Monday, August 31

Autumn Leaves

The Red Sox next game will be played in September. The Red Sox next game will be played in September. A phrase so nice I typed it twice. But like every year, a little frightening, too. September is when you want no more question marks, but inevitably you find them at every turn. We're not in it alone. The Yanks don't know what to do with Joba. The Rays are trading up aces and bringing up colts. The Rangers are wondering if their pitching can keep going this good. But the Sox have their own set of worries. Unfortunately, it's in the area that you really, really don't want to have to worry about this time of year - starting pitching.

Perhaps the Sox troubles aren't as bad as we think. The five-man rotation only needs to survive maybe four more passes until it can be chiseled down. But those four-passes are all important, and we're currently coming up at least two short. At least, I say, because while Buchholz was a magician against Toronto, he isn't up there as a sure thing. And Beckett is suddenly looking more than mortal.

That's all to say that this is going to be one hell of a meaningful road-trip. A make or break road-trip, really. The Sox kick off September with three in Tampa Bay and another four-setter at Chicago. After that, they have only one road swing left on the season. That's right, we're talking 'last of the seasons' now. And while that trip will involve a brutal finish in New York, it begins in Kansas City and goes on to Baltimore. So if the Sox can stay hot against the Rays and White Sox, and if they get a couple quality starts out of someone not named Beckett and Lester, we might start to talk realistically about the prospect of the proper fall baseball to come.

That means it's up to Paul Byrd - who was famously throwing batting-practice to twelve year olds a month ago - Tim Wakefield - who couldn't stand up after his return start - Daisuke Matsuzaka - who couldn't get through AA ball without giving up five runs in an inning - and Junichi Tazawa - a kid who was recently throwing in the Japanese Industrial League. The Sox probably only need one of them to really step up. And here's my handicap on it - Wakefield, Byrd, Matsuzaka, Tazawa. But here's my vote - Tazawa. Yeah he got hit pretty hard and likely he's got little chance of taking the fourth spot, but I can't help feeling the kid might be the answer. Pretty scary.

A final note in this Ode to Autumn, just to show you that we here at ITM aren't exclusively worry and negativity. Praise where praise is due. The Sox pulled it together on offense in August big time. They'd hit a collective .248 in July, with a .328 OBP and a .419 SLG, all numbers well below the AL average on the month. In August, the Sox cranked out a .274 average, with a .358 OBP and a whopping .494 SLG. At the beginning of the month, we were floundering, wondering where in the world four runs were ever going to come from. Then suddenly there was Victor, JD, and, of course, Ortiz. As has been pointed out here, if Papi replicates his numbers from the last three months (three months he's been doing it now), he'll finish the season with right around 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. I'm not saying it's gonna happen. I'm not saying JD will keep this up. I'm not saying Martinez will get a hit every time we need it. I'm just saying thank you, to them and to the front office, for righting the ship in August.

So there you have it: a quick preview. A whetting of the whistle. A flipping for real: hitting's up, pitching's down. The Sox are 3 games up, but questions abound. It's September baseball.

Sunday, August 30

We Might Have to Get Use to Paul Byrd

Boston got more than they expected out of Paul Byrd today in a 7-0 win over Toronto. The Sox were able to complete a sweep of the Jays at Fenway with what they thought would be a spot start from the 58 year old Byrd, however, recent news out of the organization indicates Red Sox Nation should get used to seeing Byrd and his old school windup every fifth day.

Tim Wakefield's back is treating him like the 43 year old he is. Reportedly, when getting out of bed yesterday morning, he was unable to stand completely erect....which sounds very similar to the lower back problems that forced him to the DL back in July. Wake will receive a cortisone shot and likely play it by ear. Don't be surprised to see another trip to the 15 day DL around the corner.

Wakefield's issues is somewhat expected of an over the hill major league ballplayer. Dice-K on the other hand, he might as well be throwing lefty. The terrible year that his 2009 season continued today. Daisuke Mastuzaka got shelled in a 49 pitch, five run first inning against Double A New Hampshire. He followed the rough first with a 1-2-3 second and totaled 58 pitches on the day.....yeah, that makes me feel a lot better. We all know that Double A team in New Hampshire has a powerful lineup and is just like pitching in meaningful (or even playoff games) at Fenway. The Red Sox have to be really concerned here, they've simply sunk too much time and too many dollars into a guy who has seemingly lost the ability to pitch effectively.

