Friday, June 30, 2006

Sox-Marlins Live Look-In

The streak is in jeopardy tonight in Miami. Entering the top of the 9th, Sox are down 5-2. Kapler just got on as Miguel Cabrera threw wild to first. One out, man on first. Gonzo up... and BIG PAPI on deck to pinch-hit... Gonzo just k'd swinging on a breaking ball in the dirt. Too eager in front of his former hometown crowd? Papi takes a ball, Kapler moves up to second on 'defensive indifference'. Kinda describes Manny sometimes. Ball 2 to Papi. Joe Borowski on the mound for Florida. Two outs. And did he just do it again?? Deep fly ball to right, caught. Streak over, though they do establish a new record for consecutive errorless games as consolation.

This one had 'L' written all over it with the Sox starting fill-in Jason Johnson and the Marlins countering with their ace, Dontrelle Willis. The Sox can't hit good lefties, let alone a guy like Willis, who looks like a human Swiss army knife when he delivers the ball at 95 mph. Things would have been really going good for the Sox if they could have pulled this one off. But Tito knew what he was up against; he sat Ortiz and Nixon tonight against the tough lefty and had Youkilis hitting third. Lowell and Youk will probably each get a game off this weekend. Wakefield vs. Brian Moehler tomorrow at 6. May a new streak begin.

The Coco Factor

This one reminded me of that crazy 13-inning game at Fenway versus the Cardinals three years ago. There was a little bit of everything - great defense, timely hitting, stolen bases, bunts, and great pitching from two guys who've been around for a while in Curt Schilling and Billerica's own Tommy Glavine.

The Sox won their 12th straight last night at Fenway, coming from behind to beat the Mets 4-2. The pivotal swing came in the Sox' home half of the seventh. Game was tied at 2, and Coco Crisp led off with a surprise bunt down the third base line. He promptly stole second off Mets reliever Aaron Heilmann, and was then sacrificed over to third by Alex Gonzalez. Kevin Youkilis followed with a sac fly to left to give the Sox the lead in textbook style. In the top of the 8th, Carlos Beltran got on with a single, and with two outs David Wright hit a smash in the left-center field gap. Coco came flying out of nowhere to make an unbelievable back-handed, fully streched out catch to preserve the lead and the win. Big Papi - who else - provided some insurance in the bottom of the 8th with his 23rd bomb. Schilling got his 10th win - and probably an All-Star appearance - and his fellow All-Star, Jonathan Papelbon, recorded his 24th save. Just a great ballgame all around, and a pleasure to watch. Seemed like a true playoff atmosphere at Fenway.

Damn, this is fun. The lead is now 4 games over the Spanks, who were idle yesterday. The Sox flew down to Miami last night to get ready for a three-game weekend series against the Marlins. Should be interesting to see Hanley Ramirez, and the reception former Marlins Beckett, Lowell, and Gonzo get (assuming there are people in the stands). Jason Johnson gets the ball for the first time for the Sox tonight; Dontrelle Willis goes for Florida.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

Well, that went perfectly didn't it? Pedro got his applause -- which he thought was more important than actually pitching well -- and the Sox hitters did what so many other teams did to Pedro in his last year with the Sox - make him labor, lose some velocity, and then pounce.

Pedro lasted a meager three innings, gave up 7 hits, 8 runs (6 earned) and struck out one. He even allowed a Monster blast to A-Gone. He never had good juice on the ball (low 90's was his best) and it seemed obvious watching on TV that he allowed himself to get swept off his feet by the fans. All in all, we got the result we wanted and team management looks pretty smahht this morning for not caving on the diva's contract demands.

Once again, what appeared to be a classic pitchers' duel between Beckett and Pedro ended up being a lopsided 10-2 victory for the good guys. Beckett looked good. If the Sox can pull off their fourth consecutive sweep tonight, look for more 'the gap between the AL and NL has never been wider' stories coming to a newspaper near you. Not exactly breaking news, but boy does the NL suck.

At the same time, the Red Sox are absolutely, positively torrid. Eleven straight wins is the most in MLB this year and the most for the Sox since 1995. They're on the verge of breaking the MLB record for most consecutive errorless games. And they're 13-1 in interleague play. Bring on the Marlins!

