Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hit the Bull, Pap.. Just Hit the $%#@ Bull

Wow, are the Seattle Mariners atrocious or what? Talk about doing a complete 180 from the Anaheim series last weekend. What's that? Your bullpen's in disarray? Head straight to the Pacific Northwest for a cure. Huh? Your 7-8-9 hitters look like they're holding strands of spaghetti at the plate? Starbucks Country is your answer. What sayeth you? Your All-Star left-fielder is acting goofy? Sorry, we can't help you there.

The Red Sox had to work overtime yesterday in Seattle, but they managed to make the cross-country flight home with a .500 record after their abysmal series against the Angels. They're now a half-game behind the Rays, and only 3 games up on the Yankees, but we'll take it. We've got Big Papi slated to come back tomorrow night in a certifiable EVENT game at Fenway (more on that in a minute), and if yesterday's performance is any indication, Justin Masterson may be just what the bullpen doctor ordered.

I guess the best way to go at the past few days is to throw out some random observations:

- For starters (pun intended), who'da thunk Jon Lester would be shaping into our ace as we head into August? The tall, soft-spoken lefty has been dominant in his past few starts, and he completely shut down the Mariners yesterday to ensure a road split. Here's hoping he gives a little push to Josh Beckett, who needs to turn it up a notch starting tomorrow night against the Yankees. I'm not expecting Beckett to duplicate his postseason form, but he has to be better for the rest of the season.

- Sticking with the starters for a moment, we must salute Dice-K. Yes, he can be maddening to watch. The man pitches like he's picking out a perfect piece of fruit, but he's been damn good results-wise all year long thanks to his Houdini-like ability to escape from jams. Teams are 0 for 11 against him in bases loaded situations so far this year. Now, he seems like he's finding a better groove.

- The injury to Julio Lugo may actually work in the Sox' favor. Jed Lowrie's going to get the chance to play every day at short, and so far so good with both the bat and the glove. Tito Francona likens him a little bit to one of my alltime favorite Sox - Bill Mueller - and I think it's a spot-on comparison. We'll see how he does against the big boys down the stretch, but I like his approach at the plate.

- Yes, Jacoby Ellsbury is slumping but he will - and should - continue to play every day. He made a spectacular running catch yesterday, running full tilt from left to center when Coco got a late break on the ball, and his glove is very much needed. His bat is, too, obviously, and I kind of wish he'd go back to laying a few bunts down every now and then. He was doing that pretty effectively earlier this year but has abandoned it for the most part. It's a true weapon with this kid's legs.

- We need to appreciate Mike Lowell more. Yesterday's game was a microcosm of what the man brings to the table. He started a HUGE double play in extra innings when Papelbon got into a little trouble, and then he strokes the clutch game-winning hit.

- Back to the 'pen for a moment. If Masterson can give us 2 innings of solid relief when he's in there, I think you'll see a far more effective Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen. Yes, I'm leaving Craig Hansen off that list. He just ain't getting it done.

- I know Theo gets lots of kudos for the player development machine he's built, but it's still incredible to me to look at the core players: Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lester, Papelbon. Now Lowrie and Masterson are getting their shots. Very impressive.

- Why do people still insist on running against the best arm in the game (Ichiro)?

- Speaking of Papelbon, I'm convinced that he's the real-life version of Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham. And hell, Varitek is his Crash Davis.

- Okay, I was hoping to avoid it, but we must expend a few words on one Manuel Aristides Ramirez. Once again, it was an eventful few days on Planet Manny. First he gets a "stern lecture" from a Seattle policeman on the dangers of jaywalking (by the way, the fact that felt compelled to make this a front-page news item is a sad commentary on both readers and the media today), and then he shows up at the park yesterday and begs out of the lineup with a sore right knee that was a surprise to all. Hmmm. Felix Hernandez on the hill, off-day today... I'm just sayin'. I think there's some credence to the theory being floated around that Manny and his new agent - who just so happens to be Scott Boras - are playing games to see if Manny can get a long-term contract somewhere else. They probably don't want the the Sox to pick up the next two one-year options at $20 million per. Manny's probably looking to land that final, four-year or so deal before he hangs up his dreds. As for whether I think the Sox should keep him, I'm incredibly torn. I'm sick of his clown act, but his production will be difficult to replace.

- Now, onto the game tomorrow night. If there was one game you could attend this year at Fenway, this one is it. Friday nights are always electric, but throw in the Yankees, a pennant race, the return of David Ortiz to the lineup, and - try this on for size - Beckett vs. Joba Chamberlain, and it's downright nirvana.

take a look at the 2004 world series rahsta some time...I did .. on my '04 tshirt...scary
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