Posts Tagged ‘John Sterling’

Last night’s game could not have been a more quintessential example of Sox-Yanks.  It was long (all told, the whole game lasted three hours and forty-one minutes and spanned two days), it was suspenseful (both pitchers were struggling so the teams were going back and forth), it was powerful (five home runs were hit between the two teams), and it was close (the final score was 7-5).

And it had a winner and a loser.  The Yankees lost.  (I can only imagine John Sterling having to announce that on the air.) We won.  We swept the Yankees, and for the first time this season, we are now at .500! Forty games in, we are twenty and twenty.  Finally! The key of course will be staying at .500 and getting significantly above .500, but one step at a time.

It turns out that all this realigning of the rotation was done specifically to ensure that our top three starters would take on New York.  But that wasn’t why we won last night.  It may have been Lester up against Freddy Garcia, but he sure didn’t pitch like it.  Lester struggled early.  He hit Derek Jeter, who scored on a single by Mark Teixeira in the first.  He allowed two home runs in the second for a total of three runs.  Clearly his cut fastball wasn’t cutting or doing much of anything.  When he threw only nine pitches in the third, his only one-two-three inning of the night, I thought it would be smooth sailing from there, but his turnaround wasn’t quite that complete.  He didn’t allow any more runs, but he did walk four over the course of his six innings.  He allowed those four runs on five hits and struck out seven.  Not his best night, but not his worst either.  If those two cut fastballs actually cut or did something, he would only have allowed one run.  Still, overall, his pitches weren’t quite as effective as they usually are.  In the sixth, he threw twenty-two pitches, only nine of which were strikes.  He’s won five consecutive decisions, but in his last two starts, he’s walked nine.

Aceves came on to pitch the seventh and allowed New York’s fifth run; Curtis Granderson walked and scored on a double by A-Rod that should have been caught by Crawford, who instead made his first error in a Boston uniform.  Bard came in after that for the eighth, Paps took care of the ninth for his second save in three days, and finally the game was over.

Our lineup kept pace through the first three innings.  The Yankees scored first in the first; we got that run back in the second.  Youk struck out but reached on a passed ball.  A single and a walk later, the bases were loaded for Lowrie; all he could manage was a sac fly to bring home Youk and tied the game at one.  Papi tried to put us ahead; Crawford reached on a fielder’s choice, and Papi tried to come home but was out at the plate.

The Yankees put up a three-spot in the second with home runs; we put up a three-spot in the third, and we needed only one homer.  Ellsbury led off the inning with a double.  Two batters later, Gonzalez walked on five pitches.  And then, with the count full, Youk blasted one into the seats in left.  I mean, come on.  It was a fastball right down the middle.  It was eighty-nine miles-per-hour, which is obviously slow for a fastball, but it was right down the middle, and I don’t think anybody should have been surprised at what happened to it.

We put ourselves ahead by one in the fifth.  With two out, Papi broke his bat hitting a solo shot to right field.  (I also appreciated his dance performance during Tito’s in-game interview.) But the way the game had been going, we knew a one-run lead wouldn’t be good enough.  In the seventh, Pedroia walked, stole second base, and scored when Youk seemingly grounded to third.  But the ball rolled – wait for it – between A-Rod’s legs and Pedroia came home.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.  Oh, how the tables are turned.

Then the Yankees got that one back in the bottom of the seventh, so we were back to a one-run lead.  Joba Chamberlain came on to pitch the eighth and got Crawford to ground out on his first pitch.  He had two strikes on Salty before throwing two balls.  With the count even at two, Chamberlain threw a slider that didn’t slide.  Salty was all over it.  He hit his first home run since August 2, 2009 and the first this year for our catchers.  He sent it to the first few rows of seats in right.  It was barely out.  In fact, it hit the top of the wall.  But it was still awesome.  And that was it for scoring last night.

To recap, we swept the Yankees.  In New York.  To get to .500.  We’ve won five of six games against the Yankees this year.  During this three-game set, their number three, four, and five hitters went six for thirty-four.  In 1996, it took us 128 games to get to .500; in 2011, it’s taken us 40.  This past weekend was one of the best weekends in our entire 2011 baseball lives.

But we’ve still got work to do.  Onward and upward.  We start a seven-game homestand today when we take on the Orioles.  This is a perfect opportunity to actually do something with the momentum we’ve created.  We’re at .500.  We need to pass that.  We need to keep on winning.  It’s Dice-K today, but as a team, we should be able to do something with the Orioles.

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Some people are calling last night a win within a loss.  I think I agree with this.  Games this late in the season are less about wins and losses and more about playoff ramifications, and I have to say that last night, though a loss, was like one huge expression of reassurance for Red Sox Nation.  And that huge expression of reassurance’s name was Dice-K.