First, though, it's Schilling vs. Glavine tonight in the final game of the series. Gotta love the fact that the Mets are already down, and now they have to face our best pitcher.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Best We'll Ever See

To mark the return of one Pedro J. Martinez to the Fenway mound tonight (hopefully - it's raining yet again), I wanted to take a few minutes to opine on the greatest pitcher my eyes have ever seen. Forget for a moment his diva-esque ways, the special rules, his inexcusable absence from Game 6 in NYC in the '04 ALCS, and my personal low Pedro moment, when he almost decapitated Karim Garcia with a fastball for no apparent reason.

Instead, focus with me on the fact that for a three-year period -- from 1998 to 2000 - this guy was just plain unhittable. The averages during those three years: 2.20 ERA, 20 wins, 282 k's, 45 bb's. Of course, the peak was 1999 when he went 23-4, struck out 313 and walked only 37. That was the year Petey pitched in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park and reared back to strike out a murderer's row of NL bashers, including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jeff Bagwell. My all-time goosebump Pedro moment. We've heard our father and grandfathers wax poetic about Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax. When we're talking to our kids about great ballplayers, Pedro will be on the list. We'll talk about the 17 strikeout game in Yankee Stadium in May 1999, the six innings of relief against Cleveland in the ALDS that year to win the deciding Game 5, and the rush of seeing Pedro mow down the NL's best hitters that hot July. The fact that he accomplished what he did during the Steroid Era only adds to his legacy.

To understand the road Pedro took to get to where he is today, I highly recommend reading an article written by Alan Schwarz of Baseball America back in 1998. It's a bit lengthy, but an incredible read - and one that will make you appreciate both how far Pedro has come (from sitting under the mango trees) and his overall goofiness. If you want a copy, drop me a comment with your contact info and I'll gladly send along.

As far as the debate over whether Pedro gets an ovation or not, I think that was answered resoundingly last night - when the guy wasn't even starting. The Sox showed a video tribute featuring Pedro and when it was all done, the fans clamored for him to emerge from the dugout and he obliged. Let's just say Johnny Damon would be jealous. The moral of the story - if you're going to leave the Red Sox, and we know it happens - try to avoid wearing pinstripes. The ovation tonight will be deafening, and much deserved - and I think a lot of people are going to feel a tinge of sadness that we had to lose a guy like Pedro. In the end, I believe they made the right baseball decision, but goddamn it would be fun to have him around.

A Perfect '10'

After last night's 9-4 win over the Mets at Fenway, the Sox have now reeled off 10 straight wins, all against the National League. Long live interleague play!

The game was tight until the home half of the 4th inning, when Manny Ramirez hit a ball to left that Mets OF Lastings Milledge misplayed. That drove in two runs, giving the Sox a 5-2 lead. Sox starter Jon Lester struggled all night but got big outs when he needed them. Mets starter Alay Soler - who I called a youngster the other day, until I learned he was Cuban - also labored.

Regarding Pedro, we don't have to wait until tonight to see what type of reception he'll get. Between innings, Sox management played a tribute video to Pedro that ended with the fans chanting for him to come out of the dugout. He obliged, and the ovation was loud and sustained. It will be even louder tonight.

Finally, one last note. ESPN baseball analyst - and former Globe writer Peter Gammons - suffered a brain aneurysm yesterday and was rushed into Boston for surgery. Hope all goes well for the Commish.

7:05 game time tonight. As if you didn't know, Pedro goes against Josh Beckett.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just Another Day in Papi's World

Another day, another walkoff hit for David Ortiz. Big Papi singled in Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the 12th today at Fenway to beat the Phillies, 8-7. That makes it nine straight for the boys, and three straight series sweeps over the Braves, the Nationals and the Phillies. The lead is 2 1/2 over the Yankees, who beat the hapless Braves today 5-2. All is well in Red Sox Nation.

Now that we've broomed the Phillies out of town - they and their ace/wife batterer Brett Myers should get an interesting reception back home in Boo-ville - we can all focus our energy on what should be an outstanding series against the NL-leading Mets.

