The Baseball Desert

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Late Show

It didn't finish until 3:30am CET, but I managed to hang in there all the same, and I'm glad I did.

I have to say that I like this whole Schilling-Timlin-Papelbon thing. A true quality start (3 hits, 1 earned run) followed by a pair of relievers who slam the door shut. I know that Papelbon is not slated to be the Red Sox' full-time closer, but if things were to work out that way, I would be delighted. At some point there will obviously be situations where he is going to struggle, games he is not going to save, but right now he steps onto the mound oozing the confdence of talented youth, before proceeding to blow his 96mph fastabll and his wicked splitter by opposing hitters.

Above and beyond the win itself (which is not to be underestimated - every win we put in our pocket now is one less game to win under pressure in August and September) yesterday's game left me with a good feeling that I just couldn't pin down until I read the recap, which pointed out that this was the kind of win the Red Sox just did not have last season. In games where they scored three runs or less, the Sox were 3-22 last year - this year, they are 2-0 over the first five games.

The sample size is small, but that doesn't stop us from pointing out that the old adage about the value of pitching and defense is indeed true. You can score as many runs as you want, but you need to be able to stop the other guys from scoring, and the Red Sox are doing that when it counts. The defense has not only been good in statistical terms (1 error over the first five games) but has also excelled on those plays that don't show up in the box-score. Coco's catch against Texas, J.T. Snow's diving grab against Baltimore, Manny's fine running catch last night - none of them will show up in the statistics, and none of them would have gone as an error had they not been made, but they were all crucial defensive plays that stopped the ball from rolling around in the outfield and opposing baserunners from crossing home plate.

Whatever happens tonight, the Red Sox are assured of taking the series, which is a pretty good way of ensuring you have a damn good season. Take every series, and you will win 100+ games over the course of a season, and I'll take that any day of the week.