Saturday, September 29, 2007

And 12-Pack on the Head Time

Just had to post this one, too - that's Papelbon with the box on his head. Classic.

Goggle Time

That's, um, our star closer in the picture. Yup, the same guy on the SI cover in the previous post. I am now an even bigger fan of Jonathan Papelbon.

In a wild string of events last night, the Red Sox clinched the AL East crown for the first time in 12 years. What followed was a veritable love-in at Fenway well into the night.

Let me recap the scene. After the Sox had dispatched the Twins last night, behind Dice-K and Big Papi, they retreated to the locker room to watch the Yankees-Orioles game. A Yankee loss would give the Sox the division, but it didn't look promising. The Yanks had a 9-6 loss heading into the 9th with Mariano Rivera coming on. As the Sox watched in the clubhouse, thousands of fans stuck around Fenway and watched the game on the Jumbotron. Against all odds, the Orioles scored three in the ninth to tie it up - with old friend Jay Payton delivering - and then won it in the 12th on, of all things, a Melvin Mora suicide squeeze. As soon as that happened, it was Goggle Time. First made famous by Pedro and Big Papi, the idea is to wear swimming goggles during champagne celebrations so your eyes don't get messed up.

After they celebrated in the clubhouse, the public love-in began with the team heading out to the field en masse to celebrate with the fans. It was pretty cool to see guys taking laps, shaking fans' hands, spraying champagne, etc., with the hearty souls who stuck around.

So what does our closer's head feel like this morning? Like Keith Moon's doing a drum solo inside it, but who cares - he can take a nap in the bullpen today. The division is ours, we've got home field advantage, and it looks like we're going to be playing the Angels, who we match up well against.

The real season begins Wednesday or Thursday, and it can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And Down the Stretch They Come...

Look who's on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated...

One more week to go before October baseball, and you certainly wouldn't know it around here today, where the temps at Fenway for tonight's game against the A's are hovering in the 80's. The Sox play two against Oakland, and then have four against Minnesota to close out the regular season. Going into tonight's game, the Sox have a 2-game lead on the Spanks, and are a 1/2 game behind the Indians for the AL's best record.

The AL playoff teams are pretty much set - it's the Sox (who clinched a berth Saturday night in Tampa), Yankees, Angels, and Indians. In the NL, the Mets, Phillies and Cubs are in the mix, and a few other teams. Maybe the Diamondbacks and Padres. Maybe the Brewers. Not sure, don't care.

The Sox' magic number to clinch the division is 5, and they're currently leading the A's, 3-1, in the fifth. Big news tonight is Manny's back in the lineup. And believe it or not, the big hit so far has come from J.D. Drew. All the frothy media debate around here (there's always something) has been on whether the Sox should try to win their first Division crown since 1995, or should they get everyone healthy. It's a tricky balance as Tito would tell you. There's a little wrinkle this year in that the team with the best record gets to choose a longer or shorter first-round series.

Me personally, I don't want the Sox to have to travel to Anaheim. I want home field advantage, and would rather face the Angels than the Indians. Just a gut feeling - I fear the Angels' pitching much less than I fear Sabathia and Carmona. Let the Yanks have those guys.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Twenty was a magic number last night in Tampa, as Josh Beckett won his 20th game of the year - all but assuring himself of the Cy Young Award - and Mike Lowell hit his 20th homer to become the first Red Sox third baseman to hit 20 in back to back seasons. Oh yeah - the best news - the Sox beat nemesis Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays 8-1, and the Yankees dropped a 14-inning heartbreaker to Toronto. The AL East lead now stands at 2 1/2 games.

It was a much-needed confidence booster for a team that was badly listing. The game was locked at 1 until the top of the 3rd, when the Red Sox went ahead for good on a David Ortiz single and a Kazmir wild pitch. From that point on, Jason Varitek and Lowell hit homers to ice it. Big Papi was supposed to be given the night off to rest his ailing knee against a tough lefty, but in stark contrast to Manny he begged into the lineup and ended up being the difference-maker.