It's a matchup of youngsters in Game 1 tonight as someone named Alay Soler goes for the Mets against Jon Lester. Wednesday night is TiVo night at the ballpark, with Pedro going against Josh Beckett. Then the two staff warhorses, Curt Schilling and Tom Glavine, face off in the third and final game. I originally had hoped for Schilling/Pedro, but now I'm fired up that it will be Beckett against Petey. Beckett will be amped up beyond belief. Hope the 'K' card guys are ready. Here's a question - will Pedro brush Papi or Manny off the plate?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rained Out

What a bummer. Up here in the grand state of Maine - the way life should be - it's beautiful outside. Sunny skies, boats going by, barbecue's grilling. Back there in Boston, evidently, it's another monsoon day so there will be no baseball. Sox and Phils will play the finale of their three-game set tomorrow at 1 at Fenway.

Regarding my post last night about Pedro, both the NY Times and the Globe today say he's starting the middle game of the series - Wednesday night against Beckett. Still a huge profit margin for those seedy scalpers. The ovation for Pedro is going to be deafening - as it should be.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Papi is Soooo Money

The amazingness (is that a word?) continues, and maybe we shouldn't be amazed. Maybe these guys are this good. We know Big Papi is. He hit yet another dramatic walk-off home run today, this one bouncing off the black covering in the centerfield bleachers in the bottom of the 10th to give the Red Sox a 5-3 win over the Phillies. That makes it eight straight victories, and whoever said it's more fun when you win was definitely onto something.

Schilling had an interesting but effective line going six innings, giving up eight hits, three runs and striking out 10. After Schilling left, it was in the hands of the kids as Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, and Craig Hansen provided the bridge to our own homegrown All-Star, closer Jonathan Papelbon. His numbers are stunning: 38 ip, 0.24 era, 23 saves, 39 k's. Easily the Sox' first-half MVP, and a surefire pitcher for the AL in the Mid-Summer Classic.

While the Sox and Phils avoided problems with the rain, the Yankees and Marlins weren't so lucky in the Bronx. They got rained out and will play two tomorrow. The Sox' lead at the moment is 2 1/2.

Wakefield vs. Cory Lidle tomorrow in the finale, as the Sox go for their third straight sweep. Let's hope they're not looking ahead to what should be a tremendous series against the Mets starting Tuesday. I think we're all assuming that Pedro will pitch next week at Fenway, but all the sites I've checked tonight list Lester/Soler in Game 1, Beckett/Glavine in Game 2, and undecided for the Mets vs. Schilling in Game 3. If it's Pedro vs. Schilling Thursday night, how happy will the scalpers be? New white adidas sneakers and jeans shorts for everyone!!

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Josh & Manny Show

The streaking Sox won their 7th straight tonight, soundly beating the Phillies at Fenway 10-2. Josh Beckett had a perfect game going through five, until that little runt David Bell lined a single up the middle in the sixth. Still, it was far and away the best performance we've seen by Beckett, and makes you wonder how the guy can look so awful one night and so dominant the next. On the offensive side of the stat sheet, well... let's just say Manny's getting into one of those grooves. He went 3 for 4 with two home runs and 5 RBIs.

Weather forecast for tomorrow isn't looking so good. Maybe it is time for that retractable roof.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

On a Roll

The train kept a'rolling tonight at Fenway as the Sox again pasted the Nationals, 9-3. Lester looked outstanding in his third major league start, striking out 10 and pretty much having his way with the free-swinging Nats. Ortiz got things started with a grand slam to straightaway center in the second. Sox sweep their second series in a row, and have now won six straight. In the three-game set with Washington, the Sox banged out 46 hits and scored 26 runs. All is good in the Nation right now, especially if Lester can be a solid contributor the rest of the year. Yanks beat the Phillies tonight so the lead remains 2.

Of course, the naysayers in the local media (Tony Mazz) will no doubt use the consecutive ass-whippings of the Braves and Nationals as fodder for their argument that the Sox only play well against low-quality opponents. Look for that column to resurface in a Herald near you.