Today's Wasdin-like line from Dice-K comes as a bit of surprise. Prior to the start, all reports out of the organization indicated a revitalized and strengthened pitcher, a man rededicated to returning to form by getting himself in top physical condition to pitch. Now I'm not saying we should give up on Dice-K all together, but we should go into the stretch run and postseason assuming he'll be what he's been all year long, one hell of an expensive non factor.
Outside of that, you gotta be happy with the game today....Go Sox.

Saturday, August 29

Manny's Return to Fenway

A report out of the Boston Herald today floats the good chance that Manny Ramirez will be coming back to Fenway in the 2010 baseball season.

Ramirez however, could opt out of his current contract prior to the '10 season, successfully avoiding a return to Boston. The initial report has the Dodgers making the trip to the east coast in June. In addition, the Red Sox would open their season against the Yankees April 4, 5, or 6.

According to the report, the Red Sox are lobbying major league baseball to play their first three series on the road in order to allow the field condition to recover from the collegiate hockey and NHL games that are scheduled to played at Fenway in January.

Between the field condition and the weather, the Sox should never open a season at home. That extra week or two of starting on the road, while troubling for a team that seems to play its best baseball at home, usually goes a long way with the New England weather.

I guess the real question is, will the previously considered "best right handed hitter of our time" (prior to multiple positive steroid tests, and Albert Pujols), get cheered or booed at Fenway?

Friday, August 28

Kazmir, messenger of God?

Sources are reporting that a deal is in the works that could have big-time consequences on the shape of the Sox playoff push. Buster Olney and Tom Verducci are now both reporting that the Rays have neared a deal with the Angels that would send Scott Kazmir out to Los Angeles / Anaheim in exchange for two prospects, likely Alexander Torres and Matthew Sweeney. Those in the know say that the Rays have been planning to unload Kazmir for some time now, but still the timing is strange. Most thought the trade would come in the offseason. But instead, the Rays, only 3 games back in the Wild Card, the defending AL champs, have just ushered out one of their prime young starters. (Kazmir has been a presence for quite a while, but remember, he's only 25 years old.)

The move does have its reason, though. Kazmir is owed $8m next year and $12m the year after. The Rays have obviously had some success with the young-and-restless business model, so the addition of Torres - 13-4 with a 2.75 ERA this year in AA - and Sweeney - a young infielder who showed some pop in A ball this year - isn't that crazy. But still, despite the realities of the southern Florida baseball finances, you had to think that the Rays were looking to build themselves as more than just a youth gamble from year-to-year. That's not to say they couldn't easily pull it off this year without Kazmir. They've got Wade Davis ready to join the rotation. It's just not the business model I was expecting.

For the Angels, the move does look like a play aimed right at Boston. Obviously the team has a more dependable revenue stream than Tampa and can afford the relatively expensive young gun. But to them, Kazmir is more than just a talented starter. He's a proven arm against the Red Sox. Kazmir is 8-7 with a very respectable ERA of 3.59 against the Sox, with a solid and crucial playoff win included in there. His numbers are even better against the Yankees the Rangers. The Angels, though racking up the wins in the AL West, just weren't that excited about a playoff rotation formed from amongst John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Jared Weaver, and Ervin Santana. Kazmir definitely has them looking a little more fierce.

So, to sum up, a strange move. It can't be that the Rays are selling out 2009. They've got plenty of arms. But it certainly does look like the AL East war of attrition is starting to have an effect. Don't want to jinx anything, but you have to assume that the Sox probabilities will look a little different after this - the playoffs might be slightly more plausible, but the likely first-round foe might be quite a bit better. So, in other words, who the hell knows?

The V-Mart Man Crush Grows

Red Sox catcher/first baseman/David Ortiz energizer Victor Martinez briefly spoke about a possible contract extension with the team before last night's loss. The Sox hold a team option on V-Mart for the 2010 season worth $7.5 million (please pause to remind yourself that JD is making 14+ million).

In summary, according to V-Mart: “Who wouldn’t want to play here in Boston? It’s up to them, but from my side, I would want to stay here... Hopefully they want to do something. I would be more than happy to sit down and talk.”