Tonight it's Dice-K vs. Andy Sonnanstine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gut Check Time

Strap yourselves in boys and girls - it's gonna be wild and woolly for the next couple of weeks in the AL East. The seemingly insurmountabe 14 1/2 game lead the Sox had on the Yankees has almost entirely dissolved - and really, it's surprising that the Sox even still have a lead. The Yankees have put on a show since the All-Star break, and the Sox have been in a daze.

Looking at the schedules the rest of the way, I'd give the Yanks an edge in terms of competition. The Sox get one day off, while the Yanks get none.

9/21-23 @ Tampa Bay
9/25-26 Oakland
9/27-30 Minnesota

9/21-24 Toronto
9/25-27 @ Tampa Bay
9/28-30 @ Baltimore

The D-Rays have been tough on the Sox lately, and it won't be easy tonight against Scott Kazmir. Thankfully, we have our ace Josh Beckett on the mound going for his 20th so it should be a good one. Bet the under. The Sox need to take 2 of 3 from Tampa, and then need to at least split the six games against the A's and Twins at Fenway. Both teams are out of the postseason mix, but they do have guys named Haren and Santana.

The Yanks, meanwhile, get the Blue Jays in the Bronx this weekend and then travel to Tampa and Baltimore to close out the regular season. They should catch a break in Baltimore, as the Orioles have shut down their two stud pitchers - Erik Bedard and Jeremy Guthrie - for the remainder of the season.

Schedules aside, what the Red Sox really need is to get healthy. They're missing a third of their lineup with Manny, Youkilis, and Coco Crisp all out. At this point, all the talk in Boston is about whether winning the division matters. Those who say it doesn't are full of shit. Of course it does - the Sox haven't won the division since 1995, they've pretty much led wire to wire, and they deserve it. I don't want to see them have to travel to Anaheim for the first round of the playoffs. If they don't win the AL East, we all know they're in the playoffs as the wild card. Not a bad consolation prize, but certainly not the way to enter the dance.

I know, I know - anything can happen. The 83-79 Cardinals proved that last year. I just want our team back, and then let's go from there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Leftovers

It was a full plate of sports this past weekend... some quick-hit thoughts to get off my chest.

* Don't look now, but the goddamn Yankees are 3-1/2 games behind our Red Sox, the closest they've been since early May. I don't care what anyone says - I want the fucking division. Whatever happens in the playoffs happens but don't let the Yankees have that celebration this year. It's all hands on deck time, and that means you Manny. Take the giant condom off your head and get the hell back in the lineup. And Tito, it's okay to pitch Buccholz again - really, it is.

* The NFL pregame shows are generally unwatchable, and with all these harebrains weighing in on the Belichick saga yesterday it was even more insufferable. I cannot believe the hypocrisy we saw yesterday - every NFL coach and player past and present knows this type of videotaping goes on, and nobody ever calls anyone out. Belichick was wrong, and he has been penalized. But what Eric Mangina and the Jets have done here is they've initiated investigations throughout the league for similar rules violations.

* Quite possibly my two favorite plays from this weekend's Sox-Yanks, Pats-Chargers extravaganza: 1) Eric Hinske colliding with Jorge Posada at the plate on Saturday. Hinske knew halfway down the line that he was a dead duck. He made an instantaneous decision, and delivered a huge, clean blow on Posada. Still one of my favorite plays in baseball - and credit to Posada for hanging on to the ball and not coming out of the game. He's a pussy, but he's a tough pussy - if that make sense. And 2) Maybe a random one, but the play Wes Welker made against the Chargers when he snared a Tom Brady pass, spun on a dime, and put an absolutely ridiculous Barry Sanders-like move on an SD defender. 2A) Adalius Thomas' interception and return for TD. That's an atha-leet.

* The BC Eagles are making some noise this year, and QB Matt Ryan is starting to get a little national pub. BC beat Georgia Tech soundly on Saturday in Atlanta, and the latest polls have BC ranked 12th.

* Anyone can win in the wild, wacky, parity-ridden NFL of 2007. The Patriots appear to be head and shoulders above the rest after just two games. Barring injuries, it's hard to imagine this team not getting to Arizona in February. How sweet would it be to see Goodell handing a fourth Lombardi to BB and Krafty?

* Belichick has to be affected by the vitriol he's heard and read in the past week. People genuinely dislike him. Maybe this episode - which I maintain has been blown way out of proportion - will prove a humbling experience. It better.

