Series Win

I’ll take 2 of 3 in the Bronx. The Yankees are wounded and the Red Sox have taken advantage by taking 5 of 6 thus far in 2007. The Yankees will rebound and have proven they can make up 10 games in about 2 weeks time, so it was really important for Boston to kick them when they were (and are) down.

 

Hats off to Julian Tavarez, he didn’t pitch a gem, but he pitched 5 solid innings and kept Boston in the game. The bullpen, especially Hideki Okajima did a great job holding the win.

 

It was also nice to see 3 home runs from Boston. Alex Cora certainly has played well, but if you look at his career stats, there is no reason to believe he is taking over fulltime at second. Dustin Pedroia will get his at bats and deservedly so.

 

With the Red Sox playing well, it is tough for me to criticize Terry Francona. I initially had worried about Eric Hinske starting for J.D. Drew until NESN pointed out Drew was mired in a 1-21 slump and he does after all have a history of injuries.

 

Coco Crisp had a nice triple in the 3rd and appears to have recovered from his early season slump. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come. Crisp also displayed a nice arm (I know, I sound drunk…which I am…bombed in fact…barely consciouxceeoey……………..whoops, fell asleep on the period) on a ball hit to the gap. His throw was low and hard, rather than his normal cream-puff offerings.

 

I’m happy Francona has limited his use of Joel Pineiro and J.C Romero. Oh wait, he has used them a ton! Pineiro has a good ERA so far, but has allowed 1.66 runners per inning and Romero is at 2.05 runners per inning! I suppose he has to do so as you can’t trot Brendan Donnelly, Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon out every game.

 

The bullpen has been solid, but I wonder how it would perform if the starters weren’t so solid.

 

Off-day Monday and then they host Oakland for 3.

 

Lastly, RIP former Red Sox Josh Hancock. Sad news.

What Gives?

Today’s game was set-up nicely. The Yankees were sending out Jeff Karstens who was making his 8th career start. To make things even better, Karstens had to leave after 2 batters (I’m not celebrating Karsten’s injury by any means, just saying him having to leave the game put the Yankees’ already troubled pitching staff in a more troubled situation).

 

Kei Igawa took over and this after he had just been banished to mop-up duty by Joe Torre days earlier. Things looked great!

 

But Tim Wakefield walked 6 and the offense took the day off. This was a major disappointment. The Red Sox offense has been Jekyl and Hydeing it all year. Only their solid pitching and their occassion hitting has delivered the best record in baseball.

 

All the credit should go to Kei Igawa. He gave a glimps today why the Yankees bid $26m for his rights. Granted this is the first time he has impressed and for that price, much more will be expected from him.

 

So Saturday proved a major let-down and Sunday the match-up is tough. Julian Tavarez goes against Chien-Ming Wang.

 

Some good news, Jon Lester pitched 5 innings of 3 hit, no walk, shutout ball Friday night in a AAA match-up in Buffalo. Lester only threw 84 pitches, so I bet he’ll need at least one, maybe 2 more starts at Pawtucket before Boston brings him up.

 

Even better news was that Lester was told by doctors he is still cancer free.

 

Sunday, Tavarez (0-2, 8.36 ERA) vs. Wang (0-1, 5.68 ERA). 1:05pm start on NESN (no more Joe Buck and Tim McCarver).

 

Sockgate Concluded

I wrote earlier today about the comments Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne made about the 2004 Curt Schilling bloody sock. Well, things have been settled. Because I am far too lazy to get the quotes, etc, here is what happened.

6 months after the conclusion of the 2004 season, Thorne and Mirabelli had a conversation. At the end of the conversation as both parties were walking away, Thorne asked Mirabelli about the sock and Mirabelli said it had generated much publicity. Thorne took that to mean it was faked and just a PR stunt. He was wrong.

End of story.

I find this too bad b/c Thorne is a good guy and was basically drilled today on WEEI by Pete Sheppard. Sheppard said he was smug when making the original comments Wednesday night and was so confident that the bloody sock was faked, that Jim Palmer was "gutless" in not offer a counter opinion. That makes a ton of sense Sheppard.

Heaven forbid a guy, Palmer in this case, keep his mouth shut if he had no knowledge of the details of the situation. Palmer, gutless? Of course, Sheppard, with guts (lots and lots based on this photo) does have to fill 4 hours a day and probably grabbed onto this line of thinking without much, well, thought.

At the end of the day, it was a misunderstanding and in my opinion Gary Thorne meant no harm. I probably figured he had gotten his information from, if not the horse’s mouth, well, the horse trainer’s mouth.

