. Coco Crisp singled Drew home with the go-ahead run.

Boston got their other runs in the third. With two outs, Dustin Pedroia singled and David Ortiz doubled. Mike Lowell then singled them both in.

***

Josh Beckett (3.30, 138 ERA+) / Jeremy Guthrie (3.65, 122 ERA+)

In three of his past four starts, Guthrie has tossed at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs. Jay Payton is hitting .381 (8-for-21) against Beckett.

September 8, 2007

Gagne Set To Return Monday

Eric Gagne threw a side session on Saturday -- his second in three days. He says he's ready to go.
I didn't feel any stiffness. I felt great. Day off tomorrow, and then start throwing in games.
Since studying video and discovering he may have been tipping his pitches, Gagne hasn't allowed a run in his last four outings.

Boston openes a series at home against the Devil Rays on Monday night.

G143: Orioles 11, Red Sox 5

Boston led 4-1 after two innings, then Dice imploded.

The first six Orioles in the third reached base -- two bases loaded walks, an RBI-single by Tejada and a grand slam from Scott Moore (I liked him better when he played guitar with Elvis) gave the Birds seven runs. Sexy Lips surrendered three more in the fourth and that was that.

Hansack pitched three good innings, allowing only two singles and a walk. No Oriole reached second base against him. Flo smacked two doubles and a home run (#28). The Sox also got doubles from Lugo (2), Drew and Ellsbury.

Other finals: Yankees 11, Royals 5 and Tigers 12, Mariners 6.

***

Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.11, 111 ERA+) / Jon Leicester (12.60, 35 ERA+)

Matsuzaka faced the Birds on August 10, allowing one run in seven innings (7-4-1-4-7). After a crazy eighth inning, Boston lost 6-5.

Leicester is making his second career start (his first one came for the Cubs in 2005). In five games out of the Baltimore pen this year -- against either Boston or Tampa Bay -- Leicester has pitched five innings.
             IP  H  R ER BB  K  BF PIT
0512 @BOS 1.2 2 4 4 3 0 11 49
0830 TBD 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 2 7
0831 @BOS 0.1 2 3 3 1 0 4 15
0902 @BOS 1.1 0 0 0 0 1 4 16
0904 @TBD 1 0 0 0 1 1 4 21

Linescore Of The Day

Friday night in Chicago:
Twins     - 200 200 006 000 0 - 10 20 1 
White Sox - 120 000 106 000 1 - 11 19 2

HGH

JC Bradbury, author of "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed" and blogger, recently posted that "I Don't Worry about HGH in Baseball, and Neither Should You".

In the post, Bradbury cites a Slate article by Daniel Engber that states Human Growth Hormone has little to no performance enhancing-benefits. The comments to Bradbury's post are also quite good.

At ESPN, Jayson Stark has an superb take on the many double standards we are all guilty of applying:
But at times like this ... we often find the perception of these stories as fascinating as the stories themselves.

That's because we live in a world ablaze in double standards. And we're never more aware of those double standards than we are when stories like these break. ...

Is this a player we like or a player we don't like?

Is this a player we root for or a player we root against?

Is this a player slugging his way to "history," or is he "just a pitcher"?

Is this player a star trying to "cheat" his way to glory, or is he just some poor underdog trying to keep up with the drug-popping masses?

And then there's the double standard that really inflates our blood pressure:

Is this guy one of those cheating baseball players, or is he a football player just doing his selfless best to get healthy and help his team get to the big game?

If we're looking for the perfect test case for all those double standards, you can't beat this Rick Ankiel tale. It overlaps just about every one of them.
(A few Red Sox players reacted to the news about Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel.)

Cabrera: "They Said Bad Things"

It was more than just a dance off third -- Coco Crisp was going to try to steal home.
Not too many guys go to a full windup when I'm at third base. I've never stolen home, but I was going to right there, if I'd had another step. But it wouldn't have happened because he stepped off. I was thinking about it because he wasn't looking at me. I don't know if he forgot about me over there or didn't think I was going to go.
Crisp did not have to run, as Daniel Cabrera balked him in -- and then threw a pitch behind Dustin Pedroia's head.

