ALDS – Angels @ Red Sox

It’s set in stone, the Red Sox will host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Southern California Pacific Valley Disneyland Tinseltown Orange County (or LAAASCPVDTOC for short).

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday Oct 3 @ Boston (Beckett vs. Lackey)

Friday Oct 5 @ Boston

Sunday Oct 7 @ LAAASCPVDTOC

Monday Oct 8 @ LAAASCPVDTOC

Wednesday Oct 10 @ Boston

The Red Sox secured the best record record in baseball on Saturday and thus were awarded the 8-day series (vs. the 7 day series the Yanks/Indians will be playing).  This means the Red Sox can trot out their # 1 (Beckett) and # 2 (probably Schilling) starters twice in the ALDS.

2 days rest can only do good things for people like David Ortiz (cortisone shot on Saturday), Kevin Youkilis, Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Manny Ramirez and the rest of the crew that has bumps and bruises.  The Angels are saying the same thing of course.

Some interesting stats from the regular season:

.324 BA Mike Lowell

.317 BA Dustin Pedroia

.332 BA David Ortiz

.279 Red Sox team average good for 6th place tie

.362 Red Sox team OBP good for 2nd (behind NYY)

.444 Red Sox team SLG good for 6th

166 HR for Red Sox good for (are you ready for this) 18th best in ML (Milwaukee Brewers # 1 with 231).

867 runs good for 4th behind NYY, Phi and Det

689 walks good for 1st

3.87 ERA, good for 1st in AL, 2nd in ML.

1149 K’s for Red Sox pitching staff good for 6th

13 shutouts good for 2nd (San Diego had 20!)

1350 hits allowed good for 2nd

All team stats/rankings are for ML unless otherwise noted.

Red Sox – 2007 AL East Division Champs

The Red Sox broke a 13 year death grip on the AL East title tonight.  Good for them.

For those local, it was an interesting experience via NESN.  The Red Sox won at 9:50 pm or so and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Yankees at 10:57 pm.  Red Sox fans stayed at Fenway to watch the Orioles/Yankees game on the big screen for over an hour (as did many at home).  NESN didn’t have the rights to the O’s/Yanks game, so they showed the crowds (in both Fenway and the clubhouse) and provided game updates after each at bat.  Tom Caron and NESN cameras probably broke MLB’s TV rules against "redistribution" by showing TV’s and scoreboards showing the actual game.

It was a great scene.  The only negative, and it was a light hearted, yet scaring negative, was when the NESN cameras went into the Red Sox clubhouse to watch the celebration.  Jonathan Papelbon decided to prepare for the event by wearing very little below the belt.  He must have known the NESN camera’s were there as well as the NESN reporters.  I guess he just wanted to make a statement.  I’m not sure I will recover from that sight.

I didn’t see Manny Ramirez at all during the celebration which leads me to believe he hightailed it home right after the game not realizing there was a chance to clinch.

Of course we needn’t focus on the disturbing, but rather the fact the Red Sox did indeed hold on and didn’t blow a 14 game lead.  A fun night for the Red Sox and a great issue to have settled with 2 regular season games left.

A Case For Hughes

I think it is safe to say that Hughes is back to the form we glimpsed in early May and while I know it won’t happen, Joe Torre should really think about using him as a playoff starter.

We know what Mike Mussina is at this point, he is a pitcher who when he is on can pitch six innings or so of effective baseball. Hughes has a much higher upside and he could take over a game and dominate it. I guess we might see that if Clemens can’t go, but my suspicion is that Cleveland would select the longer ALDS format and therefore the Yankees will need only three starters in Round 1.

Interesting conversation between Sterling and Waldman tonight speculating on the playoff roster. They felt that the Yankees would take only 11 pitchers and include Sardinha on the roster. The 11 pitchers were: Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, Mussina, Hughes, Rivera, Joba, Viz, Farnsworth with the final two spots coming from Villone, Ohlendorf or Veras. Based on how he was used and how he performed tonight, I would bet Veras is in the lead right now. They also said that Kennedy won’t pitch in the first round, but might be used in later rounds if the Yankees get there. He will travel with the team except presumably October 6th, when he is due to be married.

I will check in tomorrow night with some observations from down the thirdbase line at Camden Yards.

Here’s An Interesting One

Of interest to both Yankees and Red Sox fans should be the playoff scenarios in the NL. You could have the ultimate tie-breaker with five teams ending up with the same record. (New York, Philadelphia, Arizona, San Diego, Colorado) If so, you would have tiebreaking games starting Monday and ending Thursday. Since both NLDS’s are scheduled to start Wednesday, would baseball move the ALDS to those dates? It would be a pretty wild situation, but it is pretty amazing that with four games left, not one team in the NL has clinched a playoff spot.

The Clincher!