It's fair to say Red Sox Nation would likely light small animals on fire if V-Mart's option isn't picked up. Combine his performance on the field, influence on David Ortiz (see Soxin09's comment on the previous post), overall work ethic, and desire to stay here in Boston and you've got some serious man love. Add to that the fact that he is the leader of the celebration handshake...which has been severely lacking since Coco and Manny departed, and you may be able to see why TMurph calls him "V-daddy". Still a tad over the top in my book.

Off the field value aside, he's raking in the middle of Boston's lineup. After 24 games he's batting .313, with 5 taters, 18 rbi, 14 runs scored, an OBP of .385 while slugging .521.

Theo, sign him. Sign him and Gonzo....and sign them now, this way I don't have to light TMurph's cat on fire down the road (I'm kidding, there is no real cat, but you get the point...I'm serious).

Beckett on the mound tonight, Brady behind center....Go Boston.

Wednesday, August 26

Is that you David?

For a second tonight, I was back in college...drinking beers on a Weds night, watching the Sox, screaming as David Ortiz hit a walk off homerun, and seeing Dennis Drinkwater (with a rocket up his ass) nearly in his car by the time the ball landed. Only it wasn't 2004, it's late August of 2009, the Sox are in the middle of a pennant race, and Ortiz is on fire.

The night belongs to Ortiz, but knuckleballer Tim Wakefield needs his fair share of credit. He threw 94 pitches, 73 for strikes, allowing just four hits and one run over seven innings (see how much he poured?). The potential number three starter in a hypothetical playoff series showed signs of a tight calf, but was still able to produce quality innings. In my opinion, the rotation clearly depends on consistency of Wake and Buchholz, we should consider Tazawa, Penny, Byrd, Bowden, etc, only as potential add ins in the revolving door that is the 5th that, if and when the Sox make the playoffs, won't see any playing time (or at least they better not).

As for Big Papi...don't look now, but he could somehow end up with close to 30 taters and over 100 many of us thought that was even close to possible just a few short months ago when he was hitting -.007? Good for you Ortiz, PEDs or not, you're shoving it down the collective ITM throat. In addition, he's quietly creeping up the all time walk off homerun list with 10, with the all time leader having 12, that record could easily fall before Ortiz puts his eye drops down.

Most importantly, the Sox gained games on both the Rangers and the Rays tonight. Good night all around, hump day notwithstanding. Go Sox.

Pap in a Nutshell

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein looked to put an end to the Papelbon brouhaha earlier today. There's not much to this story, but you gotta appreciate it anyway.

According to WEEI, Theo brought Pap in for a long chat regarding his comments on newly-acquired reliever Billy Wagner. Pap, as well all knew, was generally dismissive of the man, comparing him to Eric Gagne and vocalizing some concerns as to bullpen chemistry.

After the chat, Theo put the word out the Wagner-Papelbon enmity is a non-story, and summed up the Papelbon summit this way: "I think Pap feels he was misunderstood. He's not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with. When I talked to him directly about it he couldn't have been more excited."

There's Pap in a nutshell. Not a Rhodes Scholar. Wicked excited. All is well in the bullpen. Gotta love him.

Tuesday, August 25

It's Just Youk Being Youk

I didn't know Youk had it in him.....

Somewhere, Pedey is making fun of him right now.....

...also, I'm sure Pedey already has his thinking cap on for Billy Wagner jokes.

Monday, August 24

BoSox Bandit Blackguards Big Apple

All right, this one was too good not to share. There was a strange thing happening this weekend in New York. I didn't bring it up sooner because it didn't seem right to take the focus off the baseball. But while the Sox and the Yanks were clashing in Boston, back in New York, the rivalry was reaching new heights. This was Friday morning's cover headline in the NY Post: "BoSox Bandit!"

That's right. New York City has a BoSox Bandit, "a knife-wielding mugger wearing a Boston Red Sox cap." This year, the Bandit has already committed 13 stickups in the New York subways. In addition to the Red Sox cap, he is described as being between six foot and six foot two, age somewhere between 20 and 25, operating primarily uptown on the A train line. This has not made your intrepid ITM correspondent's commute any easier. But what's a six foot one, 26 year old supposed to do? Not wear his Sox cap when the Yanks are in the Fens? 'Tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, I say. Brave it. The result? Stares. Some sliding down on the benches, giving room for the Holy Ghost of the MTA, so to speak. A couple wise cracks. One threatened arrest at the federal courthouse. In jest. I think.