* Could the Patriots go undefeated? They have the third-toughest schedule in the NFL - including games against Baltimore, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Philly. But my they're looking pretty good right now aren't they?

*If the playoffs started today, my Red Sox rotation would be Beckett, Schilling, Dice-K, and Buchholz. I'm comfortable with the pitching. It's the bats that need to be more consistent. Paging Manuel Ramirez... paging Manuel Ramirez...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sports-Viewing Nirvana

This has to be what sports spectating is like up in heaven. At around 8:30 p.m. tonight, I saw Tom Brady hit Ben Watson for a quick-strike touchdown against the hated Chargers in Foxborough, and then I flipped the channel and saw Sox rookie wunderkind Jacoby Ellsbury steaming around third and scoring the Sox' first run against the hated Roger Clemens and the Yankees at Fenway. What a nice moment - and really, we owe it all to Bob Adler and the guy who raised his hand in a meeting and said 'we need a 'last' button on this remote control thingy.'

It's a cool night here in Boston - fall weather has most definitely arrived - and us sporting junkies have a fun double bill going on tonight with the Patriots and Chargers playing on national TV and the Red Sox and Yankees playing at Fenway. The sappy Dan Shaughnessy column tomorrow will be front page, bet your bottom dollar. In addition to good rivalry games, they both have some added drama - with the spying story revolving around BB and the NEP - not to mention the lingering bad blood from last year's playoff win over the Chargers - and Roger Clemens on the mound for the Spanks in what could be his last-ever appearance in Boston.

Right now, the baseball game is a lot closer than the football game. The Patriots have come to play tonight - this is a big-time statement game for them - and they're leading the Chargers 31-7 late in the 3rd. Two more Brady to Moss TD's. A sweet interception and return by freak of nature Adalius Thomas. The Sox game is currently 1-1 in the top of the eighth. Schilling vs. Jeter, second and third, 2 out... Schilling has pitched a great one... Jeter fouls it off for a 2-2 count... this is probably Big Curt's last inning so he could get a nice serenade if he can just get this last out. Obligatory closeup of Joe Torre. The man's nose is supernatural. Big moment right here, right now. And Jeter hits a three-run homer over the Wall. Sheeee-it. Not the way Schilling wanted to end what otherwise was a great outing. 4-1 Yanks, but we've always got the Pats.

It's 31-7 Patriots at the end of three, with the Chargers on the verge of punching another one in. And they just got it - Rivers hits Antonio Gates in the corner and it's 31-14. Need to throw lots of Maroney and Morris at 'em right now, burn some clock, eat up some real estate... and then throw a quick-hit to Randy for another score.

Pigskin Prognostications

Hey, everyone else is doing it... here are some picks for today's NFL games. All predictions are against the straight line. Use this astute analysis, dissection, and wisdom at your own risk. I have absolutely, positively no clue what I'm talking about and neither do you. That's why they got those big, majestic buildings out there in Vegas.

Atlanta (+10) @ Jacksonville: Who cares? The Jaguars were one of those teams this week whining about the Patriots, and I can't stand that ingrate Jack Del Rio, so let's go with the Falcons to cover. That's a pick based on sound research, eh?

Pittsburgh (-10) @ Buffalo: Tough one here. The Steelers seem to have regained their mojo this year, which seems to strangely coincide with the fact that Ben Roethlisberger didn't fall off any motorsickles in the offseason. They will be one of the contendahs in the AFC. On the other hand, emotion is a dangerous thing in pro football, and the Bills will be looking to win one for Kevin Everett, the tight end who suffered a severe spinal cord injury last week. I'll take the Bills to at least cover.

Cincinnati (-7) @ Cleveland: Boy, tough week all around for Bill Belichick and his former lead assistants. Belichick's reputation took a big hit, Charlie Weis' Irish are 0-3 (!) in the college football ranks, and Romeo Crennel and the Browns are circling the drain - and it's only Week 2. Shouldn't be long before we see Brady Quinn. The Bengals, meanwhile, are a solid football team on both sides of the ball. They will win decisively.