I remember being thrilled in 1995 that the Yanees took the wild card because it meant I would finally see Don Mattingly in the playoffs.  1996 made the ’97 wild card seem cheap, but this one is very special to me.  Special because I didn’t think we would ever see it.  21-29 and left for dead, Chase Wright, Matt DeSalvo and 50 starts by rookies during the year, Shelly Duncan, Hughes’ hamstring, Joba and now this. I can’t remember a season like this and once again we can look forward to October. 

Give Joe Torre a lot of credit for this.  Just like Bob Lemon in 1978, Torre provided the right demeanor for this team to thrive.  I don’t know what will happen to Joe, but if this is it, he went out on a high note, no matter what happens from here.  But, that’s for another day, for tonight just sit back and enjoy.

Take A Knee

As nice as it would be to win the division, at this point it simply isn’t worth it. Boston can go 3-2 and clinch things no matter what the Yankees do. Instead, the best idea is to get the one more win (hopefully tonight with Wang on the mound) and then go into spring training mode. (And I say this as someone who is going to Baltimore Friday night for the game)

It has been a long season and thanks to a 21-29 start, the Yankees have had to play the second-half of the season like every game is a playoff game. Giving Posada, Jeter, A-Rod, etc., time off to rest is a critical need at this point. Get one more win and then take the regular season off, it’s the smart thing to do.

What do you guys think, is the push for the division worth it?

Red Sox Line-Up: Tuesday, September 25th

Manny’s back.  Youkilis is still out.

2b – Pedroia

lf – Ramirez (hmmm, hitting 2nd, probably to get more PAs)

dh – Ortiz

3b – Lowell

rf – Drew

c – Varitek

cf – Crisp

1b – Hinske

ss – Lugo

Curt Schilling vs. Chad Guadin @ Fenway

Also of interest, Roger Clemens was scratched from his start today.  In fact, he’ll miss the entire series against Tamba Bay.  The Yankees have to be wondering just how long his hamstring strain will last.

Clemens Scratched (Again)

While the magic number sits at 1, the Yankees have some serious health problems. Roger Clemens has been scratched from tonight’s start and replaced with Kei Igawa. More ominously, the Yankees have announced that Clemens will not pitch in any of the games against Tampa.

Clearly, this is a little more than a hamstring “tweak”. How bad it is remains to be seen, but the Yankees have to hope that Clemens can get back on the mound once more before the regular season ends.

Clincha!

The Red Sox earned a playoff spot tonight beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a come from behind (after blowing the lead) win.  They are the first team to secure a playoff spot.

A few thoughts:  The Red Sox initially decided to keep the clubhouse closed off from the media to celebrate their playoff birth.  I was thinking just how different this team is than another local team, the New England Patriots.  The Pats are so secretive about this while the Red Sox, and baseball in general, is far more open to media cameras and microphones.

The Red Sox clearly gave NESN orders not to show any players jumping, drinking, or doing anything of a celebratory nature.  All we say was Tina Cervasio doing some interviews (which were far from the celebration).  By the way, I like Tina, but her questions are fairly lame.  Things like "what are you feeling right now" and " what thoughts are going through your head" just don’t work for me.  It is a difficult gig she has, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Tonight was a game where many of the most maligned Red Sox players really came through.  Jason Varitek (game tying home run), JD Drew (2 run HR), Julio Lugo (go ahead 2 run HR) and Eric Gagne (2nd consecutive scoreless inning) chipped in big time.  Good signs indeed.

As I mentioned many times, I hope the Red Sox go for the jugular and win the AL East.  Their rotation is set no matter what and there hopefully Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez will be available Monday or so.

Serenity Now

Cheers to Terry Francona for using Eric Gagne in an appropriate capacity Friday night.  Gagne recorded his 2nd "clean" inning as a Red Sox.  Expect to see Gagne in meaningless to semi-meaningless roles over the next 6 days or so and if he succeeds, then expect to see him again in important positions.

Gagne is a wild-card, pardon the pun given the Red Sox quest for an AL East crown.  If he can regain solid stature from here on out, the Red Sox bullpen, along with Jonathan Papalbon, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Clay Buchholz and Javier Lopez, look to be "pretty good" (to quote J. Peterman).

Stats through 9/20/07: 

Gagne:  9.00 ERA, 2.14 WHIP, 1-2 record

Papelbon:  1.96 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 1-3 record

Delcarmen:  2.27 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 0-1 record:

Okajima:  2.28 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 2-4 record

Buchholz: 1.59 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3-1 record

Lopez:  3.03 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2-1 record

Aside from Gagne, that’s a fairly impressive pen.  Of course Gagne has a far greater track record than most of the guys on this list, so his inclusion could end up being significant.  But he has to prove his worth over the remainder of the season.

Mike Timlin (3.66/1.22/1-1) and Kyle Snyder (3.88/1.41/2-3) deserve mention as they have been ok.  Julian Tavarez has seen some serious action too, but having not pitched since the 12th of this month, I have to assume he is an after thought.

Anyway, good W for the Red Sox.  Tampa Bay is usually good medicine for a losing streak.  Despite striking out 17, they still gave up the win.