Cabrera said he did not lose his temper.
They said bad [expletive]. They were talking [expletive] from the other side and that's something I don't like. I didn't lose my temper, I didn't lose nothing. The ball slipped out of my hand and after they started getting off the bench and say bad things.
Pedroia:
The guy's an idiot. I dropped my bat. It kind of freaked me out. I was upset they took him out of the game. He's good to hit. He's 9-15. The guy [stinks].
Jon Lester has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts. Last night's victory was Boston's 13th shutout of the season.

Lester:
Today was probably the best I've felt, just mechanically, all year. ... It's been a progression this whole year, strength-wise. It feels like the past couple of times I've gone out there, I've been able to repeat my delivery a little more and have my legs under me.
Tito:
The way the ball came out of his hand ... his cutter ... that's the best I've seen him.
While Lester is unbeaten in his last 11 starts (dating back to last year), he has a 5.55 ERA over that time.

Kevin Youkilis set a new American League record for consecutive errorless games at first base with 179. Steve Garvey holds the major league record with 193. ... Manny Ramirez may begin hitting off a tee as early as Sunday. ... Eric Gagne is scheduled to throw a side session today. ... Outfielder Brandon Moss will play first base for Santiago in the Dominican winter league. ... Kevin Cash also was ejected from last night's game.

September 7, 2007

G142: Red Sox 4, Orioles 0

Lester (7-4-0-2-4, 98) was great and the bottom of the order, in addition to providing three early runs, also sparked a benches-clearing balk (see comments).

Lester allowed a leadoff single and a stolen base to Roberts in the first, and a two-out walk to Tejada, but escaped trouble. In the third, he allowed a single to Tejada and a walk to Millar, but kept the ball in the infield and no harm was done. Lopez pitched a perfect eighth and MDC worked through a two-out walk in the ninth.

The Sox got two runs in the second: Youkilis walked, Drew doubled to left-center, Varitek singled in Yook and Drew scored on Crisp's sac fly. Crisp singled to start the fourth, moved to third on two groundouts, then distracted Cabrera into balking him home.

Cabrera's next pitch sailed past the back of Pedroia's neck and that's when the fun began. It sounds both both team's TV color guys showed no mercy in ripping Cabrera. For the O's, Jim Palmer was thoroughly disgusted, since the team has talked with Cabrera several times about this exact problem.

Boston got its fourth run in the eighth. Ellsbury singled, stole second and scored on Youkilis single.

Both Ellsbury and Drew made fantastic catches in the late innings. Lyndon leapt at the wall in left to rob Mora and Drew hauled in Tejada liner after a long run into the right field corner.

The Tigers beat Seattle 6-1 to take over second place in the wild card chase. The Yankees are Royals are tied 2-2 after six innings.

***

Jon Lester (5.26, 86 ERA+) / Daniel Cabrera (5.06, 88 ERA+)

These guys faced each other five days ago (September 2), with Lester (6-6-2-2-1) getting the upper hand on Cabrera (6-5-3-4-7) in a 3-2 Red Sox win.

The Yankees (6.5 GB; 3 GA in WC) are in Kansas City (Kennedy/Meche). The Tigers and Mariners -- both 3 GB in the wild card -- meet in Detroit (Batista/Verlander).

Snuffer

Since giving up a two-run, game-tying home run to Tampa Bay's Johnny Gomes in the bottom of the ninth on July 28 -- a game the Red Sox won 12-6, thanks to a six-run 12th inning -- Jonathan Papelbon has faced 51 batters.

And allowed only one hit.

14.2 innings over 14 games, 1 hit, 1 HBP, 0 runs, 4 walks, 24 strikeouts. 146 of 200 pitches were strikes. None of his six inherited runners scored. (This hit was a two-out single by Orlando Cabrera in the first game of the August 17 doubleheader.)

In 2006, Papelbon pitched 68.1 innings and threw 1,019 pitches. His season ended on September 1.

As of September 6, 2007, he has pitched 17 fewer innings (51.1) and thrown 205 fewer pitches (814).