Green Bay (+2.5) @ NY Giants: Will he or won't he? The story all week has been whether Eli Manning would play, and really, if you're the Packers defense, don't you want him to suit up? The Packers, in my humble opinion, are better than most people think, and the Giants will suffer from not having lead running back/bowling ball Brandon Jacobs in the lineup. Packers are the pick. 1 pm, TV: Ch. 25

Houston (+6.5) @ Carolina: Defensive line afficianados will love the Julius Peppers/Mario Williams matchup today in Charlotte. The Texans are 1-0 after beating the sorry-ass Chiefs last night, and I like the move they made in the offseason to replace David Carr with Matt Schaub. Carolina surprised with a relatively easy win over St. Louis last week, but just for kicks I'll go with Houston and the points.

Indianapolis (-7) @ Tennessee: The Colts haven't played football since last Thursday when they trounced the Saints in the league opener. The extra layoff won't hurt. Can't we just do the rematch of last year's AFC Championship game between the Colts and Pats now? Colts are victorious with room to spare. 1 pm, TV: Ch. 4

New Orleans (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay: There's no way Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, et al, are as bad as they looked against Indy. Many "experts" had the Saints pegged as the NFC rep in Arizona in February. Today's the day we see the real Saints.

San Francisco (+3) @ St. Louis: With the Pats losing a draft pick due to SpyGate, it's time to root for San Fran to lose every single week. We have their first-round pick in 2008. Good running back matchup here with Frank Gore vs. Steven Jackson. The Rams lost a tough one on the road to Carolina last week but should bounce back here.

Dallas (-3.5) @ Miami: Ah, the long-awaited rematch of the 1972 Super Bowl. Hard to figure out what kind of team Dallas is. Their offense put up 45 points last week, but their defense let up 35 to an undermanned Giants team. What I do know is that the Dolphins royally suck. Go with Dallas.

Minnesota (+3) @ Detroit: The rookie bowl. Adrian Peterson vs. Calvin Johnson. The Lions may be among the most improved teams this year, with offensive guru Mike Martz calling the shots, underrated Jon Kitna at the controls, and the gifted young Johnson looking to make an impact in his first season. Okay, quiz time now - quick, name the Vikings quarterback. Exactly. I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm going with the Lions to cover the 3.

Seattle (-2.5) @ Arizona: If both offenses play like they did last week, go with the under. That Arizona-SF Monday night game was brutal to watch, and the Seahawks slogged their way to a win over Tampa Bay. Look for the Seahawks to play better this week on the road.

Kansas City (+12) @ Chicago: So I got HBO this week and I started watching "Hard Knocks" - the cool series that goes inside a team's training camp. This year's subject is Herm Edwards and the Chiefs, and you know your team is in trouble when the highlight is one of your players flashing his dance moves in the locker room. Can you imagine BB giving this type of access to anyone? The Bears, on the other hand, are angry after last week's bruising defeat to the Chargers and despite the fact that they still employ Rex Grossman, will not start this season 0-2. Will they cover? Why, I do believe they will. If a dance competition all of a sudden breaks out, though, all bets are off.

NY Jets (+10) @ Baltimore: I never bought into the whole Patriots-Jets rivalry. Like the Red Sox-Yankees - at least before 2004 - the argument was 'where's the rivalry? The Yankees win all the time.' Same with the Patriots-Jets. The Jets certainly don't win all the time, and their organization is made up of a bunch of turncoats. I have a new reason to hate another New York team. Emotions aside, the key question today is whether Steve McNair or Kyle Boller is calling the signals for the Ravens. Baltimore dropped a tough one to the Bengals last week, and Ray Lewis and the boys will be out for some blood. Always a good time. Ravens are the pick. 4:15 pm, TV: Ch. 4

Oakland (+10) @ Denver: The good news for the Raiders: they finally inked JaMarcus Russell to a long-term deal. The bad news: he's gained 20 pounds and doesn't know the playbook. Just kidding. Don't know how long the Daunte Culpepper experiment will last, but Denver ain't losing this one at home to a vastly inferior opponent.