The Sox will be tested over the next week by the top two teams in the NL East, as the Phillies come to town this weekend and then the front-running Mets follow them into Fenway. Very much looking forward to that series. You heard it here first (okay, maybe not first): we will see a 20th anniversary rematch between the Mets and the Red Sox in the 2006 World Series. Can you even begin to imagine Schilling vs. Pedro in Game 1?

Downright Offensive

Eleven runs, 17 hits, a solid performance from Wake, and key hits from the bottom of the order (Crisp, Mirabelli, Cora went 6 for 13, five runs scored, 4 RBI) all added up to the Sox' fifth straight victory last night. Final score: 11-3 over the hapless Nationals at Fenway.

Unfortunately, the Yankees came from behind to beat Philly last night so the lead stays at 2. Two young'uns go tonight in the finale -- Jon Lester vs. Sean Hill.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sox-Nats, Game 2

Sox have strung a few hits together tonight and have a nice 4-0 lead over the Nationals in the bottom of the 2nd. Wake's going against the king of all rubber arms, Livan Hernandez. The guy's made 30 starts in eight straight seasons.

Last night's 6-3 win in the first game will be fondly remembered for the Gabe Kapler ovation, a Manny faux pas, and a Manny home run. Oh yeah, Kyle Snyder, too.

Kapler made his first appearance after rehabbing from an Achilles tear, and played his usual hard-nosed brand. He got multiple loud ovations, which must make John Damon cringe. Manny's goof came on a play when Mark Loretta was trying to score. Manny was in the on-deck circle and should have signaled to Loretta whether to slide or come in standing. Loretta guessed wrong and came in standing. (Tito, on the radio today, said "Manny just got caught doing a little spectating there...") Of course, Manny redeemed himself later with a patented moon shot over the Monster.

And Kyle Snyder? The guy was waived by the worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals. A six-foot-eight Bronson Arroyo lookalike. And he did his job to a T. Five innings, a handful of K's, and he kept his team in the game. Well done, Kyle. Now be on your way...

Live update: Sox have stretched lead to 6-0. Rubber Arm Livan has been pulled by his skipper, the great Frank Robinson. Robby's not shy in giving his opinion on all the steroid cheats the game has seen over the past few years. He was quoted in the Globe today saying, "If it's proven that they did steroids - and we can't prove that yet - but if it is proven, they should wipe out all the numbers. All of them." He's got a right to speak up: his 586 total home runs once had him pretty high up on the all-time list. Now he's been leapfrogged by a bunch of frauds.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Satisfying Sweep

Well, we saw it with our own eyes this weekend. It's true - the mighty Atlanta Braves are circling the drain. Still, a sweep on the road is a sweep on the road, and last night's 10-7 win over the Braves was a gratifying one.

Curt Schilling pitched six full innings, then gave way to Manny Delcarmen in the 7th with the Sox nursing a 3-2 lead. Delcarmen quickly got two outs, then gave up a single to Andruw Jones and Tito pulled him in favor of newly acquired lefty Javier Lopez. Lopez proceeded to walk Brian McCann, and Tito pulled him in favor of Rudy Seanez. And you know what's coming next -- a juicy meatball over the plate to free-swinging Jeff Francoeur and all of a sudden, a 5-3 Braves lead.

The Sox fought back in the 8th, exploding for six runs. Key hits came from Coco Crisp and Mike Lowell, whose pinch-hit double to the gap in right-center gave the Sox the lead for good. Final score: 10-7, good guys.

Boston now holds a one-game lead in the seesaw AL East, by virtue of the Nationals' come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Yankees yesterday. The Sox kick off a three-game series against those very same Nationals starting tonight at Fenway.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ortiz Gives Sox Early Lead

A little live update...

Papi hit a Smoltz fastball out to left-center in the 1st inning to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. We're now in the home half of the 3rd and Ozzie Smith is paying a visit.

Joe Morgan just did his "Joe Morgan Swing Analyzer" on Ortiz. His first point: Big Papi has a wide base. His second point: The team that scores the most runs tonight will win this ballgame.

Bad News Braves

It's been a long time since we've seen a Braves team slump this badly, 14 years to be exact. The last time the Braves were nine games under .500 - which they are this morning thanks to the Sox and Josh Beckett last night - was 1992.

