September 30, 2009

G158: Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 0

Blue Jays - 023 032 011 - 12 17  0
Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0 3 0
From the start, it felt like a spring training game. The Boston lineup began with Joey Gathright, Josh Reddick and Casey Kotchman. Rocco Baldelli made his major league debut at third base in the seventh inning. And third-string catcher Dusty Brown pitched the ninth.

The Blue Jats hit another four home runs, including two from Randy Ruiz, who also singled and doubled. Toronto had at least two baserunners in every inning but the eighth -- when they had only a solo home run.

Roy Halladay (9-3-0-2-6, 100) began the night by pitching five no-hit innings and finished with his second consecutive complete game shutout.

Wakefield (3-7-5-2-2, 76) and Manny Delcarmen (1-3-2-0-0, 19) both pitched terribly -- the hits off MDC were a home run, triple and single -- and did nothing to show they belong on the ALDS roster.
Example
Roy Halladay (2.90, 151 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.33, 109 ERA+)

And for Games 158, 159, 160, 161, and 162, they rested. With five games remaining in the regular season, Terry Francona's only concern should be making sure every player on the roster is well-rested and ready to go when Red Sox begin the American League Division Series in Anaheim next Wednesday or Thursday.

Jason Bay:
You want to kind of get your legs back under you, but at the same time, you don't want to get rusty, too. It's a fine line. ... The last thing you want to do is kind of go into the playoffs and have to flip the switch. ... A day or two for everyone around here would definitely help. ... just a refresher.
Wakefield is making only his fourth appearance since the All-Star break. He is pitching on eight days rest. ... Halladay has a 1.80 ERA in five September starts.

Torii Hunter Blacks Out, Forgets 2008

Torii Hunter (my bold):
I don't want to hear about the history and any so-called Red Sox jinxes and hexes. I wasn't here for any of that. I know we can play with those guys, and that's the way every guy on this team feels.
Seems like Hunter has contracted a severe case of MFYitis, where you flat-out deny that anything bad has ever happened to you.

However, less than two weeks ago Hunter worried to the media about which of his teammates might be choking come playoff-time. Remember, Torii?
[I]f you do this in the regular season what's going to happen in the playoffs? ... It's not good, but it's good to see who's going to choke.
I can't say that I blame Hunter for his concern. The pattern is unmistakable.
2004: 1st in AL West; Lost LDS to Red Sox 0-3
2005: 1st in AL West; Won LDS vs MFY 3-2;
Lost LCS to White Sox 1-4
2006: 2nd in AL West
2007: 1st in AL West; Lost LDS to Red Sox 0-3
2008: 1st in AL West; Lost LDS to Red Sox 1-3
Because it never gets old:

Beckett Receives Three Partial Cortisone Shots

Josh Beckett was given three partial cortisone injections in trigger points around the muscle in his upper left back on Monday. Asked if would make his start on Saturday, Beckett said: "Absolutely."
Example
It was about ten minutes before 1 AM in Boston when the Red Sox won the wild card, the team's sixth playoff appearance in the last seven years. By the end of the Angels' win over the Rangers in Anaheim most players were in the clubhouse watching the final outs. Then they celebrated.
Mike Lowell:
We'd rather do it on the field in front of the fans but we don't care how it comes. ... [T]his is just step one.
Lowell plans to take batting practice today with an eye towards playing on Thursday.

The Red Sox have lost seven of their last nine games. Michael Silverman notes that other title-winning teams have slumped on the eve of the playoffs: The 2000 Yankees finished the season 3-15; the 2002 Angels closed the season 5-8; and the 2006 Cardinals went 4-10 over their final two weeks. The 2004 Red Sox were 9-7 in their last 16 games and the 2007 team was 7-8 in the final two weeks.

Terry Francona and Victor Martinez were blunt in their assessments of Clay Buchholz's start last night.

Tito:
I thought they were sitting soft, especially late in the count, when he got some changeups up. I thought they did a good job of picking out one speed. He was elevating a little bit, and they hit it a long way.
Martinez:
When you throw up and pretty much in the middle, I mean, I think anybody can hit those kind of pitches.
Example
The Red Sox announced their minor league players of the year: Casey Kelly was the Pitcher of the Year and Ryan Kalish was named Offensive Player of the Year.

In

Browne:
Daniel Bard went to his apartment across the street to have a late dinner. David Ortiz said he was going to go out for a bit, but vowed to remain in the area -- just in case. ...

But by the time Rangers lost, 5-2, just before 1 a.m. ET, nearly 90 percent of the Red Sox's players had reconvened back in the Fenway Park clubhouse, where they sprayed each other with champagne and whatever else they could find. ...

"I went home, put my son to sleep and came back," said Pedroia. "We all watched the game. At the [last out], we were all yelling at each other. That was pretty much it."

September 29, 2009

G157: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7

Blue Jays - 411 010 100 - 8 11  0
Red Sox - 110 000 050 - 7 14 1
The Jays struck for four runs in the first for the second night in a row.

Boston rallied furiously with two outs in the eighth, highlighted by J.D. Drew's three-run home run to right-center (that changed the score from 8-4 to 8-7) and had runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth, but Kevin Youkilis was caught looking at strike three.

Toronto smacked six home runs, including three by Adam Lind. Buchholz (5-8-7-1-4, 79) gave up the first one (to Jose Bautista) on his first pitch of the night, and allowed five of the six.

The first three Jays against Clay: HR, 1B, HR. It was the first time a Sox pitcher had allowed two home runs in an inning before recording an out since John Burkett allowed bombs to Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams in the first inning on July 21, 2002. The last player to belt three taters in a game against Boston was Frank Thomas (all off Tim Wakefield, on September 15, 1996).
Example
Ricky Romero (4.28, 102 ERA+) / Clay Buchholz (3.21, 147 ERA+)

A win tonight clinches the wild card.

And the Red Sox have seriously abused the rookie Romero in four starts this year: 26 hits and 17 walks in 17.1 innings. He's got an 8.83 ERA and a 2.481 WHIP. Boston has hit .377/.506/.652/1.158 against him.

& @ 10 PM: Rangers/Angels.

Post-Season Schedule

Here is the 2009 post-season schedule:
        American League   National League

W1007 ALDSA1* NLCSA1* NLCSB1
T1008 ALDSB1 NLCSA2 NLCSB2
F1009 ALDSA2 ALDSB2
S1010 NLCSA3 NLCSB3
S1011 ALDSA3 ALDSB3 NLCSA4 NLCSB4
M1012 ALDSA4 ALDSB4
T1013 NLCSA5 NLCSB5
W1014 ALDSA5 ALDSB5
T1015 NLCS 1
F1016 ALCS 1 NLCS 2
S1017 ALCS 2
S1018 NLCS 3
M1019 ALCS 3 NLCS 4
T1020 ALCS 4
W1021 NLCS 5
T1022 ALCS 5
F1023 NLCS 6
S1024 ALCS 6 NLCS 7
S1025 ALCS 7
M1026
T1027
W1028 WS 1 @ AL
T1029 WS 2 @ AL
F1030
S1031 WS 3 @ NL
S1101 WS 4 @ NL
M1102 WS 5 @ NL
T1103
W1104 WS 6 @ AL
T1105 WS 7 @ AL
* The AL team with the best regular-season record gets to choose series A or B. NLDS A will include the wild card team.

Good News For Beckett And Lester

The upper left side of Josh Beckett's back stiffened up on Sunday night and the Red Sox decided to be extra-cautious.

Terry Francona:
I think he thought he'd wake up, take a hot shower and go about his business. When that didn't happen, he called me and John Farrell, and it wasn't a real difficult decision ... He could have [pitched], but it didn't seem like today was the day to do that.
A little bit of rest before the ALDS cannot be a bad thing, either. The Red Sox won't disrupt their pitching rotation this week; Beckett will simply make his scheduled start on Saturday.

Jon Lester threw a 55-pitch session on flat ground yesterday.
I felt fine. No problems. Just the normal long tossing and everything. ... I felt good this morning when I woke up and walking around and everything. But there's that question in your mind, "OK, when I get on the mound, is it going to bug me?" And it didn't. Everything was good. I'm sure [starting on] Thursday is fine.
Mike Lowell received an injection of cortisone and Synvisc in his right hip and will be out for the next three days or so.