San Diego (+3.5) @ New England: The marquee matchup of the day by a long shot. The spying episode took the focus off football around here this week - at least from a media coverage perspective - but if there's one thing we've come to know and love, it's the singular focus the players and coaches take to their jobs. The pre-game show on ESPN seemingly spent half the program talking about the Pats, so it will be interesting to see how much the pre-game show tonight on NBC is dominated by SpyGate. I read some quotes from John Madden this week where he alluded to the fact that all teams engage in some form of spying, and he thinks everyone needs to realize that we're going to be watching two tremendous football teams here. Let's see if NBC follows that script - something tells me they won't. I think Gillette is rocking tonight, and the Patriots are out to show the world that video camera or no video camera, we've got some serious-ass talent in Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney, and Adalius Thomas. Call me a homer (HOMER!) but I'm predicting a 10-point Patriots victory. Huge game, by the way, for AFC playoff seedings later in the year. 8:15 pm, TV: Ch. 7

Washington (+7) @ Philly: Let me be short and to the point here. Philly. MNF, 8:00 pm, TV: ESPN

Beckett Comes Up Aces

After an extremely difficult defeat Friday night - one that the Yankees called their biggest win of the season - the Sox' bats came alive yesterday and Josh Beckett may have put a stranglehold on the 2007 A.L. Cy Young award.

Friday night was brutal. Ahead 7-2, the Sox turned to their best two relievers to seal the deal - Okie Dokie and Papelbon. Unfortunately they were both very hittable and the Yanks stormed their way back to take the lead and eventually win the game. It was the type of loss that can leave some serious psychological damage on a team. Even Buster Olney put a piece up on ESPN titled "Yankees Have Mental Edge." By around 7:30 yesterday, that piece had been retitled to "Yankees Had Mental Edge."

That's because they ran into a tough, stubborn Texan who had stymied them in Game 7 of the 2003 World Series - in the Stadium, no less - in the form of Josh Beckett. Beckett was in command all game, and through the middle innings was locked in a tight 1-1 duel with Chien Ming Wang. Then the Sox broke it open, with the key hit coming from - you won't believe it - J.D. Drew, who sliced a double down the left-field line to give the Sox a lead they didn't give up. Final score was a satisfying 10-1. Highlight was Eric Hinske barreling into Jorge Posada at the plate (above) on a bang-bang play. One of the best collisions I've ever seen, and credit goes to Posada for hanging onto the ball and getting one of the toughest outs in his career. Hinske is a big dude and he lowered the boom big time. Posada may have some lingering effects, but the pussy's pretty tough.

By the 9th inning, Joe Torre had his Triple-A lineup in there and thoughts turned to tonight's game which pits Curt Schilling against Roger Clemens. Most people feel the Sox have the division sewn up, but a win tonight would ease any anxiety. Gametime is 8 p.m. on ESPN, directly opposite the Armageddon Patriots-Chargers battle on NBC. Once again, we need to all bow down and give homage to this man, for he invented the wireless remote control don'tcha know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spies Like Us

Wow, it's been a whole week since we last spoke -- and really, it was a fairly uneventful seven days around these here parts. Not.

If you ever wondered what it might take to bump a September Sox-Yankees series that matters off the top of the front page, well, my friends, how about a little NFL espionage, practiced by our beloved, dynastic Patriots?

We've had six days to digest, ponder, digest some more, walk on the beach and reflect, and form our own opinions on what Bill Belichick did or didn't do with a video camera. By now, you know the story. A Pats video assistant had his camera confiscated at the Meadowlands last Sunday - during NE's 38-14 beatdown of the pathetic Jets - because the Jets (Mangini, GM Mike Tannenbaum?) felt the Patriots were videotaping their defensive coaches' signals - which is taboo in the NFL.

While iron-fisted commish Roger Goodell investigated, the news, talk shows, and newspapers - in Boston and around the country - spun wildly out of control. As news leaked out that the Pats were indeed going to be punished, half the country wanted Belichick in an orange jumpsuit and half were of the mind that the whole episode was being ridiculously overblown. By the media in this country? Imagine...

It was interesting to hear the differences of opinion right here in our own backyard, and if you're not living this every day, realize that the press and Belichick have a relationship that could best be described as cool. Bill's not exactly as forthcoming as, say, the previous Bill was. Warm and fuzzy has never been his style, which is fine by me. The press maggots take it personally. Us fans don't give a rat's ass.