My own petty complaints aside, the fact remains that some Red Sox nation ne'er do well is in my adopted home giving us all a bad name. He's throwing blades around in broad daylight and targeting primarily young women. Unacceptable. If he doesn't get caught soon, it might be time for the BLOHARDS to put together a posse. (BLOHARD = Benevolent and Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York. I'm not making that up, either. They've been around since the Impossible Dream season of '67. Look 'em up. There's all sorts of great Red Sox stuff happening here in the belly of the beast.) Red Sox Nation cleans up its own messes. So spread the word. This is the type of unsportsmanlike crap up with which we will not put!

This Just In, Buchholz is not Playoff Ready

Blogging from the third base line at Fenway with T Murph. The game has required a post saying that Buchholz must look better on TV than from the stands. His body language has been comparable to a 13 year old girl who just got dumped via text.

7 runs over 4 and 2 thirds is Brad Penny material. Way to sink our optimistic battleship Buchholz, now members of the ITM staff need to pay for a few more 9 dollar beers as a result.

Not ready for a spot in the playoff rotation quite does that mean our hopes rest on a Dice-K return?

Go Sox.

Sunday, August 23

Pregame Around the Horn

It's a battle of aces tonight. A rubber game match up on national TV with the Sox in need of a win to not only take the series, but to keep pace with the Rangers who beat the Rays earlier today. The first two games have been lopsided affairs, but tonight's match up should be a good one....should be (and now that I've typed that, both aces will be out of the game by the fourth inning). It doesn't get much better than this. So with that, let's quickly go around the horn:

-Both Ortiz and JD are out of the lineup tonight. I understand the difficult lefty match ups, but Ortiz is hitting absolutely everything right now, and actually has good numbers against fat boy CC. I guess it's just Tito being least I can scream ROCCO! tonight.

-Tito said that Lowrie will begin his rehab with Triple A Pawtucket on Monday. I'm still not sure what the heck is wrong with this guy's wrist, but I don't think it really matters anymore. If Tito tries to start him over Gonzo I'll walk down to Fenway and make a scene.

-Tito also mentioned that Dice-K will start Monday for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox...which I'm pretty sure is a made up team. Dice-K is probably somewhere in Japan throwing 180 pitches to loosen up. Either way, per Tito... "He is significantly stronger in his shoulder," and "He is significantly leaner in his body. He is significantly stronger in his body." There was no word if he used the word significantly in the next sentence, which would have gotten him bonus points.

- John Smoltz started for the Cardinals today...and of course went 5 fantastic innings, striking out 9, surrendering only 3 hits, and not giving up a single that he's away from Boston I'm sure he'll blow up like Eric Hinske or Tony Clark when they went to the Yankees.

- Brad Penny is headed to the bullpen (thank god), but apparently his days in the rotation may not be over....according to Tito "We don't just want to turn him into a reliever. That's not in anyone's best interest." Sure sounds like it would be in the best interest of my health Tito...not quite picking up what you're putting down.

I'm not truly upset with Tito, he's had an extremely trying season full of injuries, steroids, and drama (what else is new)....but a little healthy criticism can't hurt.

So here we go, it's time for the ESPN announcers to drive us crazy, I just hope the Sox can help me keep it together with a win.

Go Sox.

Saturday, August 22

Beat it Penny

There is nothing like flying home from your honeymoon and having the captain come over the PA to give us the awful score of the Sox/Yankee game.....did he want me to get arrested on the plane for threatening people's lives? Not only was the flight delayed forever, Brad Penny continued to showcase his inability to keep the Sox in a baseball game.

To say he's been bad would be an looks like the Sox dropped the ball in early July when he was one of the most coveted pitchers within a thin market.

But don't worry Sox fans, Tim Wakefield has just replaced Penny in the rotation. After throwing a gem in Pawtucket and reportedly feeling fine, Wake will start on Weds. As for Penny, who really cares, all he's been good for over the last 12 starts has been crocked numbers and 97 mph fastballs high and outside of the zone.