September 28, 2009

G156: Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 5

Blue Jays - 403 220 0 - 11 14  0
Red Sox - 201 001 1 - 5 7 0
The game was stopped by rain in the bottom of the 7th at 9:33 -- and called at 10:35.

Bowden (3-7-7-1-3, 67) was not effective, though he did retire six batters at one point, including three by strikeout. Hunter Jones (1.2-5-4-0-1, 28) did no better.

Kevin Youkilis hit two home runs -- a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the third. David Ortiz crushed a dong in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia had an RBI-double in the seventh a minute or two before the rains came.

Lefty Dustin Richardson (#54) made his major league debut with two outs in the fifth. He needed only one pitch to get out of a 1st-and-2nd jam. He allowed two two-out singles in the sixth, but stranded both runners.
Example
Michael Bowden (7.84, 60 ERA+) will start tonight as Josh Beckett has been scratched because of mild back spasms.

Bowden has not started for the Red Sox in 2009, having pitched 10.1 innings in six appearances out of the bullpen. He threw 55 pitches in 2.1 innings against the Yankees on Friday night.
Example
Scott Richmond (5.32, 82 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3,78, 125 ERA+)

Beckett and Richmond faced each other at Fenway on August 28, pitching only five innings each. Boston won the game 6-5.

Boston can clinch the Wild Card if they win tonight and the Angels beat the Rangers in Anaheim (10 PM).

Lester Believes He'll Make His Thursday Start

Jon Lester will likely not throw his usual side session, but seems on track to make his next start, against Cleveland on Thursday night.
It still hurts, but it will be all right, it's not swollen. Just a little red mark right now. ... If swelling comes back or gets worse ... that's when I won't be able to pitch. Hopefully with movement and activity it won't swell up.
Since joining the Red Sox, Victor Martinez has played in 49 of Boston's 53 games, hitting .335 with 35 RBI. His 25-game hitting streak -- the longest of his career -- ended yesterday. He has also quickly become a leader in the clubhouse.

Odd: Daniel Bard has allowed five home runs this year. Four of them have come in his six appearances against the Yankees. ... Paul Byrd, while not scheduled to start any of the remaining seven games in the regular season, is a possible choice for the last spot in the pen, as are Michael Bowden and Manny Delcarmen.

Tito on Hideki Okajima's acupuncture treatment:
He really believes in the acupuncture and he's done it many times in the past with this certain guy, which I'm glad he's not just going out to 7th Street and doing that.
"Facts are facts", Jonathan Papelbon said, the Yankees "have the best team in the American League East". But he and several teammates stressed that getting into the post-season by any means is the most important thing.

David Ortiz: "I was a wild card once and got a World Series [ring]. That means I don't care." Flo did hope to pop some corks for clinching the WC at Yankee Stadium:
Damn, man. It gives the carpet a smell a few days later. It kills me. That's why I want to do it here.
Maybe he can soak the floor after winning the pennant on October 24 or 25.

It reminds me of what Doug Mirabelli said when the Red Sox walked into the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium for their first game in 2005: "It still smells like champagne in here."

September 27, 2009

Joe Morgan On Boston's ALDS Starters

As the Yankees took the field to begin this afternoon's game, ESPN's Jon Miller mused about who would follow CC Sabathia in the Yankees' ALDS rotation: Andy Pettitte or A.J. Burnett?

Joe Morgan -- the man ESPN proudly employs as its #1 baseball analyst -- offered his thoughts (my bold):
Jon, a lot of mystery surrounds both teams here as we approach the playoffs. ... When we talk about who's going to start the playoffs for these teams. You ask the Yankees, we know Sabathia is going to start the first game; we do not know who's going to start the second game.

And for the Red Sox, we know Beckett will start the first game, but we do not know what's the condition of Jon Lester's knee or who's going to start the second game there, because of -- you know, Tim Wakefield is struggling, you know, with back problems and back issues, and then you go to the Yankees, you don't know if they want Pettitte out there because of his experience or are they going to go with A.J. Burnett?

We don't know if they are going to take the longer series, so they don't need but three starters as opposed to four if you take the short series, so it's amazing what has been decided after this long a season but what hasn't been decided about this pitching.
1. It has not been officially announced, but there are multiple reports that Lester will start Game 1.

2. Lester was not hit on the knee. Even so, there has been little speculation, if any, about Beckett beginning the ALDS. It may be a bit of wishful thinking, but Lester doesn't think he'll even miss his next start.

3. It's highly doubtful Tim Wakefield will make the ALDS roster, never mind start a game.

4. Clay Buchholz. Ever hear of him, Joe? He is 4th in the AL in Support-Neutral Winning Percentage -- behind Zach Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay. Not too bad. In Win Probabilty Added per Start, Buchholz is 6th best in the AL (after Greinke, Verlander, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson and Hernandez).

5. Alright, those are crazy stats invented by Billy Beane during bouts of writer's block while penning Moneyball. I know you like plain old wins best of all, Joe, but what about ERA? Buchholz leads all Red Sox starters in ERA.

6. There is a big difference in innings pitched, but Buchholz's ERA+ (147) is higher than Sabathia's (139), meaning he has pitched 8% better than CC this season.

Howl

While we were in New Mexico, our dogsitter took this video of Tala howling along to a video playing on her (the dogsitter's) computer. We had never heard Tala do this before. (She is looking out the upstairs window onto the street in front of the house.)

G155: Yankees 4, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 101 000 000 - 2  8  0
Yankees - 001 002 01x - 4 10 1
The Red Sox had runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Jacoby Ellsbury grounded weakly back to Mariano Rivera and the Yankees finished a three-game sweep and clinched the AL East.

Texas led the Rays 5-0 after seven innings, but lost 7-6. Boston's WC Magic # is 2.
Example
Paul Byrd (6.04, 78 1ERA+) / Andy Pettitte (4.15, 108 ERA+)

Bad news: The Yankees (with a magic number of 1) can clinch the East with a win this afternoon. New York will likely celebrate winning the division at home, but how's about we have them do it on Monday against the Royals? Just for appearance's sake.

MLB.com:
Byrd was the ultimate mixed bag [against the Royals] in his last start, giving up a five-spot in the first inning and then being unscored on for the remainder of an outing that lasted 6.2 innings. ...

Coming back after skipping one turn through the rotation to alleviate fatigue in his left shoulder, Pettitte showed signs of rust in the first inning against the Angels on Monday, quickly running up his pitch count ... Completing the sixth inning and reporting that his shoulder felt strong enough to continue pitching, Pettitte was instead pulled after 91 pitches.
The Red Sox are 6 GA of the Rangers in the Wild Card, with a magic number of 3. Baring some bizarre effing disaster, the final week of the regular season will be little more than exhibition games, getting everyone ready and rested for the ALDS. Rays/Rangers at 3 PM.

September 26, 2009

G154: Yankees 3, Red Sox 0

Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0 2 1
Yankees - 000 001 02x - 3 7 0
Sabathia (7-1-0-2-8, 96) clearly outpitched Dice (7-6-1-5-3, 115), although the game was only 1-0 -- a Robinson Cano home run that barely cleared the left field fence -- when the starters left.

New York got two runs off Billy Wagner in the eighth, after a missed catch error by Chris Woodward on a rundown of Brett Gardner off third base. Nick Swisher walked to start the inning and Gardner pinch-ran. Gardner took second on a wild pitch right before Cano struck out. With Melky Cabrera batting, Gardner stole third. Wagner ended up hitting the Dud. Wagner's second pitch to Jose Molina got away from Victor Martinez. He got to it quickly and Boston had Gardner caught off third, but Woodward could not hold onto the baseball. Molina then walked to load the bases. Derek Jeter sasahed for the second out, but Johnny Damon blooped Wagner's 35th of the inning into short right for two runs.

The Yankees blew an excellent scoring opportunity in the fifth. Jeter singled and Damon and Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases. Alex Rodriguez dribbled the ball maybe 15 feet down the first base line. Martinez went out, gloved it, slipped a bit turning around, then dove towards the plate, getting his glove on the dish right before Jeter slid in. Hideki Matsui fouled out to Martinez and Swisher fouled out to Lowell, who made an amazing basket catch down by the tarp.