Reader Blmeanie had this to say "Gary Thorne is the all-time best neutral hockey play by play announcer ever. I have never heard a negative thing about him either." Check out Blmeanie’s blog btw.

Of greater concern is the status of the Red Sox offense. Spotty at best with the core in a funk right now. In addition, what was supposed to be a 1 or 2 day injury has now become a 5 day injury to Coco Crisp.

In a slump: Pena, Pedroia, Manny, Lugo, Varitek…check that, Wily Mo Pena just hit a grand slam. Hmmm, maybe I should write about player slumps more often. That is a good thing for Pena, he was due.

5-2 Red Sox in the 8th…more later.

Thorne-y Issue

Today’s Boston Globe (and susequently ESPN) ran a piece today on Curt Schilling and famous bloody sock of 2004.

 

Here is the quick and dirty: Last night during the broadcast Baltimore Orioles play-by-play guy Gary Thorne said that he had learned from Doug Mirabelli that what was thought to be blood on Schilling’s sock was actually paint, applied for "PR" purposes.

 

That is the skinny. Needless to say that didn’t go over well with Mirabelli who denied making such a claim and it also riled up both Terry Francona and Curt Schilling.

 

This is facsinating stuff. First off, Thorne, a former ESPN guy, said he actually talked with Mirabelli and Mirabelli told him it was just paint, for effect. Mirabelli responds by saying he doesn’t even know Thorne and that the mere mention of it not being blood is absurd.

 

Where do we go with this? It’s a he said, she said situation. As of this post, I haven’t read any further comments from Thorne (comments by him after Mirabelli, Schilling and Francona responded that is ), so that might clear up some of this issue.

 

My take? It was blood. Unless all current and former Red Sox that were part of the 2004 World Championship team got together and orchestraded this legend, I find Thorne’s comments baffling. First off, based on the Boston Globe account, Thorne is well liked and respected. I’ve never heard any bit of controversy tied to his name prior to this, so I’m not ready to label him a liar, but at the same time, where did he come up with this?

 

It’s almost as if Thorne expected it to be a throw-away comment that wouldn’t get pick up by the press. Of course it was going to get pounced on by the media and here we find ourselves. Thorne had nothing to gain from making the claim (except for temporary, uncomfortable heat from the media), while most observers and anyone close to the bloody sock situation says it was definitely blood, including current Oriole Kevin Millar.

 

Sock-Gate has started a 2nd time. Of course there are those that think it was a sham from day 1, the story has mostly settled down until last night.

 

What do you think, was it blood or paint?

 

Power Outage

Monday night’s game featured a disappearing act by the 1-5 hitters who collectively went 2-23 with 1 bb. The bottom 4 starters went 6-12 with 3 bb.

 

I know the Red Sox players are all professionals as Tim Wakefield suggested after the game, and don’t allow for let-downs, but it appeared the Red Sox offense, defense and pitching let out a collective sigh of relief having the Yankees temporarily in the rearview mirror. In other words, it was a letdown.

 

Coco Crisp has missed the last 2 games after starting to turn things around (8 for his last 20). He is expected back tonight and should provide better defense than we saw from the always willing Wily Mo Pena in center.

 

Tonight: Roy Halliday (2-0, 2.37 ERA) vs. Julian Tavarez (0-1, 6.75 ERA), not a favorable match-up. 7:05pm start at Fenway.

 

Solid Weekend

Anytime you can sweep the Yankees, you have to be happy. But understand the Yankees are limping right now. They are missing just about their entire rotation and some key positional players.

 

Enjoy this, but don’t expect Yankee Stadium this weekend to be a cake-walk, nor can you expect some of the mid-season match-ups to go this well.

 

A few notes on Sunday’s game: I generally don’t have too much to criticize about how Terry Francona manages, but I thought he made a mistake bringing in Hideki Okajima in the 8th. Okajima got the save in Friday’s game, pitched well Saturday and then was brought in for a 3rd consecutive appearance Sunday and struggled. With the amount of arms available, Francona would have been better suited to J.C. Romero. Romero, as previously discussed, cannot seem to get out righties, but he is good against lefties. I believe Okajima was brought in to face Jason Giambi, a lefty. So why not rest Okajima and let Romero do this thing against Giambi, then Cano and then bring in Brendan Donnelly?

 

It turned out to be harmless, but if your starters are working into the 7th each night (so far), don’t lean too heavily on one guy, mix it up a bit.