Bobby Cox's crew is 2-14 in the month of June, and his team is 13 games out of first place. Yesterday, the Sox added to their misery with a clean 5-3 victory. Beckett threw a lot of pitches (over 100 in six innings) but mixed them effectively enough to keep the Braves hitters off-balance. Offensively, Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch of the ballgame out of the yard, Big Papi smashed his 19th home run, and Alex Gonzalez banged out three hits. Papelbon (yawn) earned his 22nd save.

One interesting sidenote to this interleague series is how many Red Sox fans are in the stands in Atlanta. Whenever the Sox do something good, you can hear the cheers coming through your TV set. "It's pretty irritating," said Braves OF Jeff Francouer in this morning's Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "When David Ortiz hit that home run and he got a standing ovation, it's unsettling to hear that at home." Now you know how the Devil Dogs and Orioles feel, Jeff. Two words: play better.

Third and final game is on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball tonight, which unfortunately means we're forced to listen to Joe Morgan. No, not the colorful ex-Sox manager - rather, the Hall of Fame 2B from the Big Red Machine who has to be the worst analyst in the history of sports broadcasting. That's a lot of analysts. In fact, calling Joe Morgan an analyst really isn't accurate. He's more like a celebrity guest who stops by the booth every now and then to schmooze - only he never leaves. I've always said - if you want to bring terrorists worldwide to their knees, lock them in a room on a Sunday night in June, with one team enjoying a blowout early in the game. Morgan's useless, inane "analysis" will get them to squeal every time. (Imagine Joe Morgan in Arabic?)

Alright, enough - let's focus on the good. We've got a superb pitching matchup tonight with old guns Curt Schilling and John Smoltz facing each other. I think I heard it's the first time in 9 years the two have gone head to head - makes sense with Smoltzy's long stint as closer. Joe Morgan be damned, it should be a good one.

Happy Dad's day to all...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Youth is Served

The Sox are going to need young Jon Lester to come through, and if last night was any indication, he could give the team (pardon the pun) a huge shot in the arm.

Lester won his first major league game last night against the Braves and Tim Hudson in Atlanta. Not too shabby. The talented southpaw (think John Tudor with more velocity and a better bender) went six full innings, struck out five, walked three and gave up one run. Just a huge performance, particularly coming off an ugly sweep in Minnesota.

The big hit came from Captain 'Tek in the third, when he slammed a double to right-center with the bases full. All three came around to score, putting the Sox ahead 4-1 for good. The rest of the game went according to plan - Seanez pitched an effective seventh, Timlin a clean eighth, and Pap, per usual, slammed the door in the ninth.

Today, we'll see if Josh Beckett has made any adjustments since his woeful outing a week ago. He goes against Lance Cormier. Game time: 1:20. And we'll be watching, because there's no Tiger on TV this weekend. :-(

Notes: The team put Matt Clement on the 15-day DL yesterday with a weak shoulder, and called up old pal Gabe Kapler from Pawtucket. Kap, you'll remember, suffered an ugly Achilles tear running from second to third in Tampa last fall. Glad to see him back. The Sox also traded for Kyle Snyder, a journeyman starter who was most recently in the Royals system. Snyder may start on Monday against the Nationals at Fenway, which would have been Clement's turn.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sox Swept

Oh well - at least the Yankees lost.

The Sox were swept by the Twins last night for the first time in 12 years, going down 5-3. They were done in by the immortal tandem of Carlos Silva and Jason Kubel, the latter of whom hit his third straight clutch homer in this series. They were also done in by all the shit hanging down from the Metrodome roof. Big Papi hit what looked like an absolute monster shot in the sixth, only to have the ball carom off a speaker and bounce back onto the field. Probably the longest single you'll ever see. It was that kind of night, and that kind of series.

Now it's on to Atlanta for three this weekend and a reunion with old friend Edgar Renteria, who's off to a great start for the Braves. Jon Lester against Tim Hudson tonight, and we need the young man to come through.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Door Matt

I hate to pile on, but hand me a shovel. The $25 Million Matt Clement Experiment has officially hit rock bottom. Could he be in for the Russ Ortiz treatment soon?