Sabathia retired the first 11 Red Sox until Martinez walked in the fourth. Lowell began the fifth with a ground ball single into center. CC then KKK'd the side; Lowell stole second (!!!) when Rocco Baldelli fanned for the second out.

Kevin Youkilis was hit with a pitch in both the seventh and ninth innings. Mariano Rivera got the first two outs in the ninth, but Martinez singled to right -- extending his hitting streak to 25 games. He too second on DI and third on a wild pitch before Yook was plunked. Lowell struck out to end the game.

When it looked like Boston might end up with only one hit, Fox had a couple of tidbits. The last one-hitter in a Red Sox/Yankees game was Mike Mussina's near-perfect game at Fenway on September 2, 2001. The last Yankees one-hitter pitched against the Red Sox in New York was on August 9, 1992, when Sam Militello went seven innings (Fox did not mention it was his major league debut).
Example
Daisuke Matsuzaka (6.80, 69 ERA+) / CC Sabathia (3.31, 134 ERA+)

The End Of The Line

It's sad watching an aging athlete lose the skills that once drew cheers.

It happens, to one degree or another, to every baseball player. A few hang their spikes up early, but most players -- who have needed rock-solid confidence to get where they are -- believe they can still compete.

Imagine someone who has been in professional baseball since he left high school. How hard must it be to admit to himself that he no longer possess the talents he once had? That what he does on the field is more than likely to hurt his team? If a lot of his identity has been tied in with his abilities and accomplishments (maybe as an All-Star, one of the game's best) then how does he see himself when he can no longer play the game?

Last night in Yankee Stadium was one of more embarrassing games of Jason Varitek's career. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a foul pop-up and a GIDP. Varitek's hitting skills have been going steadily downhill since August 2005. After a ugly 2008 season, this year has been just as bad, if not worse. His 2009 OPS by month:
April      .881
May .824
June .750
July .736
August .483
September .310
In his last 28 games, he's batting .120 and slugging .196.

The Yankees easily stole seven bases last night in seven attempts. Throughout MLB this season, a team has stolen at least six bases in a game eight times. Varitek has been the catcher in four of those eight games. Since July 1, Varitek has thrown out only three of 59 runners, and none of the last 24. He has also shown an increasing inability to block pitches in the dirt.

If he cannot field and cannot throw and cannot hit, how does he help the team?

But will the Red Sox bench their captain? Will Theo Epstein show the same cut-throat attitude he did in 2004 when he traded Nomar Garciaparra? At that time, Nomar was still an icon in Boston, but his performance in the field was absolutely hurting the team. Varitek's performance has slipped so far, and become so blindingly obvious, that most fans would agree that the next step is to nail his ass to the bench.

The front office is partially to blame for this situation. They named Varitek as captain right when when it was highly probable he would be declining as a player, they signed him to a four-year deal that would begin when was 33 years old, and they failed to go out and get a suitable replacement before trading for Victor Martinez eight weeks ago.

If Red Sox management wants to put the best team on the field for every post-season game, it should regard Varitek as nothing more than the emergency back-up catcher. He could start if Mike Lowell's hip really needed a day off, but at this point, Jed Lowrie or Chris Woodward would inspire more optimism at the plate.

Lester Hopes To Make Next Start

Terry Francona, on Jon Lester's injury:
He's going to be OK. When it first happened, I think it looked terrible, it sounded terrible, he was in a lot of pain. I think it caught enough meat or muscle where it wasn't just a direct blow on that bone. I actually think from talking to Dr. [Larry] Ronan, our trainers, he might be right on turn. The fact that we're even talking about that is good news.
Lester:
It hit me in a spot where it didn't do any damage that hopefully won't make me miss any time. ... When you get hit like that, with the pain and everything, you're hoping that it's not a serious injury. But, like I said, fortunately there's nothing broken. No bone spurs or nothing like that sticking out that they could see. Everything right now is fine. Everything, as far as I know, is in line for my next start.
That start would be on five days rest, on Tuesday, October 1 against Cleveland. Lester is then scheduled for six days of rest before the likely start of the Red Sox/Angels ALDS on Thursday, October 8.

Francona, on celebrating winning the wild card:
Because we were fortunate enough to win six years ago and then a couple years ago, why in the world would we not be happy if we're fortunate enough to go back to the playoffs.
Dustin Pedroia stole his 20th base of the year. He is only the second Boston second baseman with 20+ steals in multiple seasons, joining Amby McConnell (1908-09). ... Victor Martinez's 24-game hitting streak is the longest by a Sock since 2006 (Manny Ramirez, 27).

Okajima Has Sore Side, Goes Back To Boston

Extra Bases notes that Hideki Okajima is experiencing soreness in his right side. He returned to Boston last night for acupuncture treatment.

Terry Francona said: "We just don't want something that is sore to end up turning into an injury."

Bronx Banter Q&A: Arnold Hano

Bronx Banter has the first part of a lengthy interview with writer Arnold Hano. You might know him as the author of A Day in the Bleachers, his account of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. This Q&A is well worth your time.
[M]y brother put out a mimeographed newspaper in the Bronx when he was maybe eleven and I was maybe eight, I was his reporter. He and a guy named Lester Bernstein – Lester had the mimeograph machine, I guess. I would run down to the news stands, and I'd copy stuff off and then rewrite it for our Montgomery Avenue News that we put out once a week. I did that for a while, and then I got bored because all I was doing was copying other people's stories. I decided I wanted to write a story of my own, so my brother, who was a great guy, said write one. ... I did about six or seven of these episodic things. I was eight years old writing the equivalent of a novel for a street newspaper that we sold for a nickel a copy door-to-door.
In the early 50s, he was an editor at Lion Books:
We published the only piece of fiction that Leonardo DaVinci ever wrote. It's a novel. It's a novel-ish. Robert Payne, who's a DaVinci aficionado, he brought it in and said, "Can you use this?" I said, sure, we'll do it. It's not good, but it's Leonardo DaVinci! I mean, gee whiz!
On Babe Ruth:
Ruth changed the game. Even though we were there when it happened, usually historically you don't notice when history occurs. We knew history was occurring when he started hitting those home runs ... And then he was bigger than life. He drank too much, and he caroused too much, but we all knew it. Everybody knew it, but it didn't seem to matter. You know, he broke the law every day from 1919 to 1934 by having a drink because that was Prohibition. We talk about what Barry Bonds did was against the law – well, it was, but what Ruth did was against the law. But it was different with him.
Roger Kahn calls A Day in the Bleachers "the best of all the baseball books written from the point of view of the man in the stands". I have not read it, but I love this killer first sentence:
When the evening papers of September 28, 1954, reported that a dozen men and boys were already camping across the street from the bleacher entrance outside the Polo Grounds prior to the first World Series contest, I felt the urge.

Line Drive Did Not Hit Lester's Knee

Adam Kilgore, Globe:
Jon Lester, who left tonight's game in the third inning after a line drive hit him on the inside of the right leg, is "going to be OK," manager Terry Francona said. After consulting with team doctor Larry Ronan, the Red Sox think Lester may even have a chance to make his next start.

Lester underwent X-rays during the game, which came back negative. He has a contusion on his right quadriceps. Melky Cabrera's line drive, it turns out, did not hit Lester off the knee, but in a meatier part of his thigh. It looked scary because of how far the ball ricocheted, but it seems the worst Lester will have to deal with is a nasty bruise.

September 25, 2009

G153: Yankees 9, Red Sox 5

Red Sox - 000 102 020 - 5  8  0
Yankees - 104 102 10x - 9 14 0
Lester left the game in the third inning after being hit on the right knee (or the inside of the right knee) by Melky Cabrera. He was able to walk off the field on his own. X-rays were negative and Lester has a contusion on his right quad.

Lester (2.1-8-5-3-3, 78) had a rough outing from his very first pitch, which Derek Jeter grounded into center field.

Victor Martinez homered in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 24 games. (Chamberlain had retired the first 11 Boston batters.) Ortiz hit a two-run bomb in the sixth.
Example
Jon Lester (3.33, 142 ERA+) / Joba Chamberlain (4.73, 94 ERA+)

Since May 31, Jon Lester has a 2.13 ERA, better than every major league pitcher except Felix Hernandez (1.99) over that time period.