On Thursday, the penalty was finally announced so the Peter Kings and Chris Mortensens of the world could shut their yaps. Belichick was fined $500K, the organization $250K, and most importantly, the Pats will forfeit a first-round pick in 2008. Some of the numbskulls around the country were saying the Pats should have to forfeit their win against the Jets, they should be put on probation and not allowed to play in the postseason, Belichick should get a lengthy suspension, hell, the NFL should back up their trucks to the loading gate at Gillette and haul the three Lombardi Trophys to St. Louis, Charlotte, and Philly. I knew the Pats were reviled for their success - similar to the Yankees - but I had no idea the level of hatred out there.

As we made our way through the crazy week, there were some voices of reason. Mike Golic on ESPN, I thought, put some good perspective on the whole situation. John Clayton, on the other hand, was truly awful. In situations like these, only people who've played the game or coached the game should be allowed to offer their insights. Through it all, on the eve of the second week of the 2007 NFL season, there are still many questions floating in the wind.

How many teams do this? Which member of the Jets organization ratted out Belichick and the Pats? Is ratting them out an unwritten violation of inner circle "rules"? How much does this type of spying influence the outcome of games? How could BB have been so brazen to do it against his former protege, in New York - where Goodell watched the game with Kraft mere miles from NFL headquarters? So many questions, and since Bill's not talking, so few answers...

A couple of Mikes, I thought, had some good columns on all this nonsense this week, Michael Silver (formerly of Sports Illustrated, now with Yahoo), and Mike Felger, who offered some interesting insights in his Friday "Pats Insider" effort.

While the jokes and insinuations will no doubt continue throughout the year, the best thing the Patriots can do is keep rolling and win their 4th Lombardi in Arizona next February. As they always do, they'll use this for motivation. And I can't wait for that December 16th rematch in Foxboro against Benedict Mangini and his underwhelming team.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fireworks in Baltimore

About a month ago, the big problem for Daisuke Matsuzaka was the inability of his own team to score runs. Who knew the problem would eventually reverse itself and it would be Dice-K struggling to keep the opposing lineup off the board?

After tonight's 11-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles - punctuated by a 3rd inning meltdown by Matsuzaka - the Japanese ace has now given up at least five runs in three consecutive starts. Tonight's outing was the worst of his short major league career, as he gave up bombs to guys named Tike Redman and Scott Moore, and yielded 8 earned runs in all. Combined with the Yanks' identical 11-5 win over Kansas City tonight - A-Rod hit his 50th and 51st homers - the AL East lead now stands at 5.5 games.

Coming into tonight's disappointment, things were coming along nicely. The Sox had taken the first two from the Orioles, with Friday night's game providing some fireworks. Allow me to set the scene. The Sox were winning 4-0 against hothead Daniel Cabrera and the O's, and Coco Crisp laid down a surprise bunt to reach first base. Cabrera gave him a little look as he made his way to first, as if it's some kind of rule that a guy can't lay down a bunt on him. Silly Coco. Coco eventually made his way to third base, where he danced and pranced enough towards home plate to distract Cabrera and cause a balk. Next? You guessed it. Cabrera threw a 95 mph fastball behind the head of Dustin Pedroia, and the home plate ump - instead of instantly tossing Cabrera - inexplicably came out and gave a prompt warning to both teams. This didn't stop the Sox from jawing at Cabrera, who's always had a million-dollar arm and a 10-cent brain, and Cabrera was only too happy to jaw right back. Both benches emptied and the bullpens ran in (love when the bullpen guys run in), and Cabrera - while being held back by one of the umps - looked like he was ready to take someone on. His aggression might have been what caused him to get ejected from the game, which really should have happened after he almost killed Pedroia.

It was a big-time bush league move by a hotheaded pitcher, and I give Orioles manager Dave Trembley a lot of credit. Asked a day later about Cabrera's standard B.S. excuse that the ball slipped out of his hand, the skipper said, 'yeah, and my dog ate my homework too.' Classic, and pretty cool. Trembley even went out of his way to compliment the Sox on how they handled themselves during the situation. We'll see if young Daniel gets the Joba Chamberlain treatment from MLB. I'm guessing he gets a 2 or 3-game suspension from the league office.