Clement once again threw up all over himself last night against the Twins, and it certainly didn't help that the bats were ice cold. It is painfully clear that Clement is still affected by the scary line drive he took off the head last year in Tampa - he's downright jittery out there. It also doesn't help that the bullpen currently consists of two reliable guys, Papelbon and Timlin (and Timlin just came back from a DL stint). Maybe Theo can package Clement, Rudy and Julian and we can start using the kids on the farm. Something's gotta give.

Anyway, Sox go down without a fight last night in Minnesota, losing 8-1. Highlight of the game: a fan jumped on the field late and was very adept at eluding the out-of-shape Metrodome security staff. The guy slid into home plate just steps from Big Papi before the Red Sox batboy absolutely laid him out ala Jack Tatum. Note to NESN: the game was over - can't you show us some entertainment?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pair of Aces

For once this year, what looked like a classic pitchers duel actually ended up being a classic pitchers duel.

The amazing Johan Santana struck out 13 Red Sox last night, and while our man Curt Schilling didn't quite match the diminutive Venezuelan K for K, he pitched a damn fine ballgame himself. The game was scoreless through seven when Jason Varitek hit a huge homer to give our boys a 1-0 lead. At this point, you're thinking 'okay, get the ball to Papelbon and let's steal this one.' Unfortunately, Michael Cuddyer had other plans, and knocked an 0-2 Schilling offering out of the park in the home half of the seventh. Schilling left after eight, Papelbon pitched two scoreless innings, Timlin pitched one scoreless inning, and then the Sox went ahead 2-1 in the 12th on an Alex Gonzalez fielder's choice. Francona called for Julian Tavarez to pitch the 12th, and Tavarez immediately proceeded to get himself into a major jam. With the bases juiced, someone named Jason Kubel sent Red Sox fans to bed at approximately 11:30 Eastern time with a crushing grand slam for a 5-2 Twins victory.

Should be a lot of baserunning tonight at the Metrodome - Matt Clement opposes Brad Radke and both have 6-plus ERA's.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tito's 'B' Team Loses Nightcap

I understand why he did it - a day/night doubleheader, a day off today and a long trip to Minneapolis... but still... Willie Harris playing for Manny just makes me sick inside. In contrast, Buck Showalter played his big guns in the second game and the Rangers left town with a 13-6 win and a split of the four-game series.

David Pauley's third start looked conspicuously like his first start - in other words, not so good. He was sent down to Pawtucket immediately after the game to make room for the returning Mike Timlin. Rangers starter John Wasdin, on the other hand, looked like anyone but the John Wasdin we once knew and loved around here. He was strangely effective for six innings.

Day of rest today, and then the Sox take their act to the Metrodome to play the struggling Twins. The lead stands at 1 over the New Yorkers.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Papi!!! Papi!!!

Oh my goodness - can this guy be any more clutch? Papi just smacked a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th with two outs to give the Sox a 5-4 walk-off win over the Rangers in the first game of two. Would we expect anything less from Papi?

Best of all, the Yankees lose again to the A's today, 6-5. A's complete the weekend sweep. Sox lead is currently 1 1/2, so a win in the nightcap would make it a nice even two (I think) as they head on to Minnesota and Atlanta. Papi's clout has taken a little pressure off Pauley heading into the second game, so I'm looking for him to be pretty effective. A six-inning, 7-hit, 2 or 3-run performance ought to do and we'll just beat up on John Wasdin. Yeah, that's the plan. Let's go execute.

Marathon Day

"It's a great day for baseball. Let's play two."
- Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks

Okay, so it's not your traditional doubleheader, but then again we don't have those anymore. Nowadays, it takes bad weather to create doubleheaders and we certainly know all about that around here.

It was another long day for Sox fans yesterday, especially those that made the trek to Fenway. Rain continued to intervene with baseball, and instead of a doubleheader yesterday we're going to get a twinbill today. Gametime was supposed to be 1:25 yesterday, but the game didn't get going until just before 6:30. That wiped out the chance to get the second game in, so they'll start at noontime today and then the second game will start at 5. This helps circumvent ESPN's restrictions so NESN can broadcast both games.