Example
5.5 GB with 10 games to play. Common sense says the Red Sox will not storm back and win the East (Baseball Prospectus puts the Sox's chances of doing so at 1.1%), but it remains possible.

Since August 10, when they were swept by the Yankees in a four-game series in New York, the Red Sox are 29-13 -- the best record in baseball over that span. At 91-61, Boston has the 3rd best record in baseball, after the Yankees (97-56) and Dodgers (92-61).

With Boston's Wild Card magic number at 3, the Red Sox could be the first team to pop champagne at the new Yankee Stadium. David Ortiz: "So we don't have to get our clubhouse dirty."

&: Rays/Rangers at 8.

McAdam: Lester Will Start Game 1

Sean McAdam reports that "multiple clubhouse sources" have told him that Jon Lester will start the first game of the American League Division Series.
The way the Sox have laid out their pitching for the final week, Lester, who starts tonight in the opener of the Red Sox' series in New York, will make his final start of the season Thursday against the Cleveland Indians. That would allow him a full six days' rest before the projected start of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Oct. 8.

[Josh] Beckett, meanwhile, will pitch Monday against Toronto at Fenway, then have five days before starting Game 2 in Anaheim, Calif.
Best pitcher in Game 1. Smart move.

September 24, 2009

G152: Red Sox 10, Royals 3

Red Sox - 001 301 014 - 10 15  0
Royals - 000 000 030 - 3 10 5
Buchholz (6.2-5-0-0-8, 109) breezed through the Kansas City lineup, striking out six of eight batters in one stretch; Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia each had two hits, extending their hitting streaks to 23 and 16 games, respectively (the two longest current streaks in MLB, by the way); David Ortiz singled, doubled, homered and drove in three; Jacoby Ellsbury had three singles and two stolen bases (#s 65 and 66); and the Royals were charged with five errors for the first time in seven years.
Example
Clay Buchholz (3.49, 135 ERA+) / Anthony Lerew (1st MLB game since May 19, 2007)

September 23, 2009

G151: Red Sox 9, Royals 2

Red Sox - 000 060 003 - 9 12  0
Royals - 000 200 000 - 2 12 0
With one out in the fifth, and the Royals having just taken a 2-0 lead, J.D. Drew singled to left. He would be the first of eight consecutive Boston batters to reach base off Hochevar.

Alex Gonzalez singled to right, Jacoby Ellsbury tripled to left-center, tying the game at 2-2. Dustin Pedroia singled, giving him a 15-game hitting streak and putting the Sox up 3-2. Victor Martinez extended his streak to 22 games with a single to center. Kevin Youkilis walked, loading the bases. Jason Bay hit a first-pitch single to left, scoring two runs. David Ortiz followed with a first-pitch single down the right field line for the sixth run of the inning.

Mike Lowell had grounded out to short to begin the fifth. Now, as the tenth man to bat, he grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the rally. A reader named Dan left a comment on my 3 Outs In An Inning post from April:
Mike Lowell came close to making all three outs in the same inning tonight ... he was responsible for all three outs (although he did not represent all three). Has this happened before?
What Lowell did was not all that unique. Now if he had made only the second out, and then the same eight Sox reached safely and then Lowell ended the inning with a third out in his third AB -- that would have been a first in major league history.

Beckett (6-12-2-1-7, 103) allowed a season-high 12 hits, but he stranded two Royals in each of the first four innings. And he was helped by a caught stealing in the fourth. After Martinez threw out David DeJesus, the next two batters singled, but were both left on base. His only perfect inning was the fifth.

Ortiz clocked a three-run dong to right-center in the ninth.
Example
Josh Beckett (3.80, 124 ERA+) / Luke Hochevar (5.79, 75 ERA+)

6.

That is the magic number for both the Red Sox to eliminate the Rangers for the wild card and for the Yankees (who clinched a playoff spot last night) to win the AL East.

Pitchers for this weekend in New York:
Friday: Jon Lester / CC Sabathia
Saturday: Daisuke Matsuzaka / Joba Chamberlain
Sunday: Paul Byrd / Andy Pettitte
Out West: Yankees/Angels at 3:30 and Rangers/A's at 10.

"Not Indicative"

Overheard in the top of the first inning during last night's NESN broadcast of the Red Sox/Royals game:
Don Orsillo: [Zack Greinke] has allowed just one earned run over his last four starts, 29 innings pitched, a 0.31 ERA. Over the last five starts, he has gone 3-0 with a 0.73 earned run average. And he's only gotten 30 runs in 16 combined starts of losses [and no decisions], so if he'd gotten a little bit more run support, you're lookin' a five, six more wins for this guy --

Sean Casey: Oh, he's runnin' away with the Cy Young, we're not even having a conversation about who the Cy Young award is if he was getting any run support. I mean, he's 14-8 right now, he could easily be 19-8, 20-8 ... 20-5, win some of those losses ...
NESN then showed a graphic:
1.6 Runs of Support in 8 Losses
This Season (13 Total Runs)
How many times can an announcer say a pitcher's win-loss record is "not really indicative" of his actual performance before it dawns on that announcer that maybe a won-loss record is not the greatest barometer for measuring a pitcher's success?

And how many times can he note that a pitcher threw seven innings of one-run ball and got a loss or allowed seven runs in six innings and got a win before he realizes, you know, W-L is stupid, why can't I use other acceptable ways to describe this pitcher's work?

The answer to those questions remains unknown, because even as announcers say "his record is not really indicative of how he has pitched" -- and Orsillo said those exact words last night about Greinke -- he still goes right back to using W-L as Exhibit A of a pitcher's worth.

I was talking back to the TV last night, trying to somehow nudge Orsillo and Casey along and get them to state a basic truth about W-L -- C'mon, take that next logical step, you can do it! Follow through! Say it! Say it! -- but they did not.

They had the same conversation two more times -- Casey again noting that Greinke would be "running away" with the award if his teammates had only scored more runs on the days he pitched -- when J.D. Drew batted in the second and when David Ortiz was up in the fourth.

Orsillo and Casey (and everyone else out there) are not saying "If he didn't have those four crappy starts, he'd be everyone's choice". In their discussion, Greinke's pitching performance for the entire year remains unchanged. So they are penalizing him -- saying his performance is not as good as it seems or perhaps not deserving of an award -- because of something he has absolutely no control over.

[Also posted at the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, of which I am a member.]

September 22, 2009

G150: Royals 5, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 000 010 - 1  2  0
Royals - 500 000 00x - 5 9 1
Greinke (6-2-0-3-5, 91) pitched as expected, with a nasty slider and a fastball at 96-97 with pinpoint control. He has now allowed only one earned run in his last 35 innings, over five starts.

Byrd (6.2-9-5-4-0, 101) was also good -- as long as you forgot about his first 19 pitches. Four singles and two walks to the first eight Royals he faced put the Sox in a 5-0 hole. However, he was getting seriously squeezed by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher: two of the four balls he threw to Mike Jacobs in the first (who he walked to force in the first run) were clearly strikes. In the seventh, consecutive pitches to the exact same spot in the zone to Billy Butler were called a ball and strike.

Meanwhile, Greinke got a few calls on pitches 6-12 inches outside (two strikes to Ellsbury in the third and two strikes to David Ortiz in the sixth). The final outcome of the game was likely not changed, but it was still annoying and wrong, and Greinke did not need the extra help.

Boston's two hits extended the hitting streaks of both Victor Martinez (21 games, sixth inning single) and Dustin Pedroia (14 games, first inning double). Jacoby Ellsbury stole his 64th base of the year in the eighth.
Example
Paul Byrd (5.79, 82 ERA+) / Zack Greinke (2.14, 204 ERA+)

KC has Greinke -- the only choice for the American League Cy Young Award among people with brains.

He had an 0.84 ERA through his first ten starts, his ERA did not go over 2.00 until the All-Star break, he has a 1.24 ERA in his last seven starts, and a 0.34 ERA (one earned run in 29 innings) in his last four starts. In his eight no-decisions, his ERA is 1.95.

If any writer(s) penalize(s) Greinke for his W-L record -- which is 14-8 right now because the Royals have scored more than three runs in only 11 of his 30 starts -- they should be locked up in a mental institution. Instead, they will probably be offered a job as an ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst.