This afternoon's game is significant in many ways, perhaps the least of which being the team they're playing however. Get this team's pitching healthy and into the playoffs and I'm optimistic regardless.

Go Sox.

PS: this post came from my bberry, so it's quite possible it reads like a 7 year old wrote it. Nothing beats blogging about the Sox in the Trader Joes parking lot.

Thursday, August 20

With Just a Hundred Pounds of Clay

I'll admit it. Clay had me pretty nervous. We held onto him like the crown jewels all through June and July, when his value was rising. The trade deadline came and went with interesting moves left out there, but we kept Clay. Our top-line righty of the future. Then Clay came out in his first start after the trade deadline and put up this line against Baltimore: 4 IP, 9 hits, 4 BB, 7 ER. So I was getting a little nervous.

Since then, Buchholz has stood firm against some of the best competition in the league, and with each start he's providing more and more assurance. First it was the start against Sabathia and the Yankees. He took the loss, but went 6 full, giving up only 2 ERs. Then there was Verlander and the Tigers, at the time Buchholz's best start of the year - he went 7 and gave up only 2 ERs. Yes, walks were a problem in both - walking 5 and then 3 - but he was out there working hard, getting out of jams, and wracking up innings.

The player's progress continued last night, when Clay went up against the ace to end all aces, Roy Halladay. And this time he walked only one man. And he went 6 innings, scattering 6 hits and giving up only 1 run.

Even more importantly, he was finally commanding. He was throwing 4 seamers consistently at 95 throughout the night, his 2 seamer was on the outside corner, and he was mixing in curves and changes. While the latter two pitches are generally considered his best, we've all seen him use them as a crutch maybe a little too often since the call-up. Last night he was going after guys with the gas, and actually seemed to have enough to put the hammer down. The star of the night had to be the late movement on the fastball.

This was more the Clay Buchholz that we'd been preparing for all year. If he can carry this momentum forward, it would go a long way in a rotation that is suddenly a serious concern as the playoff push settles in.

If pressed, there's really only one explanation you can come up with - it was the baserunning. Is it possible that the Rangers pinch-running incident was so embarassing that he's lost a bit of ego and is just out there pitching in the moment? Almost certainly not, but dammit, it's late August, we need to start making up some BS about karma. Kevin Millar's not gonna do it for us.

Friday, August 14

To the Victor, Rangers Spoiled

Quite a finish to a big night. Couldn't have been stranger in the end, but boy did the Sox come up with a pivotal win. Victor Martinez was the hero of the night, with Jon Lester and David Ortiz not far behind.

Got to start off with the 9th. Wild. Frankie Francisco, who has emerged as the Rangers closer (with young gun Neftali Faliz nipping at his heels - we'll see this kid soon), came on in the 9th with a 4-2 lead, but Ortiz, who already had provided the Sox offense on the night, started it off with a double. Then the strangeness really began. Varitek - read that again, Varitek - beat out an infield single. Granted, it was the type of play that only Omar Vizquel could make close to begin with; and yes, Varitek was out. But still, the old man beat it out. Then Jacoby, pinch hitting for Nick Green (who's can't be feeling too good that the Sox pinch hit for him and traded for a new shortstop on the same day), knocked one up the middle - Francisco missed catching that by inches, inches. And so the game turned. Ortiz scored, and then things got really weird. Chris Woodward couldn't get down the bunt, so he seemed to decide that a strike out was best, not wanting to risk the double play. Then Tito sent out Clay Buchholz to pinch run for Varitek. Now I understand the thinking. I agreed with it when it was happening. Buchholz is an amazing athlete. He can easily dunk a basketball from a dead standstill. He runs a mean 40. But it sure looked like he hadn't run the bases in a good long while. Pedroia hit a rocket to left. Jacoby took off and waited on second base until seeing the ball hit the wall, then he bolted. Unfortunately, Clay was doing the Men in Black shuffle about two thirds of the way between second and third. He just didn't seem sure that Murphy hadn't caught the ball. After a near collision between Jacoby and Clay and a missed cutoff throw in from left, Clay finally got going, with a sort of flailing run and dive in home. It was a valiant effort. It was a heck of an exciting play. It was out by a couple yards. Kudos to the Michael Young on that throw home and kudos on the Teagarden tag. Kudos all around, since it didn't end up hurting the Sox.