Anyway, Josh Beckett toes the slab tomorrow in search of his 18th victory so here's hoping the Sox can take 3 of 4 from the hapless Orioles. Dice-K's troubles, though, are a concern heading into October.

Switching sports for a moment, tomorrow's a big day for the Patriots, who open up their 2007 season in New York against the Jets. Nothing like fall Sundays, when you've got both the Sox and Pats in action. We're spoiled around here. Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 17.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Missed Opportunities

The Sox lost a very frustrating ballgame tonight in their series finale against the Blue Jays. The final score was 6-4 but it should have been 10-4 in favor of the good guys -- too many men left on base, too many topspin grounders and strikeouts from J.D. Drew at critical moments. And to be fair, a big strikeout by Kevin Youkilis, who has not had a good second half.

All that said, the bigger picture looks pretty good. Since Clay Buchholz' no-hitter last Saturday, the Sox had won three straight against the Orioles and the Jays, and at this point in the season it's all about winning series. The youngsters - namely Buccholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia - have injected a huge dose of enthusiasm and excitement, and it's been a lot of fun to watch. Ellsbury looks like the real deal.

As things stand tonight, the Sox have a 6-game cushion on the Yankees, who trounced the Mariners tonight thanks to a couple more bombs from A-Rod. It feels pretty comfortable, but it will be interesting to see how Francona manages down the stretch. He gave the hot-hitting Pedroia the night off tonight, and will most likely keep doing that with players down the stretch.

Looking ahead, it looks like the AL playoff entrants are pretty much set. The Red Sox, white-hot Indians, Angels and wild card Yankees. If that holds true, the Sox would play the Indians in one ALDS and the Yanks would have to tangle with their longtime nemesis.

The magic number is 17 as the Sox prepare to open a 4-game set in Baltimore (aka Boston South).

Saturday, September 01, 2007

How's That For A Jolt?

The Sox needed a spark, and tonight Clay Buchholz provided it by becoming the first-ever Red Sox rookie to throw a no-hitter. Buchholz - with Jason Varitek at the steering wheel - befuddled the Orioles all night long with an assortment of sinking fastballs, curves, and change-ups and ended up with a no-no in his second MLB start. Not too shabby.

There were three threatening moments during the game, at least from what I saw. Coco made nice plays on two line drives headed for the left-centerfield gap, and Dustin Pedroia made a sick play behind second base, beating out a sliding Miguel Tejada at first. Other than that, the Orioles had no clue what to do with the baby-faced Texan.

Oh yeah, the score. The Sox' bats also came alive tonight, as they thumped Baltimore 10-0. Good thing Orioles skipper Dave Trembley signed his contract before his team began circling the drain. They've been horrible the last few weeks, beginning with that 30-3 debacle against the Rangers.

The big hit tonight - once again - came from the bat of David Ortiz, who banged an opposite-field double off the wall to clear the bases and make it 4-0. Youk also added a three-run homer later on.

The Yankees also won, 9-6, against the Devil Rays tonight. Fun sidelight to this one: Joe Torre cowardly requested that the umps confiscate a D-Ray player's bat, and Tampa manager Joe Maddon "retaliated" by asking them to confiscate A-Rod's bat. A clever ploy by Maddon to hint that Torre's request was ridiculous. By the way, this was the second game in a row the Yanks didn't have Fat Joba at their disposal. The lords of discpline at the MLB offices evidently agreed that Joba's intentions the other day weren't quite pure.

But screw the Yankees, right Mikey? Today's a day to celebrate a true baseball rarity, filled with the superstitions that we all know and love. I was watching the game up in Maine with my wife, and she asked me what was going on. Knowing I couldn't verbalize the words 'no hitter' for fear of jinxing young Clay, I wrote it out on the computer, and told her not to say it. Good girl that she is, she respected the ways of tradition and we both got to watch something pretty damn cool. One weird thing that only interests me: I've seen the last 2 Red Sox no-hitters in the same house in Maine, sitting in the same spot. Derek Lowe was the last one to do it in April 2002.

The lead stays at 5. Jon Lester takes the mound tomorrow.

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