Boston has Byrd, who a couple of months ago was spending his afternoons throwing batting practice to the Georgia Road Runners, the 13-and-under team his two sons play on.

Sometimes mismatches turn out exactly how they "should". Other times, they don't.
Example
Out West at 10: Yankees/Angels (Gaudin/Santana) and Rangers/A's.

Tazawa Ends Surprising Rookie Season

Junichi Tazawa's 2009 season is over. The rookie pitcher was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a left groin strain (suffered in Chicago on September 4).
I had no idea what to expect this year [his first professional experience after pitching in Japan's Industrial League in 2008]. But looking back on it, I had a better year than I could ever hope for, and looking back, I think it was a great year.
             G  GS   IP     H   BB   SO    ERA
Spring 5 0 9 5 1 10 1.00
Portland 18 18 98 80 26 88 2.57
Pawtucket 2 2 11.1 7 1 6 2.38
Boston 6 4 25.1 43 9 13 7.46
Terry Francona:
He's to be congratulated. He had an unbelievable year. I think what you'll see next year is you'll see a guy coming to camp that feels he belongs.
Example
The Red Sox blew a chance to close the East gap to four games last night as the Yankees lost in Anaheim 5-2.

Francona:
The best way to move forward is just play. There may come a time where we have to make a decision [about pushing for the division]. I guess I hope we do have to make a decision - that would mean that things have gone real well. But right now, no. ... There's no decision-making right now anyway.
Mike Lowell:
We'll know a lot more by Sunday night, and if it's logical that we have a legit chance, yeah, we should go for it, but in a very intelligent manner.
Chris Woodward is now the backup infielder as Nick Green is back to Boston for some tests on his weak right leg.

September 21, 2009

G149: Royals 12, Red Sox 9

Red Sox - 006 021 000 -  9 12  1
Royals - 001 136 10x - 12 11 0
Do you really wanna hear about this one?

As you can see, Boston led 6-0 and 8-2, as DiNardo (5-10-8-6-0, 116) was crapping the couch as if he had come straight from dinner with Royals HoFer George Brett.

Wakefield (5-5-5-7-2, 102) allowed a three-run dong in the pouring rain to Mike Jacobs in the fifth to cut the Sox's lead to 8-5 -- no problem, still a comfy lead, and the tarp should come out soon -- but it was the pen that gave the game away in the sixth.

Manny Delcarmen, fresh off a 4-BF, 2-HR, 2-BB outing on Saturday against the Orioles, started the sixth. The first batter, Josh Anderson, doubled. MDC then got two outs, but gave up an RBI double to Billy Butler (9-6). Then he walked Jacobs on four pitches and gave up a two-run double to Alberto Callaspo (9-8).

Daniel Bard took over, but he was no better. After making Miguel Olivo look positively stupid on fastballs, and getting ahead of him 1-2, Bard suddenly stopped throwing heat and walked him. Then Alex Gordon doubled down the left field line (9-9) and Yuniesky Betancourt singled to right (KC 11-9) before getting tagged out in a rundown for the third out.

There were 18 walks in this game, 13 by the starters.
Example
Tim Wakefield (4.22, 112 ERA+) / Lenny DiNardo (5.23, 83 ERA+)

Everyone thinks Wakefield's lower back and left leg are strong enough for him to start -- he showed some slight improvement in strength tests on Saturday -- so he'll take the hill for only the second time since July 8.

DiNardo spent most of this season in Omaha (AAA), with a 3.32 ERA in 29 games (23 starts). He was called up when rosters expanded and has made only two appearances, starts against the Tigers on September 10 and 16.

Jacoby Ellsbury has a team-high 56 multi-hit games. In the two months since being put back in the leadoff spot, he has hit .319 with an OBP of .373. In his last 13 games, he is hitting .408/.491/.571/1.063.

Victor Martinez's hitting streak is now at a career-best 19 games. ... Dustin Pedroia has a 12-game streak.

Out West at 10: Yankees/Angels (Pettitte/Saunders) and Rangers/A's.

September 20, 2009

Can The Red Sox Win The East?

Short Answer: Yes.

Other Acceptable Short Answer: No.
Example
On August 24, the Red Sox dropped to 7.5 GB and the New York press pronounced the AL East race over. And I presented various scenarios whereby Boston could come back.

Since that time, the Red Sox have held up their end of the bargain, going 19-6, but the Yankees (17-9) have not.

The Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings odds of New York winning the division have decreased slightly from August 24 -- now anywhere from 90.4% to 96.1%. That is still a steep hill to climb, but with the lead in the East down to five games, the smallest deficit since August 7, there is talk of Boston making a late run.

While Boston visits the lowly Royals for four games, the Yankees are in Anaheim, where they are 0-3 against the Angels this season and 5-17 since 2005.
Yankees  95-55  ---   12 games left
Red Sox 89-59 5.0 14 games left

Yankees Red Sox
0921 at LAA at KC
0922 at LAA at KC
0923 at LAA at KC
0924 OFF at KC
0925 vs BOS at NYY
0926 vs BOS at NYY
0927 vs BOS at NYY

0928 vs KC vs TOR
0929 vs KC vs TOR
0930 vs KC vs TOR
1001 OFF vs CLE
1002 at TB vs CLE
1003 at TB vs CLE
1004 at TB vs CLE
The Red Sox must sweep the Yankees next weekend to have any chance of winning the division. Assuming a three-game sweep against the team with the best record in MLB is a big "if", but ...

If Boston does sweep, and the Yankees go 4-5 in its other nine games, the Red Sox would have to go 7-4 in its remaining games. The teams would tie at 99-63, and Boston would win the division because of what then would be a 12-6 advantage in the season series.

Overall, even if New York goes 6-6, the Red Sox need a 12-2 finish.

Will Terry Francona and the front office push for the division? I don't think so. We care far more about winning the division vs wild card than management does.

With an eight-game lead in the Wild Card race, the Red Sox will be playing October baseball. And getting pitchers and position players rested and ready is the most important thing. If the wins come during those preparations, great. But I cannot see the team deciding to do something different in the final week of the season just because, for example, the Red Sox are only 1 GB next Monday morning.

The bottom line is I want the Red Sox to win the East and since it remains mathematically possible, that's what I'm rooting for. (Don't we always want Boston to win and New York to lose?) If it happens, it'll be historic. And if it doesn't, the Red Sox are still in the post-season. It's a win-win, right?

G148: Red Sox 9, Orioles 3

Red Sox - 312 101 100 - 9 14  0
Orioles - 000 201 000 - 3 9 0
The Sox jumped on Berken (3-10-6-2-3, 68) right away, as Jacoby Ellsbury and Victor Martinez walked, and Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay (1-0) and Mike Lowell singled (3-0) in the first. Boston finished the season with a 16-2 record against Baltimore.
Ellsbury (3-for-4, BB, shown stealing base #63 above) doubled in two runs in the third and homered in the seventh. Bay crushed a dong (#35) in the fourth and was HBP with the bases loaded in the sixth. Alex Gonzalez singled and doubled and scored twice.

Dice (5.1-8-3-1-5, 110) was good enough. His fastball command was spotty throughout the game and he relied more on breaking stuff. He allowed at least one baserunner in each inning, but did not walk a man until the fifth -- his 23rd batter. In fact, he had only three three-ball counts.

The Rangers lost to the Angels 10-5, so the Red Sox's Wild Card lead is now up to eight games. The Mariners lit up Joba and the Yankees 7-1, so Boston is now only 5 GB in the East (four in the loss column).
Example
Daisuke Matsuzaka (7.02, 67 ERA+) / Jason Berken (6.08, 76 ERA+)

Tony Massarotti, September 18:
Six games up with 17 to play, the Red Sox once again seem destined for October. Under the circumstances, at the risk of jinxing them, maybe it is time to give the Red Sox their due.
Tony, we've been over this. It's okay to say nice things about the Red Sox. Jinxes do not exist. Really.

Why is Nick Green giving himself a haircut?
Example
Angels/Rangers at 1 and Yankees/Mariners at 4.

September 19, 2009

G147: Red Sox 11, Orioles 5

Red Sox - 020 001 350 - 11 17  0
Orioles - 110 100 002 - 5 12 1
After six innings of back-and-forth lead changes, the Red Sox scored eight runs in the space of 15 batters in the late innings.