So we had to wait a little longer to see Jon Lester pitch, but it did happen. He was a mixed bag, but I think we saw enough to realize what everyone likes about him. He was most definitely amped up - which he admitted after the game - and that made him overthrow at times. He walked four in four innings. But he had some pop on his pitches, almost unexpected pop coming from a slight lefty. He also showed an impressive hard curve that he was able to get over pretty consistently.

Unfortunately, the Sox couldn't get Lester a win in his debut. He handed the baton to Julian Tavarez with the game tied at 3 in the fifth inning, and it stayed that way until the 7th when Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler knocked in two. Manny narrowed the lead to 1 with his 450th career homer in the 8th, but Foulkie gave it up to Hank Blalock in the 9th and Texas pulled away for a 7-4 win.

As a result of yesterday's chaos, the pitching matchups have been juggled a bit and we won't get to see Home Run Derby between Josh Beckett and John "Wayyyy Back" Wasdin. Instead, Beckett goes against Rangers ace Kevin Millwood today at noon, and it's David Pauley getting another shot in the second game against Wasdin. I didn't think Tito had the balls/sense to skip Clement today, but maybe Clement's a little more banged up than we've been led to believe.

Yanks lost again to the A's yesterday, so Sox lost an opportunity to separate. Barry Zito vs. Shawn Chacon today.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Everyone Loves a Debut

Today is one of those days where something little that makes baseball baseball is happening in Boston: the debut of a prized young pitcher.

Red Sox fans have heard and read much about lefty starter Jon Lester over the past few years. We've seen his name mentioned in numerous trades, and always Theo and the gang insist on keeping Lester out of it. Today, Ma Nature willing, we'll get a chance to see why.

The last time there was this much hype over a lefty's debut: Kevin Morton in July 1991. Francona had a good line about not getting too caught up in a pitcher's first game. "If he pitches a bad game, it doesn't mean he's a bad pitcher - and if he pitches seven shutout innings they're not getting his Cooperstown plaque ready."

The various media outlets all cover Lester's debut, with the Globe's Chris Snow examining how the Sox have kept Lester out of the media's glare this weekend.

The Herald's John Tomase and the ProJo's Sean McAdam also weigh in on Lester this morning.

A Big Night for Trot

Well, they didn't think they were going to get this one in. With the Rain-gers being in town and all, the forecast didn't look so good. But Christopher Trotman Nixon is awfully happy that the rain held off. Trot ended up going a perfect 4-for-4, including a three-run homer and a key single in the 8th to set up the 4-3 win in the series opener against Texas. By virtue of the win, the Sox leapfrogged over the Yankees and now have a 1/2 game lead.

This one was also newsworthy because Jonathan Papelbon's save streak came to an end. He entered the game in the 8th, surrendered the tying run, and then stuck in there and got the win. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears after he gave up the run.

It's raining again this morning, and the teams are scheduled to play a day-night doubleheader. As we've been saying for the last month, we'll see what happens. Jon Lester makes his much-anticipated debut at 1:25. Beckett tries to right his ship tonight at 8.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sox Avoid Bronx Broom

Last night's series finale in New York was a big game for our heroes. If they lose, they trudge back to Fenway today 2 1/2 games behind Joe Torre's band of overachievers. Win, and the lead's shaved down to a 1/2 game.

Thanks to a strong performance from Curt Schilling and some timely hitting from the offense, the Sox left NYC with a 9-3 victory. Schilling gave up three solo home runs, but at the end of the night was still the first AL hurler to get his ninth win. Offensively, it was a hit parade as seven guys got multiple hits, including Jason Varitek's three-run blast in the 7th that allowed the Sox to pull away. All in all, a very gratifying win - especially considering A-Fraud made another crucial error.

We now have four against the Rangers at Fenway, starting tonight with Wake going against Vicente Padilla. Day-night doubleheader tomorrow -- young phenom Jon Lester goes in the afternoon game, then it's Beckett vs. Wasdin in the 2006 Gopher Ball Championship at night. Millwood and Clement wrap it up on Sunday.