(Quick pause - For the record, I was freaking out pretty good at this point. That play ran over and over, and I started to wonder how I was going to fall asleep any time in the next week. I just pictured that haunting the rest of the season then pushing into the winter. I kept repeating over and over, "Oh, baseball," trying to convince myself that it was all in the fun. But really, I was just freaking out and muttering like a madman. Then up came Victor Martinez, and the onslaught began.)

Martinez fought Francisco in an epic eight pitch at bat, ripping the final pitch down the right field line, scoring Jacoby and Pedey and giving the Sox the lead for good. A Jason Bay single and a J.D. Drew home run later, and the Sox were going into the bottom of the 9th with a 4 run lead and a raucous Arlington population that suddenly revealed itself as a Sox crowd. (Where did all those people come from? I have to say, I have my doubts as to their allegiances. The guy who caught the Michael Young homer in the first was wearing Sox gear, but changed intoa full Rangers outfit in about two minutes flat and then announced on the Texas broadcast that he was no longer a Red Sox fan. What the? I plan on messing with Texas the next time I get a chance.)

Papelbon got into relatively little trouble in the 9th and there it was. The first in a huge series. Lester was big on the night, buckling down and sweating through a hot August night in Texas. He only went 6 (relatively short compared to recent outings) but struck out 11. That gives him a gnarly 187 strikeouts in 159 innings this year.

So the Sox gained a game on both the Rangers and the Rays. And more importantly, they got a shot in the arm in the first game of what is going to no doubt be a brutal two week stretch. Let's hope that Oklahoma boy Brad Penny can give the Sox another good start tomorrow and get them rolling through this road swing. Way too early to start saying 'the Sox needed that one,' but it was awful tempting tonight, at least once it was all over. Oh, baseball.

Wednesday, August 12

Youk Withdraws Appeal

Just a quick update before game time:

Earlier today, Kevin Youkilis and Rick Porcello were each suspended five games in light of their roles in last night's incident. (Edwin Jackson, too, was fined, but not suspended.)

After immediately filing an appeal, Youk and the Sox decided to withdraw that appeal and have Youkilis begin serving his five game suspension tonight. Francona stated, "We seem to be healthy right now. There's always the idea that you could get it reduced. There's also the idea that it could come at a worse time. So take our medicine, do the best we can, and move on."

Their reasoning is pretty understandable. As Francona pointed out, there's never a good time for your best player to be suspended, but the Sox are relatively healthy at the moment. There were, likely, a couple other factors at play.

First, the Sox have two more games at Fenway before going on the road, and they like the Mike Lowell option much better at Fenway than in any other park. You saw why last night when Lowell and that always-pull swing put two over the monster.

The second reason is related: Lowell is getting a bit grumpy. Last night he was quoted as saying, "I’m grateful that I’m at least swinging a good bat. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want a good bat in your lineup." When told later that his off-the-bench two-homer performance was the first for the club since 1967, Lowell responded, "Is that a sign that they can sit me more?" Although many in the Sox think these off-days are just what his body needs, Lowell clearly is not happy with the arrangement and is grumbling for the first time. It might not be a bad time to make sure he gets a few starts in a row.

So while two games against the AL Central leaders followed by three games in Texas against the wild card competition is not a good time to Youkilis, the Sox clearly think it would be worse to wait until the Yankees are back in town, the Sox are trying to climb back into contention with Texas or Tampa Bay, or when Jason Bay suddenly forgets how to hit again.

So they're rolling the dice tonight: no Youk, and no Victor Martinez. The Sox are without their 3-4. They must have a whole lotta confidence in their ace.

Tuesday, August 11

A New Dawn

After dropping 6 straight games the Sox finally got back in the win column last night in front of the home crowd. The win was ugly, but at this point the Red Sox and their fans will take a W in whatever form it comes in.

Most importantly the bats came alive last night as the Sox scored 6 runs on 12 hits as they lite up Tiger's starter Edwin Jackson. The lack of pop in the lineup was all anyone was talking about after being swept at the hands of the Yankees; the Sox responded with 3 home runs last night from Pedroia, Bay, and Nick Green.