J.D. Drew drove in four of those eight runs; three of them came on his 21st home run of the year in the eighth. Brian Anderson followed that dong with one of his own. David Ortiz had two doubles, Mike Lowell went 3-for-4, and Josh Reddick hit his second major league home run in the second.

Lester (6-10-3-0-4, 102) was not sharp, giving up a run on a double and two singles to start the Baltimore first, and allowing solo homers to Ty Wigginton and Melvin Mora -- each of which lead off an inning. Manny Delcarmen allowed consecutive shots to Wigginton and Felix Pie to begin the ninth.
Example
Jon Lester (3.29, 143 ERA+) / David Hernandez (5.40, 86 ERA+)

Amalie Benjamin, Globe:
On Sept. 6, Jon Lester allowed the Chicago White Sox no runs in seven innings. Since then, Red Sox starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 11 straight games, their longest such streak since they reeled off 12 in June 2006. The Sox are 9-2 over the span, a stretch during which they seized control of the American League wild-card race.
Example
Angels/Rangers at 7 and Yankees/Mariners at 10.

Wakefield Set For Monday; Ellsbury & 0-2

Tim Wakefield threw 40 pitches in a side session yesterday and believes he is set to pitch on Monday.

If Wakefield does poorly in some strength tests today, Junichi Tazawa (who has not pitched since September 4) or Michael Bowden (idle since September 8) are possible replacements.

With Wakefield coming back, the Red Sox will have a six-man rotation for the rest of the season. This will give Josh Beckett an extra day of rest before his start on Wednesday in Kansas City. (Jon Lester starts on five days rest tonight). Also, Beckett is sixth in the AL in pitches thrown, with 3,166. Lester is seventh with 3,136.

Sean McAdam notes that this puts Beckett in line -- after starts on September 28 and October 3 -- to pitch ALDS 1.
Example
Adam Kilgore has a great blog post at the Globe. In plate appearances in which he falls behind 0-2, Jacoby Ellsbury leads all the major league batters with a .327 average; the league average is .178.
So maybe I should get into 0-2 counts. Just stand there. Strike. Strike.
Jason Bay caught the flu from his daughter Addison, who "has been throwing up for five days, so it's only a matter of time before someone in our household got something". He said he "ran out of steam" in the fourth inning last night. Nice of him to homer and break the 1-1 tie before he left, though.

Schadenfreude 92 (A Continuing Series)

It's been a little over two months since #91. That's too long.

George A. King III, Post:
Mariano Rivera walked out of the Yankees' clubhouse late last night with a chocolate ice cream cone in his right hand and a plastic bag in his other.
Isn't eating ice cream against The Girardi Rules?

Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
The Red Sox are coming! (Yawn)

The worry-warts are out in full force after the Yankees dropped another game in the standings on Friday night, slicing their lead over the Red Sox to six games.

I have one word for all the panicky Yankees fans out there: Chill. ...

If the Yankees go 6-9, they will finish with 100 wins. That means the Red Sox would have to go 13-3 to tie for the division lead. Give me a good reason why the Yankees will go 6-9 the rest of the way and we’ll continue the discussion.

Could it get closer than it is now? Absolutely. Are the Yankees in danger of collapsing? Hardly.
We shall see. In the meantime, sportswriters should really shy away from making grand predictions.
Example
Fat Billy is on Twitter -- and his spelling skills are as string as ever:
August 17
Went to Coopetstown. Again congrats to Jim Ed, and Rickey. Signed 1,500 autos in 4 days for some cool fans.

September 17
Hate to hear that Roy O has to shut it down for the year. We need to get him string and heathy for next year!
The TCM makes fun of his former trainer Brian McNamee, usually referring to him only as "M". McNamee's response? "This R guy makes me look smart, which is hard to do."

September 18, 2009

G146: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Red Sox - 010 101 000 - 3 11  0
Orioles - 010 000 000 - 1 5 0
The sixth spot in the order scored all three runs tonight as Buchholz went six innings (6-5-1-3-1, 95). The Red Sox have a 6.5-game lead in the wild card and a Yankees loss would bring Boston to within six in the East. (The Joy of Six?)

Casey Kotchman went 3-for-4, singling in Jason Bay with the first Boston run. After the Orioles tied the game on a Luke Scott dong, Bay went deep to start the fourth. Josh Reddick replaced Bay in left in the fifth. He singled to start the sixth and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's single.

LBJ had two opposite field hits and stolen base #62. Victor Martinez also had two hits. ... The bullpen trio of Daniel Bard, Hideki Ojakima and Jonathan Papelbon put up a 3-0-0-1-3 line. The one baserunner was a one-out walk by Bard, who then struck out the next two hitters.

Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run home run off Mariano Rivera with two outs in the bottom of the ninth -- his fourth hit of the night -- to give the Mariners a 3-2 win over the Yankees. The Angels shut out the Rangers 2-0. Boston is 6 GB in the East and 7 GA in the WC.
Example
Clay Buchholz (3.66, 129 ERA+) / Jeremy Guthrie (5.06, 92 ERA+)

The Red Sox -- 52-22 at home but only 34-37 away from Fenway -- hit the road for their final trip of the season: three in Baltimore, four in Kansas City, and three in New York. (After that, it's back home for three against Toronto and four against Cleveland. Then it's playoff time!)

Boston starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 10 consecutive games -- 1.79 ERA in 65.1 innings. ... Victor Martinez has a 16-game hitting streak (.357, 20-for-56) and Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in nine of his last ten games (.400, 14-for-35_.

Guthrie leads the AL in losses (14) earned runs allowed (97) and home runs allowed (30). However, he has allowed only one dong in his last four starts and only four in eight starts since July 31. ... Joey Gathright is 4-for-4 against Guthrie and Jason Bay is 5-for-10 (more; and here are the Birds vs Laptop).

And: Angels/Rangers at 8 and Yankees/Mariners at 10.

Hazing

Globe: "The Sox had their annual rookie hazing on their way to their final road trip of the regular season. They went with a "Wizard of Oz" theme, with Junichi Tazawa in a Dorothy costume complete with pig-tailed wig. Adding to the cast of characters was Josh Reddick as Glinda the Good Witch, Dusty Brown as the Scarecrow, and Daniel Bard as the Cowardly Lion."

CF has some pics. (More pics here.)

September 17, 2009

G145: Angels 4, Red Sox 3

Angels  - 001 010 101 - 4  8  0
Red Sox - 000 300 000 - 3 6 0
The Angels pushed a run across off Billy Wagner in the top of the ninth inning to avoid a sweep at Fenway -- and spoil Boston's bid for a perfect 8-0 homestand.

After Beckett (8-7-3-0-7, 114) departed, Wagner walked Juan Rivera. Pinch runner Terry Evans was bunted to second and scored on Howie Kendrick's bloop single over Dustin Pedroia into short right. Mike Lowell singled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli popped out to right to end the game.

Down 1-0 in the fourth, Jacoby Ellsbury homered down the right field line to tie the game. With one out, Victor Martinez singled to center and Jason Bay donged to deep left. After that Boston had only four baserunners and none of them reached second.

The Angels tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh when Chone Figgins struck out for the third out -- but yet afuckin'gain the ball got by Jason Varitek and rolled to the backstop.

The Yankees and Rangers were both off tonight, so Boston is 7 GB in the East (with 17 games left) and 6 GA in the Wild Card.
Example
Ervin Santana (5.52, 82 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.82, 124 ERA+)

Talk of the Red Sox having a shot at the AL East has crept back into some of the media coverage of the team. I was shocked when Dave O'Brien mentioned the possibility during last night's radio broadcast.