 

A good example is the Yankees pen right now. Normally a solid group, but because their starting pitching is a mess, Joe Torre is absolutely abusing the pen. Consider this:

 

17 games played:

 

Proctor – 12 games – 114 game pace
Vizcaino – 11 games – 105 game pace
Myers – 10 games – 95 game pace
Bruney – 9 games – 86 game pace
Henn – 9 games – 86 game pace
Farnsworth – 8 games – 76 game pace

 

Obviously that can’t continue. If they Yankees don’t figure things out soon (see Peter’s post), there will be long term trouble in the pen. These guys will have dead-arm or worse by August.

 

This of course bodes well for Boston, but it is important that Francona not wear out the bullpen in a similar fashion, especially when there are so many options (none great perhaps, but options nonetheless). It is a marathon after all.

 

Tonight: Toronto at Boston: 7:05pm start. Old friend Tomo Ohka (0-2, 7.02 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (2-1, 1.35 ERA)

4 in a Row

The Red Sox did something that has only happened 5 times previously in Major League Baseball history, they hit 4 consective home runs, also known as back to back to back to back home runs.

 

My research on this matter consisted of a yahoo search where some blogger said it has happened 4 times prior to the Dodgers doing it in 2006. So take this with the usual grain(s) of salt.

 

Anyway, pretty impressive. Chase Wright seems like a good pitcher and probably doesn’t deserve such treatment, but if he has his head screwed on straight, this won’t impact his future much. This kid shut down the Red Sox for 2.2 innngs despite having never pitched above AA prior to this season. I bet we’ll hear more from him sooner than later.

 

Joe Torre took Wright out after the 3rd. I’m not sure why he did that after 3 instead of after the 4th home run. I’d have trotted the kid back out in the 4th to give him another taste. 4 home runs is bad, yes, but if you are going to yank the kid, yank him right away, don’t leave him to face Wily Mo Pena, whose talent is probably limited to the humongous long-ball. Hey, I realize managing a team in the Majors is tough and Torre has earned the right to his opinion, but I’d have sent him back out for the 4th.

 

Interesting notes: Former Red Sox farmhand Colter Bean (actually he was a rule 5 pick that was returned) was the replacement pitcher. Bean is huge, like he should probably lose a few lbs huge (that applies to me too, but again, I’m nothing close to an athlete. I suppose less weight would yield more productivity).

 

Also, Yankees catcher Wil Nieves, playing because Jose Posada is hurt, apparently jammed his thumb or finger on a Bean pitch and was momentarily headed for the trainers table, but recovered and continued on. ESPN’s Jon Miller said that "rookie" Josh Phelps was the emergency catcher. Rookie? Phelps is 29 and has played in 360 major league games since 2000 and has hit 58 career home runs.

 

More later.

 

I’ll Take It

I was disappointed with Curt Schilling’s performance Friday night. He was having reasonable success with his curve, but twice tonight he got taken to town on his fastball by Alex Rodriguez. Granted, A-Rod is in a zone right now. Check that, he is on an unprecedented tear right now, but Schilling and Varitek have to know that A-Rod is going to hit a fairly straight fastball over everything.

 

With my "The Sky is Falling" attitude always present, I have to say this win was nice. The things that surprised me:

 

- Mariano Rivera not throwing dominantly.
- Coco Crisp hitting a 2-run triple.
- Curt Schilling didn’t put a fastball under A-Rod’s chin
- Hideki Okajima getting the save.

 

Kudos to Okajima for getting the win and for appearing genuinely happy to be pitching for the Red Sox and against the Yankees (see the post-game mound congratulations session). Okajima doesn’t have anything overpowering, but he has a few things working in his favor, he has a very good change, split and when throws, he is actually looking at the ground, not the batter. That will keep any batter on his toes.

 

I have no idea why the Red Sox never pitched A-Rod inside. Not just on the inside corner, but rather, at him. I’m not saying the Red Sox needed to bean A-Rod (head shot), but as Peter suggested earlier on Friday (actually, Peter said he wouldn’t be surprised if Schilling put one in A-Rod’s ear, I assume that was some hyperbole), I think some inside heat is a good idea. Why let A-Rod get comfortable?

 

Crisp’s triple was completely unexpected. That is bad news because Crisp has been a good hitter in the past, but hasn’t done much in the past 12 months. If Crisp can get his mojo back and hit for average, ok OBP and be a terror on the bases, the Red Sox, and their fans, will be thrilled.

 

Lastly, the comeback we saw Friday was largely due to an ineffective Mariano Rivera. If he threw a cut-fastball (his bread and butter pitch), I didn’t see it. His pitches lacked snap, pizzaz, moxie, spunk, beefiness, clout, kick, muscle, power, punch, robustness, steam, stank, thew, vigor (yes, I did check dictionary.com’s thesaurus section for help on that one…notice how the last few are alphabetized). Thank goodness as a Rivera on his game is tough to beat.