We’ll go through the outing step-by-step, because each aspect of it is a separate piece of good news.  Dice-K pitched seven innings.  It was his longest outing of the year, and it came exactly when we needed it: after the bullpen worked overtime, as I said.  So we know he can go deep, we know he can go deep in a timely fashion, and we know he can go deep and be good.  That’s where the one run on six hits comes in.  The one run was a fastball Robinson Cano cranked to the opposite field for a home run.  Can’t be helped.  It’s really hard to be upset that one pitch out of 115 thrown ended up in the seats.  Of course, something like that is what decides a pitcher’s duel, but could go either way; sometimes you’ll get the win, sometimes not.  Dice-K walked five and struck out three.  Less walks and more strikeouts would be nice, but if it works, it works.  And finally, last night’s start was the third in a positive trend.  Dice-K is currently two and one with a 1.69 ERA since coming off the DL.  With every start, he’s proving he can handle the October stage.  And with all the questions about the configuration of our starting rotation for the playoffs, that’s definitely what I call one huge expression of reassurance for Red Sox Nation.

Billy Wagner, not so much.  He let Johnny Damon single with the bases loaded, which drove in two runs.  Bard got the final out of the game.  If I could, I’d give the loss to Wagner.  Maybe it was nerves; after all, this was his introduction to Sox-Yanks, and in the Bronx, no less.

The final score was 3-0.  V-Mart and Lowell were the only guys who got hits.  (Lowell actually stole a base; how ’bout that.) We had a total of three baserunners in scoring position and five baserunners total all night.  Chris Woodward missed a catch that would’ve ended an inning on a rundown.  It actually looked like we were on our way to a rally in the ninth inning.  Mariano Rivera allowed a hit and a walk, and Lowell represented the tying run at the plate.  But no.  Although we can take heart in the fact that Rivera is still horrible against us.

By the way, John Sterling said on his radio broadcast that Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in the history of baseball.  And this is supposed to give him credibility? That could not be farther from the truth.  I heard about that, and I just laughed out loud.

V-Mart started behind the dish.  This was his first time catching Dice-K, and now he’s caught each of our starters.  He had his work cut out for him last night, that’s for sure.  Dice-K isn’t easy to handle.  He has a large repertoire of pitches, has good movement on all of them, and isn’t the most conventional in his approach.  Then Billy Wagner came in, and he’s not easy to catch at all.  But V-Mart hung in there and had a great defensive night.  Case in point: he beat Derek Jeter to the plate in the fifth on a fielder’s choice to get out of a bases-loaded, potential run-scoring jam.

I don’t know about you, but even though we lost, I feel a lot better now about the shape we’re in heading into October.  We needed to see Dice-K test his mettle, start in a pressured situation and go deep, and go deep well.  And he did just that.  So we and the bullpen can be very happy about that.  As far as this afternoon is concerned, it’s Byrd at Pettitte.  The least we can do at this point is not be swept, so I think the division has become dramatically less of an option, but as I said, I’m feeling pretty good about October right now.  And this late in the season, that’s really what matters.

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That’s the only word I can think of to describe Manny’s recent behavior. I’m usually the first to defend the dude, and I’m a huge Manny fan, but this is the last straw. Seriously. So he wants a contract. So do a lot of people. You don’t take yourself out of the lineup right before the biggest game of the year to send the front office a message. By doing that, you do send the front office a message. But it isn’t very flattering.

We lost last night’s contest, 1-0. Josh Beckett pitched an absolute gem. One run on nine hits, all singles. Javy Lopez was brilliant as usual, Manny Delcarmen pitched cleanly for a change but left with a muscle cramp (he’s since stated that he’s fine), and Hideki Okajima pitched the rest of the eighth and the ninth in ’07 fashion. Unfortunately, Joba Chamberlain held us to three hits, all singles, and pitched seven shutout innings. And whatever opportunity we tried to start with Farnsworth on the mound didn’t last long. By the way, Mikey Lowell should have walked. I’m not in the habit of complaining about bad calls because hey, it happens, but that was just ridiculous.

Joba went after Kevin Youkilis as usual. Beckett was prepared to charge but the home plate umpire warned both benches and no retaliation followed. Although it makes you wonder. Joba went after Youk’s head twice in a row last season, and now this. What’s the kid’s problem, anyway?

The Manny controversy completely overshadowed Big Papi’s comeback, which in my book was a pretty obnoxious side effect of the whole affair. Big Papi did nothing spectacular in his first Major League game in six weeks. Too bad; we could’ve used something. Anything. We could’ve used Manny for sure. He’s obscenely successful against the Yankees, and with him in the lineup the batting order would’ve been restored. It would’ve been more like today’s order, with Pedroia and Youk, the on-base guys, leading off, followed by Papi with Ramirez batting clean-up, followed by Lowell and Drew. Ellsbury, as is customary for one in a slump, would’ve batted ninth. Instead, Ramirez proclaimed his inability to play due to some sort of sore right knee minutes after Tito filled out the card, and Ellsbury had to lead off. Which, naturally, created all sorts of disasters in the later innings when we could’ve mounted a rally. Not even a big rally. All we needed were two runs to win it. The biggest game of the year thus far, and the MVP of the 2004 World Series couldn’t show. (By the way, Manny was sent to Mass. General for MRIs of both knees. They came back clean.)