Of course, some of us have never stopped believing that catching the Yankees was possible. A New York loss last night would have helped tremendously, but a Boston win tonight would cut the East deficit to six games. And as the MFY head west to visit the Mariners and Angels, the Red Sox will feast on the cellar-dwelling Orioles and Royals. Boston could certainly be four games back when the three-game series in the Bronx begins a week from Friday.
Example
Nick Green had not told anyone about his injured right leg for three days. And during his pinch-hit appearance last nighty -- bottom of the ninth, down by a run, bases loaded, two outs -- he didn't think he could even put the ball into play.
Go look at the replay. Go look at all the swings, and maybe you can figure something out. I couldn't really swing. ... I almost collapsed every single swing, and almost collapsed walking down to first, and almost collapsed when I was leading off. ... I thought it was fine, but it was different once you get in a game ... I seriously did not think I could get a hit.
Paul Byrd:
I was in the clubhouse screaming at the TV with ice on my arm. I can't believe what a great game that was.
David Ortiz, who walked with two outs to start the rally in an inning that went P4, F8, BB, 1B, 1B, BB, 1B:
I never saw anything like that before. ... We're kicking ass.
Example
Jonathan Papelbon woke up on Wednesday with a sore lower back after slipping in the bullpen on Tuesday night.
This is just a one-day thing. ... There's no reason for me to go out there and push the envelope when I'm going to be pushed a lot more in a little while.
Tim Wakefield wants to start on Monday in Kansas City.
As of today, I can pitch. The meeting we had basically was to determine whether or not it was safe for me to continue to pitch, because my strength has gone down. We wanted to get everybody together and decide. I'll throw another side Friday, see how it feels from there.
The Yankees and Rangers are both off tonight, but Justin Masterson and his Spiders face the A's in Oakland at 10.

Vintage Whine From Angels Players And Fans

If whining and moping and acting like cry-babies translated into wins, the Angels would go 173-0 every season.

LAA closer Brian Fuentes says major league umpires are too frightened to make calls against Red Sox players at Fenway Park:
It seems like some times, especially here and some other places, some guys are timid to make a call. It just seems like that's the way it is. At Fenway. You hear it time and time again from other guys. The same thing happens when they come through. It's something you have to live with. It's either human mistake, or they're scared. It's one of the two.
Attention whore Mike Scioscia -- last seen flapping his arms and looking confused and bug-eyed out at the field:
What was the count at the end, 3-4 on Green?
Torii Hunter thinks some of his teammates cannot handle the pressure:
[I]f you do this in the regular season what's going to happen in the playoffs? ... We choked every time [LAA's last three losses]. It's not good, but it's good to see who’s going to choke ... Don't let a crowd or atmosphere change anything. Don't show me signs of "soft" - show (guts). I hate to say that, man, but I've got to get my point across.
And over at the Halo Heaven blog, they are equally infantile:
... the Red Sox are really not that good when you consider they had to have crooked umpiring allow two strikeouts to not happen, had to call a Boston runner safe at 2B on a dropped transfer and overall handed the game to the Red Sox ... the umps fixed this one on behalf of the MLB ratings crown and the Red Sox got the wink and the nod late.

Jesus Is The Derek Jeter Of Christianity

The world has been a cold, unfunny, foreboding place since November 13, 2008, the FJM crew decided to close up shop. However, there shone a ray of light and hope upon our hapless orb when Ken Tremendous, Junior, DAK took over Deadspin a couple of days ago.

The closing of "Jesus Is The Derek Jeter Of Christianity":
Still, there is a question as to whether the MVP award really means all that much to Derek Jeter. As he put it on Aug. 23 after the Yankees beat the Red Sox -- a victory that Mr. Jeter paced by hitting a home run on the game's first pitch off Boston ace Josh Beckett -- "I'm not thinking about winning any awards right now. The only award that matters is that fifth World Series ring."

Joe Mauer, meanwhile, issued a different statement to the press after going 2-4 with a walk against the Cleveland Indians. "Fuck the World Series," said Mauer. "Seriously. Write that down. Fuck the World Series. If I ever win a World Series ring, I will literally just take it and fuck the tiny ring-hole." Mauer punctuated his remarks with a graphic, thrusting pantomime, presumably of what he would physically do to the World Series ring. Mauer added: "I don't give a flying goddamn about winning. I am an awards guy. I'm Joe Fucking Mauer. I only care about individual honors. How many times do I have to tell you guys that? Mauer out, fuckfaces!" Mauer then urinated on a picture of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett holding hands and stormed out of the clubhouse whistling a pro-al Qaeda anthem that he wrote himself earlier in the day.

September 16, 2009

G144: Red Sox 9, Angels 8

Angels  - 001 011 401 - 8 17  1
Red Sox - 000 005 022 - 9 13 1
After the Red Sox fell behind 3-0, led 5-3, trailed 7-5, tied the game at 7-7, lost lead at 8-7 and then won 9-8 ... well, Joaquin Andujar was right.

Brian Fuentes began the bottom of the ninth by retiring Jason Bay on a pop up to second and Mike Lowell on a fly to center. Five pitches, two outs. Then he walked David Ortiz on four pitches and Joey Gathright pinch-ran. He fell behind J.D. Drew 2-0 and Drew hit a little flair behind second base. Shortstop Erick Aybar ranged far to his left on the outfield grass and gloved it but had no play. Infield single, potential tying run at second.

Dusty Brown was due up and Jed Lowrie pinch-hit. Since Fuentes is a lefty, Lowrie was batting right-handed, which causes him much less wrist pain than batting lefty. Jed looked at strike one before pulling a pitch hard down the third base line. Chone Figgins dove to his right for it, across the foul line. The ball glanced off his glove and rolled away. The bases were loaded.

Nick Green was sent up to bat for LH Casey Kotchman. Green quickly swung and missed twice and fell behind 0-2 -- one strike away. On the third pitch, he tried to check his swing and it was ruled a ball; it could easily have been a game-ending strike three. Blessed with a second chance, Green fouled off three tough pitches, then took three balls. Fuentes had walked in the tying run! 8-8!

Alex Gonzalez stepped in next. His two-run single in the sixth had broken a 3-3 tie and his eight-pitch walk in the eighth -- his first BB in 101 PA as a Sock -- prolonged the inning so Jacoby Ellsbury could tie the game at 7-7 with a single to right. Seabass went foul, ball, foul, then dumped the ball into short left field. Neither Figgins nor left fielder Juan Rivera could reach it -- it landed near the foul line jut for a single -- and Drew danced home with the winning run.

The East standings stayed the same -- 6.5 GB -- as the Yankees walked off against the Blue Jays 5-4. The A's one-hit the Rangers 4-0, so the Red Sox's wild card lead is now 6.5. Terry Francona will likely ease up as it seems all but certain that Boston has grabbed a playoff spot, and that is the wisest move, but damn, I want to push hard for the division.

Goddamn Blue Jays, thanks for ruining what would have been a perfect night.
Example
Joe Saunders (4.81, 95 ERA+) / Paul Byrd (6.08, 78 ERA+)

Byrd makes his fourth start for the Sox. His first three have run the gamut from superb (6-3-0-3-1, 83 against Toronto on August 30), shitty (2.1-10-7-0-3, 60 against the White Sox on September 4) and serviceable/lucky (5-6-2-3-1, 83 against the Orioles on September 9).

Yesterday, Boston gained a game on New York and padded its wild card lead over Texas. The Red Sox play nine more games -- two against the Angels, three at Baltimore, and four in Kansas City -- before a three-game series in New York. Both the Orioles and Royals are last in their respective divisions. For the MFY, they host the Blue Jays tonight, then fly out west to play three against both the Mariners and Angels.

BP's odds for the Sox to win the East have moved from 0.4% to 2.2% in the past five days (they are now 96.3% for the wild card). Cool Standings has them at 3.8%

This can be done.
East       W   L   PCT   GB    RS   RA  DIFF  EXP W-L
Yankees 93 53 .637 --- 838 690 +148 86-60
Red Sox 85 58 .594 6.5 757 631 +126 83-60

Wild Card W L PCT GB RS RA DIFF EXP W-L
Red Sox 85 58 .594 --- 757 631 +126 83-60
Rangers 80 64 .556 5.5 700 643 + 57 78-66
Example
Blue Jays/Yankees at 7 and A's/Rangers at 8.

2009 W-L Contest Update

Here is a look at the 2009 W-L contest entries.

Boston could finish the year with anywhere from 85 to 104 wins, and all 55 entries fell between those totals. However, re the first tiebreaker, Jacoby Ellsbury has stolen 61 bases so far, so everyone but the closest guess below that number can be eliminated.

In four cases, we may have to go to the 2nd tiebreaker, which will be Varitek's OBP (currently at .319). I think that in something like the 98-wins spot, that if Tek's OBP stays about where it is, I'll have to toss out The Price Is Right rules and go with the closest of the two guesses that went over.

