October 5, 2004

ALDS Game 1: Boston 9, Anaheim 3. At least thirty minutes before the first pitch, I had butterflies in my stomach and sweaty hands. Two hours later, I was wondering what I was so nervous about. ... Well, not really. But a seven-run 4th inning -- with home runs from Kevin Millar and Manny Ramirez and a throwing error by Chone Figgins -- did lighten the mood in my apartment and throughout RSN. Better to simply get our feet wet in this one, nothing too emotionally taxing right away -- since we all know there will be plenty of those games ahead.

David Ortiz and Ramirez -- the first AL duo since Ruth/Gehrig to hit better than .300-40-100 -- got the Sox rolling in the first inning. With two outs, Manny smoked a shot of Figgins's glove at third that rolled into left field. Manny hustled to second for a double without a throw. Ortiz followed with a single off 2B Alfredo Amezaga's glove into short right field. Ramirez raced around third and Boston led 1-0.

Curt Schilling pitched well -- he topped 94-95 all afternoon long -- although he did not have even one 1-2-3 inning. He allowed a one-out single in the first, a leadoff double in the second and a single and walk with one out in the third -- but escaped trouble each time.

Jarrod Washburn began the top of the 4th by walking Ortiz on four pitches. Millar fouled one pitch off before cranking a shot to deep left, giving the Sox a 3-0 lead. Varitek singled to left, Cabrera followed with a walk, and after Mueller was caught looking, Kapler singled to right to load the bases. Damon smacked a sharp grounder to Figgins at third, who double-clutched and threw wildly to the plate. The ball kicked off to the third base side of the backstop. Two runs scored, Boston led 5-0 and Washburn was pulled from the game. ... Scot Shields struck out Mark Bellhorn, but Manny drilled a 1-0 pitch to dead center for 3 runs and an 8-0 Red Sox advantage.

Anaheim tried to rally (and both the ESPN TV and radio announcers were practically rooting them on to do so). Troy Glaus hit a solo homer in the 4th. Darin Erstad homered in the 7th, then Garret Anderson reached third base on a throwing error from Schilling and scored on Glaus's double. That play ended Schilling's outing (on the radio, Buck Martinez said the Angels had "knocked Schilling out of the game"). Embree came in and got pinch-hitter Adam Riggs to foul out.

Boston tacked on a run in the 8th inning when Damon singled, stole second and went to third on a groundout. With 2 outs, Anaheim walked Ortiz intentionally. Mientkiewicz then laid down a first-pitch bunt perfectly placed on the third base line, beating it out for a single as Damon crossed. After the heavy hitting, the Red Sox -- who had the fewest infield hits in all of MLB (87) this year -- top off the day with some "small ball." Brilliant. ... Mike Timlin pitched the last two innings, retiring all six batters he faced, striking out the top three batters in the Anaheim lineup in the 9th.

TitoWatch: No serious complaints. When Millar singled to start the top of the 7th, Francona sent in Mientkiewicz as a pinch-runner (and to take over at 1B). Pokey Reese replaced Bellhorn at 2B for the final two innings. Those are the types of moves Francona has done all year -- especially since the trade deadline with the more versatile bench -- and he has been nearly always flawless.

Although Schilling had allowed at least one hit in every inning, he had thrown only 95 pitches through six innings and I agreed with sending him out for the 7th. Figgins grounded to second, Erstad homered (cutting the lead to 8-2) and Vladimir Guerrero flew out to right (Vlad finished the day 0-for-5). ... With two outs, Anderson reached third on Schilling's error that sailed down the right field line. Even though Glaus had already doubled, homered and walked (and Schilling might have tweaked his right ankle trying to make the play on Anderson), I still didn't mind Tito leaving him in to try for the third out. Once Glaus doubled, however, Francona made the right move in pulling him.

Also, I would not have had Timlin pitch 2 innings. He threw 31 pitches, meaning he probably won't be available for much duty in Game 2. With a six-run lead, I would have had Lowe or Leskanic pitch the 9th inning.

Minnesota 2, New York 0: I split my time between this game and the Edwards/Cheney debate. Santana pitched 7 innings in the Bronx, allowing 9 hits and 1 walk. He escaped every jam he was in as his teammates turned five double plays. Mussina's line was very similar (7 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk), but he allowed single runs in the 3rd and 6th.

Every Yankee rally was repelled. New York had a runner thrown out at the plate in the second inning. In the 5th, with the tying run on base, Jeter grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP. With Minnesota up 2-0, the Yankees had 2 men on and 2 outs in the 6th, but Matsui grounded out to second. Miguel Cairo doubled with two outs in the 7th, but Jeter again grounded out to short. ... In the 8th, Alex Rodriguez clubbed a ball to deep center that Torii Hunter leapt and caught at the wall (it likely would not have cleared the fence). Sheffield then walked, but Bernie Williams hit into another double play. In the 9th, Joe Nathan retired the Yankees on three routine fly outs to secure the victory.

The Yankees and Twins will play again in prime time tomorrow before Pedro battles the Angels at 10 pm. ... And in keeping with SoSH tradition, Schilling has already started the Game 2 thread.

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