The Baseball Desert

Sunday, April 30, 2006

About bloody time!

This was much, much better.

It's not just the result, but the way in which it was achieved, with the Red Sox coming back three times against the Devil Rays to take the game. After the results of the last few days, I hadn't intended to watch the game, but I nodded off in my armchair late last night, and when I woke up it was 2:30am and I figured "What the hell? Let's watch the game" When I clicked on MLB.TV and saw that not only were the Sox down 4-0 but also that I was going to have to sit through the Devil Rays FSN feed, I almost got up and went to bed, but by that time I was wide awake, so I thought I might as well stick it out.

It turns out that I wasn't the only one who decided to stick it out. The Sox seemed to suddenly remember that the Devil Rays are a team they ought to be kicking the crap out of on a regular basis. Manny opened up the 6th with a home run which finally put the Sox on the board, and suddenly they started putting some runs together: double-walk-single-single-double and the game was tied.

Tampa Bay took the lead back twice, but couldn't hold on, thanks to some persistence and patience from the Sox in the ninth. I've recently been reading Mike Schmidt's Clearing The Bases, and one of the interesting things I've found with the book has been his ability to pinpoint one specific game, or even one at-bat, which changed the course of his career. In the same vein, I would venture to suggest that last night's game turned on one single pitch - a 2-1 pitch from Tyler Walker to Trot Nixon in the top of the 9th, with the bases loaded and one out (a strikeout of Manny, after a classic pitcher/hitter duel). The pitch looked good - if it missed, it couldn't have been by more than 1/8 of an inch, but after two consecuive walks and a bunch of pitches outside the strike zone, there was no way home plate umpire Mike Winters was going to call it a strike. So instead of the count being 2-2, Walker was in a 3-1 hole, and he then proceeded to walk home the tying run, at which point it all started to fall apart for the Devil Rays. Single-sac fly-single, and the Sox had a three-run lead and, as it turned out, the win.

So the bats - not the big ones, but the medium-sized, just-get-the-job-done ones - came through, but that would have been in vain had it not been some for some great pitching from Foulke and Papelbon. Foulke gave up a run - but it was on a double that perfectly split Manny and Wily Mo (I'd like to say that one of them could have got to the ball, but I've watched the replay and the jury is still out) and two sac flies - but looked pretty good over two innings. He threw 19 of his 26 pitches for strikes and kept the Red Sox in the game, and then Papelbon came in and did his thing - 14 pitches, 10 strikes, 3 Ks, his tenth save of the season and the ballgame.

A couple of thoughts on the game:
  • Youks: if you started the season feeling you had something to prove, I think you've proved it. Since stepping into the leadoff spot after Coco's injury you're 20-for-62, with 1 HR, 5 doubles, 9 RBIs and 11 walks. Yooooouuuuuuuuuk!
  • Manny: terrible baserunning in the seventh, but I'm feeling good about the win, so I'm going to let it slide this time. In your defense, it was a ball that could have a) gone foul, b) gone out or c) been caught, but in the end it hit the wall and got away from the right fielder. Had you been running out of the box instead of hesitating / admiring your shot, you would have had an inside-the-park home run, with about 2 1/2 minutes to spare at home plate, but instead you ended up at third. Trot Nixon got you off the hook with a sac fly which scored the run, but be warned - we're watching closely...
  • Papelbon: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Lots of it. I don't know what Curt has been saying to you, but please feel free to continue like this.