I'll be watching young Mr. Lester's performance via DVR. The Kampy family is heading to the Poconos this weekend to hang out with all the bluehairs. Shuffleboard, anyone?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Washed Out

It's raining again in Boston, and it was raining hard last night about 200 miles south in the Bronx. Sox and Yanks game was called off early - Schilling and Wright will go tonight in the series finale.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pauley Want a Spot in the Rotation?

Well, it didn't quite unfold the way we thought last night at Yankee Stadium, but the result was still what we expected going in - a loss. David Pauley pitched valiantly in his second start but it wasn't enough as the Sox lost a tough one to the Yanks, 2-1. This one almost hurt more than the blowout in the opener.

Pauley lasted 6 2/3 innings, scattered eight hits (always
'scattered' when you pitch well), and gave up two runs. Not a glittering line, but he gave the team a huge lift by protecting the bullpen. Wang matched Pauley pitch for pitch and got the win.

Two plays of the game - Pauley missing a little grounder to his left in the 7th that allowed the inning to continue, and Melky Cabrera's fantastic catch in the 8th that robbed Manny of a home run that would have tied the game.

Need a victory tonight. Schilling vs. Jaret Wright in Game 3.

By the way, big night last night for the expanding Red Sox alumni club. Johnny Damon threw out Manny Ramirez in the Bronx, Derek Lowe faced off against Pedro Martinez in LA, and Nomar Garciaparra hit a home run off Pedro.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Split Personality

This one was summed up by, of all people, Jerry Trupiano on WEEI. "Lots of strange things happening here tonight, and none of them have been good for the Red Sox.... here's the pitch... 2 and 1... and now there's three birds flying around the mound... What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?... Fouled off... 2 and 2..."

What a weird, ugly, putrid, horrific, disappointing ending to a night that seemed so promising. Beckett vs. Mussina. The scrappy, depleted Yanks against the Sox for first place. Time to put some separation between these guys.

And then before you know it, they're down 8-2 after 2 and 13-2 after 3 and Tito is waving the white flag. Time to read a book or watch a movie.

Beckett gave up 7 runs in an inning and a third, and again had major trouble with the longball on the road, giving up three-run bombs to Andy Phillips and Jason Giambi. Jermaine Van Buren - who's been looking pretty good lately - then came in and walked the ballpark, eliminating any thought of a Red Sox comeback. Mussina pitched pretty well for the Yanks.

So what is wrong with our young ace Josh Beckett? Lots of theories flying around this morning -- his fastball is too straight... he throws too many fastballs... he's tipping his pitches. Whatever it is, it's downright maddening. The guy can look like Bob Gibson one night and John Wasdin the next.

And it doesn't get much better tonight. David Pauley gets another start versus Chien-Ming Wang.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sox Take 2 of 3 From Tigers

They're g-rrrrrrrreat. Or maybe just good.

After losing 6-2 Saturday night to Jeremy Bonderman and the Tigers, the Sox closed out their visit to Detroit on a positive note yesterday with a nice 8-3 victory.

Drama queen Matt Clement came through with a well-pitched ballgame, and the offense poured it on with four homers, including one each from Manny, Papi, Youk, and Gonzo (he gets a nickname when he's going good).

Now it's onto New York for what feels like the 20th game this season between the Sox and Yankees. Great one tonight - Beckett vs. Mussina. Be nice to get the W tonight, with Pauley getting another start tomorrow. The Yanks, to their credit, are unbelievably banged up but they're hanging in there. Let's take 3 of 4 and make a statement.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Best Game of the Year

That's what last night's series opener in Detroit was. Great game between the Tigers - who own the best record in the majors - and the Sox - who were just coming off a clutch win in Toronto. Curt Schilling and Kenny Rogers went toe-to-toe, and Detroit took a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth. Todd Jones was on the verge of yet another save, but our man Youk had different ideas, hitting one out to left-center - just over the outfielder's glove. Just like that it was 3-2 Sox and you knew it was over with Papelbon coming in. These last two road wins have been huuuge. They easily could have left Toronto 0-3 on this tough trip and without Youk's heroics last night, could be 0-4. Amazingly, the depleted Yankees are only 1/2 game behind the Sox - they beat the pathetic Orioles last night.

Wakefield vs. Bonderman tonight in Game 2.

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