March 28, 2005

ALCS 6: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2

Schilling took the mound on Tuesday, October 19, amid the mist and rain. From the beginning, the blood stain on his right ankle was visible, although at first there was confusion whether the stain was actually blood or some of the marcaine. (one of my game posts)

Schilling pitched seven brilliant innings, allowing only four hits, one of them a solo home run to Bernie Williams in the seventh inning. He walked no one -- his first three-ball count was to Derek Jeter leading off the sixth. When Bronson Arroyo struggled in the 8th (just before the Slap), Joe Buck wondered if Schilling might have been removed too soon. When asked after the game about pulling Schilling after the seventh, Terry Francona laughed and said the Sox were thinking of pulling him after five.

Jon Lieber was solid, but Boston banged him around in the fourth with two outs. After Ortiz and Nixon both grounded out, Millar doubled down the left field line, Varitek singled to center (1-0), Cabrera singled to left, and Bellhorn lined a three-run home run just over the left field fence (4-0) (his first RBIs of the series).

Jeter singled home New York's second run in the eighth. In the ninth, Keith Foulke walked Hideki Matsui, and after getting two quick outs, walked Ruben Sierra. Tony Clark stepped in as the potential pennant-winning run for the Yankees. Over the winter, Theo Epstein said that this confrontation was the scariest moment of the ALCS for him. ... I could visualize Clark hitting a home run -- it would seem cruelly logical if the man we called the Thermos (during the 2002 season he remained ice cold (in 298 PA, he hit .207/.265/.291 (!)) for the Sox while the rest of the team was hot) would crush the Red Sox. ... Foulke fell behind 2-0, but came back to strike out Clark swinging to end the game -- and force Game 7.

Overheard during the post-game congratulations on the field: Foulke saying, with a smile, "gotta make it interesting." ... With the victory, the 2004 Red Sox became the first baseball team down 0-3 to make it to a Game 7.

One recurring comment from Tim McCarver and Al Lieter has been that pitchers can "produce, but not direct." What they meant is that a pitcher can do everything possible to "produce" a good pitch, but once the batter hits it, the pitcher cannot "direct" where it will go. Whether they know it or not, they were hitting on some pretty cutting edge sabremetric theory.

Several years ago, Voros McCracken announced that "hits allowed [were] not a particularly meaningful statistic in the evaluation of pitchers" -- that a pitcher had no control over what happened once he threw the ball. He developed DIPS -- Defense Independent Pitching Stats -- which represented a pitcher's stat line without any possible influence from his defense. Go here for a 2001 article by McCracken (who is now employed by the Red Sox).

Once the replays of The Slap were shown, everyone in the booth was in agreement that Slappy's play was blatantly against the rules. ... My own personal horror? What if the umpires had ruled in New York's favor? What if, as Rodriguez has now admitted to hoping, he did it on purpose and got away with it? ... The Yankees would have cut Boston's lead to 4-3, Rodriguez would have been on second base with one out, and Sheffield and Matsui would have been up. Timlin and Myers were warming up, as was Rivera in the other bullpen.

The Red Sox were incredibly resilient during the ALCS, but I shudder to think what might have happened if the umpires had blown that call.

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