 

Friday’s game was my biggest concern as Andy Pettitte is a proven pitcher. Not to take anything away from the Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright, but Pettitte knows how to win and has won 187 times thus far.

 

It is just April, but it feels good to take the all-time lead in the Yankees/Red Sox match-up at Fenway. Actually it doesn’t. I’m modern and only care about the here and now! Win now!

 

Beckett vs. Karstens Saturday (3:55 pm start on Fox)
Matsuzaka vs. Wright on Sunday (8:05pm start on ESPN)

 

P.S. Step up and give me your take on this game and the YankeesRedSox series in the comments section.

 

Pre-Game Report and Some Feather Ruffling

In anticipation of the first Red Sox vs. Yankees game of 2007, I figured I’d encourage you to check out what is being said on the Yankees side of this site.

 

Peter is still basking in the glow of A-Rod’s game winning home run yesterday. No doubt the Yankees will be on a high at Fenway tonight. But the good news is the Red Sox also had a pretty good comeback win yesterday.

 

Touché!

 

In my previous post, reader Matt pointed out that Jason Varitek has done very well against Andy Pettitte and that the Red Sox in general have faired nicely againsts him. Check out the comments section of my previous post to see the detailed stats. They have beat Pettitte up in the past.

 

To help create more excitement, I figured I’d link to some famous Red Sox/Yankees moments:

 

The A-Rod slap

 

Bucky "F-In" Dent – as he’s known in these parts

 

Don Zimmer vs. Pedro – something I wish never happened

 

The Babe Ruth Trade – we don’t hear as much about this anymore for some reason

 

A-Rod vs. Varitek - Red Sox fan perspective

 

A-Rod vs. Varitek – Yankees fan perspective: "Wait, let me take off my mask before we fight! Keep waiting, almost done."

 

And of course, 2004.

 

I hope I stirred the pot a bit, all in good fun.

 

I like the Red Sox chances this weekend. Then again, I liked their chances last year in the 5-game series at Fenway. Ahem.

 

Let the Games Begin

The Red Sox are coming off a 2-1 series win in Toronto. The New York Yankees are coming off a series sweep of Cleveland.

 

All the makings of a great weekend series at Fenway.

 

For the Yankees, they have pounded the ball led by Alex Rodriguez and his MLB leading 10 home runs. The rest of the line-up is doing well too. And despite their rotation featuring several minor-leaguers, they have a 3.57 team ERA through Thursday.

 

The Red Sox have featured an inconsistant offense, but steady pitching (2.55 ERA through Thursday).

 

Boston has managed to line up their top 3 starters in Schilling, Beckett and Matsuzaka. Those 3 face Andy Pettitte, Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright. That’s a vet and 2 rookies…yes rookies. With all due respect for the Yankees offense, if the Red Sox let 2 rookies in games 2 and 3 shut down their offense, Boston probably doesn’t have as good an offense as we thought.

 

As a Red Sox fan, my biggest concern is that the offense fails to provide run support for Daisuke Matsuzaka. It’d be a shame for him to pitch well in 2007 and not get run support. It is only 3 games into the season, but Matsuzaka could very well be 3-0 rather than 1-2.

 

The offensive struggles continue for Jason Varitek. He went 0-4 Thursday and now has a .189 average and a sub-.300 obp. Things just aren’t right for JV. He is facing an uphill battle with age. I hope he can turn it around and be at worst an average hitter.

 

Coco Crisp had a good game Thursday getting on base twice and driving in a run via a sac fly. Crisp was creative Thursday and figured out ways on base. He has proven in the past he can hit. It just seems he is putting a ton of pressure on himself to perform. I’m happy Francona has shown some confidence in him putting him lead-off Thursday and 2nd on Monday. I think this kid is a good player, but just has his head off kilter.

 

But no matter how you paint it, the Red Sox are struggling with the bottom 3rd of the line-up. Varitek, Crisp and Pedroia aren’t hitting. Pedroia is getting on base, so he isn’t too big a worry, but Crisp and Varitek need to fight their way on base. Bunt, lean into inside pitches (yes, take an HBP), do whatever you can to get on base. I am confident they will collectively do better than they have so far, but I fear their ceiling might be must lower than we hoped.

 

Anyway, get set for a Friday 7:05 pm start (NESN), a Saturday 3:55 pm start (Fox) and a Sunday 8:05 pm start (ESPN game of the week). That’s 2 of 3 televised nationally. Wow, this match-up has taken on a new level of interest.