June 17, 2004

From This Altitude, It Will Come Back To You. The Colorado Rockies had won two consecutive games only twice since April 20. Last night made it three. ... While it may or may not be time to panic -- for now, I'm opting for equal parts frustration and exasperation. Wednesday's almost-but-not-quite comeback was just another in an ongoing series of wasted evenings, complete with sloppy fielding, clueless at-bats, possible managerial dozing and a derth of timely hitting.

Curt Schilling did not have his A-game (no word yet on his ankle) -- allowing 9 hits and 7 runs in 6 innings. And when he started losing it in the 6th inning (at 100+ pitches), I don't think Francona had anyone warming up. MLB-EI carried the Fox feed and they made no mention of activity in the Sox bullpen, though that doesn't mean there wasn't any. Either way, Francona let Schilling stay in the game too long.

Indeed, a good argument can be made that he should have been pulled after 4 innings (having allowed 6 hits and 4 runs on 87 pitches). At that point, Boston trailed 4-3, but had the bases loaded. Colorado starter Jason Jennings had had a strange 5th inning. He hit Manny Ramirez on a 3-1 pitch, got Nomar Garciaparra on a first-pitch liner to left, walked Trot Nixon on 4 pitches, struck out Jason Varitek on 3 pitches and walked Kevin Youkilis on 4 pitches. ... Even with two outs, it may have been time to try to get at least one of those runners home. Francona let Schilling bat, however, and he tapped Jennings's first offering back to the mound for an easy force at the plate. It was the second consecutive inning that Boston left the bases loaded.

Schilling retired the side in order in the 5th (with 2 strikeouts) -- his only 1-2-3 inning. But in the 6th, he allowed a leadoff single to Jennings (who went 2-for-3). After a sacrifice bunt, Royce Clayton reached when Garciaparra made a very poor (and low) throw to first. Todd Helton brought both runners home with an opposite field double down the left field line. Colorado led 7-3.

I don't know how many games in which Boston has almost come back but simply run out of innings/outs -- I should look -- but last night was the merely the latest. Varitek, who has looked horrible lately, drilled a solo home run in the 8th. After Johnny Damon singled with 2 outs, sidearming lefty Javier Lopez came in. He got Mark Bellhorn lunging at outside pitches and struck him out -- and with David Ortiz leading off the 9th, I fully expected Lopez to start the 9th -- and wondered what in the hell Tizzle could do with his delivery.

And yet Rockies manager Clint Hurdle did NOT keep Lopez in the game. He brought in his closer Shawn Chacon -- and I use the word "closer" in the loosest possible sense -- look at these stats -- can you imagine relying on this gas can as your closer?

Chacon got Ortiz anyway, after he fouled off 4 pitches (trying to hit a 7-run homer) and then chased some crap in the dirt. Ramirez lined a single over shortstop and Nomar banged a hanging slider into left center. Nixon -- who had had a hell of a night -- a long fly ball to deep right center, a home run to deep right, a walk and a well-hit ball to shortstop -- and he was now the tying run.

I don't know how accurate the Fox gun was (I'd guess it was about 2-3 mph too fast), but Chacon hit 95-95-97-94 as he struck out Nixon. Varitek went the other way, dumping a single into left and bringing home Ramirez. Youkilis (3-4 with a BB) hit a one-hopper off the third base bag that bounced out into left; Nomar scored and tying-run Varitek scampered to third. Pokey Reese ran for Yook and stole second, but pinch-hitter David McCarty (after falling behind 0-2 and taking 3 straight balls -- he probably struck out on ball 2, but with the Rockies coming out of the dugout to celebrate their win, the first base ump said he checked his swing) flew out harmlessly to right to end the game.

Meanwhile, out in Arizona, the Yankees battered the Snakes 9-4 and now lead the Red Sox by 5.5 games. ... Yankee blogger Larry Mahnken: "The Yankees have been ten games better than Boston since 'The Sweep', in less than two months. But it's not Boston's doing -- they've been a solid 25-21 since then, it's the Yankees who have earned their standing, going an incredible 34-10 ..." I disagree. 25-21 is not solid -- it's a .543 winning percentage or an 88-74 record.

Boston tries to avoid an embarrassing sweep at 3:05 pm. I fear the thin Colorado air will bring on multiple appearances of the Derek Lowe Face.

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