As for today’s outing, it was just as ugly. We lost by seven runs. The final score was 10-3. Wakefield, who’s been having an excellent year, took the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits over about five innings pitched. Masterson came in to relieve him and gave the Yankees three solid hits in a row (I know; I was shocked, too). In the sixth inning, the Yankees scored four runs. In our half of the sixth, JD Drew showed his colors and smoked one of the longest home runs I’ve ever seen. This ball landed in Williamsburg. This ball went over the visiting bullpen wall, over the bullpen itself, past the beginning of the bleachers, and finally landed about ten rows back. That has to be, what, at least 420 feet. Absolutely scorched. It was Drew’s nineteenth of the season, and that’s already eight more than his total for ’07. So much for slowing down once Ortiz took back the No. 3 spot.

Lopez was perfect again, and Hansen issued three walks and allowed three runs. Timlin, ironically, was perfect. Pedroia saw his nine-game hitting streak snap today. Ortiz went two for four, though, and Cash showed that wonderful arm of his, throwing Cano out at second on a steal attempt. And there you have it.

The current situation is that we’re tied with New York in the loss column. Tied with New York. Ugh. And if Tampa Bay wins today we’ll be even further out. Let’s face it; our lineup is excellent. We’re stacked through at least the No. 5 spot. But when our lineup falls asleep, we sink in the standings. One can not live in pitching alone, especially if the race for first place suddenly includes a third-place team that’s just won its eighth game in a row. And Manny isn’t helping the situation. What Manny has done has offended the front office, it’s offended the management, but most of all it’s offended the players. Even John Sterling had to admit that the Boston Red Sox team is comprised of some of the most classiest ballplayers in the game, dirt dogs who play through pain for the good of the group. And when a very prominent member of that group decides to take a day off and essentially toy with the organization and the fans, it’s offensive. It’s very offensive. And it doesn’t exactly score you any positive points.

We need wins. We need wins now. Something in the lineup has to click, and we have to consistently pair runs with quality starts. This is a bleak situation we’re in. We’ve been in worse. But we could be in so much better. The long-term goal? Get to Soxtober and win the World Series. We’ve definitely got the manpower to achieve that. The short term goal? Don’t let New York sweep us in our house.

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Did you know that that was Lester’s first start in the Bronx? Certainly didn’t look like it. The Red Sox are back with a vengeance, baby! And there’s nothing for your morale like a shutout of the Yankees on their own turf. It’s good for the mind, good for the soul, and plenty good for the heart. Last night’s contest, or should I say “no contest,” was Lester’s second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter) and he completed it with a minimal pitch count and a strike:ball ratio better than 2:1. As a matter of fact, that was the first complete game any Red Sox pitcher has thrown in the Bronx since Pedro Martinez did it in 2000.

Lester continued his dominance and pitched five impeccable innings, walking two and striking out eight. The offense finally got its act together and did its part in spectacular Boston fashion. By the time the first inning was over, we were already ahead by two runs. Lowell and Ellsbury each batted in two, and Lugo and Varitek each batted in one. Pedroia extended his hitting streak to twelve games, Crisp stole second, and Ellsbury was caught in a rundown on his way to third. But what impressed me more than the 7-0 win, the out-hitting of the Yankees, 11-5, and the lack of Boston errors was Boston’s manufacture of runs (the slumping Jeter’s error in the first resulted in a run for us and ten more pitches thrown for Pettitte). Defensively, the Red Sox also sparkled (Drew caught a fly off Posada literally at the wall). If the Red Sox were down, they didn’t show it. We played our game and we’ve already shortened our deficit behind the Rays.

For their part, the Yankees looked absolutely pathetic. They did nothing offensively and hit into three double plays. According to Johnny Damon, putting on pinstripes comes with a lot of pride, and he was thoroughly embarrassed by the way his team played because apparently that’s not the way a 26-title franchise should act. Well, grow up and welcome to the new age. Your time is up. Unlike Yankee fans, we don’t expect to get by on the glory days of the past for the rest of our lives. Boston isn’t like New York, where “26” is the first thing anyone says in a baseball conversation. No, in Boston we like to start each season with a clean slate and win, regardless of what we did in the past. I mean, come on; do you honesty expect the 26 to help you now? I honestly felt like I was watching us play a Minor League team in an exhibition game or something. New York looked totally lost and out of their league.

And I’ll say this for Boston broadcasting: Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, Al Leiter, and John Sterling don’t hold a candle to Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy, Dave O’Brien, and Joe Castiglione. New York broadcasting is totally weak, not to mention the fact that there was a substantial crowd of Red Sox fans in attendance last night. Speaks volumes about both fan bases, doesn’t it?

In short, these are the Red Sox we all know and love. And these are the Yankees we all know and love. It’s good to see that everyone is slowly finding their way back to their proper places; the Red Sox on top, and the Yankees somewhere down at the bottom. If we keep this going, we’ll be all set. Count on that. Smile, Red Sox Nation; we thoroughly, utterly, totally, and completely trounced the New York Yankees!

Jason Varitek and John Lester, 7/3/2008

AP Photo

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