Right now, we are left with 15 entries (with how the Red Sox need to play over the final 19 games to hit the various win totals):
                  W-L    SB     OBP   Sox Finish

Jon B West 103-59 38 .344 18- 1

Jere 100-62 55 .349 15- 4

Edward Nunez 99-63 69 .329 14- 5
Justin Meddaugh 99-63 58 .255

Brad Riccillo 98-64 54 .334 13- 6
Pokerwolf 98-64 54 .332

Sean McAteer 97-65 60 .300 12- 7

phlipster 96-66 63 .327 11- 8
matttymatty 96-66 63 .316

Aaron Liber 95-67 54 .349 10- 9

Bradley Smith 94-68 56 .352 9-10

Sam Warren 93-69 42 .325 8-11
Joe Grav 93-69 42 .299

Jeff Raymond 92-70 45 .360 7-12

Jeff in PA 91-71 45 .313 6-13
Prize: Six classic Pedro performances on DVD, including September 10, 1999 (9-1-0-0-17 at Yankees) and August 29, 2000 (9-1-0-0-13 at Tampa Bay).

Matsuzaka Shines In Return To Mound

After being booed off the mound in mid-June, Daisuke Matsuzaka was sent to Fort Myers for what amounted to a full spring training. There were serious doubts if he would pitch again for the Red Sox in 2009.
I've never had to take time in the middle of a season to try and get myself back to pitching the way I can and trying to build up strength. Even though I made it back and I got the win, when I was actually doing my training during those months, I was not always sure if I could ever get back though I tried my best to believe that one day I would come back.

But more than anything, I think that the pitcher you saw [last night] was clearly different from the pitcher you saw at the beginning of the season. I think the time that I spent over the past three months was definitely worthwhile. ...

On the road back, I've been a burden on my teammates more than anything and I feel that I owe them. There's not much left in the season, but in the limited time, in the limited opportunity that I do have, I want to show my appreciation to my teammates and to the fans by contributing in a positive way.
So far, so good. It was a fabulous return. Now -- can he do it again on Sunday against the Orioles?

SoSHer Sprowl (with p/fx data):
Matsuzaka was mostly a fastball pitcher today, and its movement was all over the map. ... the clusters are so diffuse that I can't tell how much of that is intended movement and how much of it is just plain wild. ...

But under pressure, DiceK all of a sudden can command his fastball. I have no idea what turns the switch from complete scattershot to dart thrower. Losing velocity, oddly enough, seems to help ...

Matsuzaka's most effective pitch was the cutter, which generated plenty of feeble fly balls from lunging batters: 6 balls in play for outs. The slurve wasn't the out pitch of 2008, producing no swinging strikes. The offspeed pitches were mostly thrown out of the zone: 8 slurves, 4 changeups and 1 slow curve. Another pattern was the conspicuous avoidance of the low strike zone: most pitches were belt-high or above. ...

But most of all: he still leaves me wondering how a pitcher throwing 90-92 with fastball command that disappears for innings at a time can produce such delightful results. My best guess is that if even the pitcher doesn't know how his fastball will move, the batter hasn't a snowflake's chance in hell.
Dice was also throwing with a lower arm angle.

Terry Francona:
I thought he was terrific. He stayed in his delivery the entire night. It looked like he had some life on his fastball without a lot of effort. He threw a real good cutter. He had three walks and two of them, he had guys 0-2. It's a huge short in the arm for us.
Dice:
In the last start, I left amidst some boos. So to be able to come back and experience that today was something very special as a ballplayer. If I could say one thing, I didn't want to leave in the middle of an inning, but I'm very grateful for the fans' response today.
When NESN came back from commercial in the top of the second, Matsuzaka was throwing some warm-up pitches from the grass behind the mound.
It's something that I used to do in Japan. During my rehab assignments in the minors, that's when I started it back up. I think it's just another way that helps me get warmed up. The temperature is only going to go down from here on out, so I think I'm just going to try to incorporate that as part of my warm-up.
Jason Varitek:
Don't ask me. That's new. Three from back there, five on the rubber. He got his eight. That was a surprise.
John Farrell:
That's a little bit different. Daisuke is Daisuke for a number of reasons. To have that freedom to do some things, it's well within the rules. And if he chooses to do that, there's nothing to say. Most pitchers like to stretch it out a little bit. Beckett stands in front of the rubber and throws two or three. [Matsuzaka] chooses to stand behind it.
Kevin Youkilis missed last night's game with back spams. He first thought he had a kidney stone. His status for tonight is unclear. ... Victor Martinez is in Cleveland because of a family matter and is expected back on Thursday. ... Jacoby Ellsbury had two singles in his 53rd multi-hit game of the season -- tops on the Sox.

David Ortiz set a major league record last night, with his 270th home run hit as a designated hitter.
Dude              Dongs
David Ortiz 270
Frank Thomas 269
Edgar Martinez 243
Harold Baines 236
Don Baylor 219
Jose Canseco 208
Chili Davis 200
When Ortiz goes deep, the Red Sox are 21-2. ... Pitchers for the weekend series against the Orioles: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Matsuzaka. ... Starters ERA in the current six-game winning streak: 0.95 ERA.

The Red Sox will begin and end the 2010 season at home against the Yankees -- maybe. ... Speaking of the MFY, Posada is not called Dumbo only because of his ears.

September 15, 2009

G143: Red Sox 4, Angels 1

Angels  - 000 000 001 - 1  6  1
Red Sox - 000 002 02x - 4 9 0
Matsuzaka (6-3-0-3-5, 93) did not allow a hit until the fifth inning -- and he worked out of a 2nd & 3rd, 1 out jam in that inning by striking out pinch-hitter Gary Matthews and Chone Figgins.

Dice stayed with his fastball in the early innings. He threw 63% fastballs, much higher than his 52.5% career average. His pitches were faster, crisper and far less hittable than at any other point this season. However, he did throw only 56% strikes.

The Sox scored twice in the sixth. Alex Gonzalez singled off the Wall and Jacoby Ellsbury bunted for a hit. Dustin pedroia bunted down the third base line, and Lackey threw the ball away past third. Seabass scored. After J.D. Drew grounded out and Jason Bay walked to load the bases, David Ortiz singled off left fielder Juan Rivera's shoetops.

In the eighth, Drew tripled with one out and scored on Bay's single to left. Bay was easily thrown out trying for a double. Ortiz then launched a dong to dead center. It was his 270th home run as a DH, a new major league record.

Dice got ahead of the first batter of the game (Figgins) 0-2, but walked him. Same old Dice? No. He retired the next eight Angels until he walked Figgins again (with two outs) in the 3rd. But he got the next hitter and then retired the side in order in the fourth. He got out of the fifth inning jam, then worked around a one-out double in the sixth.

The Blue Jays belted five dongs in a 10-4 rout of the Yankees (although the MFY outhit them!) and the A's beat the Rangers 6-1, so Boston is 6.5 GB in the East and 5.5 GA in the WC.
Example
John Lackey (3.53, 129 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (8.23, 57 ERA+)

Matsuzaka returns to the Boston rotation after almost three months. His last start was on June 19 (log). The big question -- the only question, really -- is which Dice will we see?

Along the way there was a bit of controversy about his training and pitching methods. (And NPB had a brief post in August about pitch counts in Japan and MLB.)

John Farrell:
He has done an outstanding job of committing to a program and getting himself in what we consider, just from the naked eye, better shape. He's reshaped his body. He's added core strength. He's gotten the strength levels in his shoulder back to a level where he was a year ago. I think he feels good about himself as well, so we're all looking forward to his next time out here.
Terry Francona:
He kind of evolved the last couple of years. He got away from the guy we had signed for a few different reasons. I think what we're hoping to do is see closer to the stuff that we saw when we signed him. You might not see the exact same stuff. I don't know if that's fair. But get closer to it this year, [and hope] that during the winter then when he comes back next year, we're back to that guy with a better comfort for pitching here and living here culturally and competing.
In his final minor league start, Dice hit 93 with his fastball and threw 61 of 89 pitches for strikes. But that was against A-ball hitters.

My guess for tonight? 5-4-1-2-6, 95.

Plus: A reminder of what a dush and clown Lackey is.

Blue Jays/Yankees at 7 and A's/Rangers at 8.