(This is a sequel to my usage post about three weeks ago.)

NYDN: Ankiel Bought HGH in 2004

New York Daily News:
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, baseball's feel-good story of the season, received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, the Daily News has learned. ...

According to records obtained by The News and sources close to the controversy surrounding anti-aging clinics that dispense illegal prescription drugs, Ankiel received eight shipments of HGH from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando from January to December 2004, including the brand-name injectable drugs Saizen and Genotropin. Signature is the pharmacy at the forefront of Albany District Attorney David Soares' two-year investigation into illegal Internet prescription drug sales, which has brought 22 indictments and nine convictions.

Ankiel's prescriptions were signed by Florida physician William Gogan, who provided them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called "The Health and Rejuvenation Center," or "THARC." The drugs were shipped to Ankiel at the clinic's address.

THARC also provided a shipment of steroids and growth hormone to former major league pitcher Steve Woodard, who pitched for Milwaukee, Cleveland, Texas and Boston during a seven-year career that ended in 2003, according to records. Woodard and Ankiel were teammates with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2004. ...

Ankiel, 28, has not been accused by authorities of wrongdoing, and according to the Signature records obtained by The News, he stopped receiving HGH just before Major League Baseball officially banned it in 2005. MLB does not test for HGH, but a player who is known to have used it or even possessed it from the time it was banned can face a 50-game suspension. ...

MLB officials also declined comment, saying they would "look into" the allegations, but weren't sure whether any action could be taken. It is likely, however, that officials will ask to speak to Ankiel and will ask whether he used HGH beyond the time he received the shipments.
I checked the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but all they have is the Daily News article. P-D blogger Bernie Miklasz has posted:
So legally, because of the doctor's prescription, Ankiel appears to be in the clear. And he did not violate any baseball regulations at the time.

Ankiel was still a pitcher in '04, struggling to cope with physical injuries on top of lingering psychological trauma.

If Ankiel chooses to respond to any of this, perhaps he'll say HGH was recommended to help him recover from injuries. He underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in July, 2003, and pitched only 33 innings in 2004.

Perhaps Ankiel will say he was young and confused and desperately wanted to try anything to rescue his career. And that as soon as baseball banned the stuff, he stopped using it. And that he never used it again after 2004. And that he's been completely drug free since then. And if Ankiel said something like that, we move on, right?
Probably not. I assume there will be a lot more about this tonight and tomorrow.

(MLB.com writer Barry Bloom reports that Gary Matthews Jr.'s name came up earlier in this investigation. After Matthews said he had not taken the drug "during the 2004 season or any other time", MLB did not investigate further.)

September 6, 2007

G141: Red Sox 7, Orioles 6

Neither starter made it out of the fourth inning. Wakefield was either rusty or his back was still acting up: 3.2-9-6-2-0, 74. It was the first Wakefield start this season in which he did not get a decision.

Kyle Synder came in and got the last out of the fourth and pitched a scoreless fifth. Clay Buchholz threw three scoreless innings (Weren't the Sox limiting him to one inning per outing?). Most of his early pitches were up, as he walked his first batter, allowed a single and then walked his third batter. But after Mike Lowell started a 5-2-3 double play, CB calmed down. Baltimore did not get another runner on base, as he fanned Kevin Millar to end the sixth, then pitched a perfect seventh and eighth.

In the top of the ninth, Coco Crisp (who also singled and scored in the third and belted a three-run dong in the 4th) reached on an infield hit that Brian Roberts could not bare hand. Crisp stole second and scored on pinch-hitter Jason Varitek's opposite-field single to left.

Jonathan Papelbon needed only 11 pitches to shut down the O's in the bottom of the ninth, finishing the game with a called strike three on Millar.

MFY were off tonight, so we lead the East by 6.5.

Magic #: Sweet 16.

***

Tim Wakefield (4.16, 109 ERA+) / Garret Olson (7.22, 62 ERA+)

Olson has faced the Red Sox twice this year -- August 11 and September 1 -- pitching a total of 11.2 innings and allowing 15 hits, 11 walks, and 8 runs.