It was nice to see Jason Bay still remembered where third base was, I can't remember the last time he was over there. After Green's sac fly gave the Sox a 6-5 lead my roommate remarked, "When is the last time Nick Green had 2 RBI in one game?"

Brad Penny turned in a solid outing, going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs all while suffering from acid reflux, I feel his pain. Penny had been struggling lately prompting everyone to question Theo's low risk low reward strategy of signing pitchers on the rebound to 1 year deals. Certainly John Smoltz has imploded but I think Penny can be a valuable member of the rotation coming down the stretch.

The bullpen did their best Heathcliff Slocumb impression again last night as Manny Delcarmen gave up 2 runs, only 1 earned, in .2 innings of relief. Ramon Ramirez cleaned up Delcarmen's mess in the 7th, then put runners on 2nd and third with 1 out in the 8th inning before striking out Adam Everret.

Tito then went to Paplebon got a harmless pop up to end the 8th and then blew away the Tiger's in the 9th.

The road to recovery started last night. Although the bullpen continues to be an issue, we can hang out hats on the lineup waking up, it definitely helps to play 4 games at home where the Sox are 36-17.

In addition, the Yankees and Rays both lost last night, and the Rangers had the day off. The Sox have a half game lead in the wild card over the Rangers who they play this weekend in Texas. It feels weird to be scoreboard watching in early August, hopefully it's an over reaction to the last road trip that will pass as the Sox being to play better.

(This has been a Tim Murphy production, posted by J Murph.)

Monday, August 10

Stiff Upper Lip

Now I'm not saying it's quite time to focus exclusively on the wild card. But I am saying it's just about the only way to get through this particular Monday. We're tied for the wild card lead. So, you know, that's something.

Quick editorial decision today - until further notice, I'm going to pretend that this sweep didn't happen. It's not as difficult as you might imagine. Many of you readers will know that the ITM staff (and most of its extended family) caught only fleeting glimpses of the games this weekend - mostly between rehearsals, champagne toasts, frantic drives down Great Neck Road, first dances, and some wedding vows. Congrats to ITM founder and chief, D Vicino. It was an unforgettable wedding. The Sox could finish dead last for the next few decades, but based on the look on D Vicino's face all day Saturday, he's got enough happiness stored up now to wait them out.

So putting the Yanks behind us, we're looking at an important week ahead. The Sox have the AL Central leading Tigers in town for a four game series. Not an entirely pleasant thought, but at least it's in Boston. Seems like the Sox have been stumbling home quite a bit this year, but they can generally right the ship once back in the confines of Fenway. After that it's a pivotal trip to Arlington. It's almost exactly a month since the Sox got swept out of Texas, starting this whole mess. Now they find themselves tied up with the Rangers for the wild card lead. That right there could be the series of the year. Texas will be revving up early this week in Cleveland, and you've got to think they're going to take at least two from the newly depleted Indians.

Eyes will be on Tampa Bay, then, the late chargers. Fortunately, the Rays are in the middle of a West Coast swing. They got crushed last night and dropped two out of three to the Mariners (also charging late, getting into the wild card picture). Fortunately, things won't get any easier for the Rays quite yet. Before coming home to face Toronto, the Rays have a three game set against the LA Angels starting tonight. (Tomorrow's the marquee matchup between Price and Santana.)

It's worth noting, while we're at it, that the Yankees in fact have two West Coast trips still ahead of them in the dog days. Before coming back to Boston in a couple weeks, the Yankees will have seven games out on the other coast - four against Seattle and three against Oakland. Then in mid-September, the Yankees will have another three in Seattle and three in Los Angeles / Anaheim. The Sox, on the other hand, do have a bit of traveling left, but will never venture further than Kansas City and Chicago. So there are some small advtanges to be found.

Bottom line - the Sox have got to pull it together today, because if they let this weekend linger even a little, they could find themselves in serious trouble. More trouble than just a bit of wounded pride after a bad weekend in New York.

One more congrats to D Vicino. Enjoy the honeymoon. Keep the Sox completely out of your mind. The rest of us will be doing enough worrying for you.

Thursday, August 6

A Complete 180

It's simply too late at night for me to go into great detail in regards to tonight's debacle of a performance by the Sox. One thing is for sure, the so-called "mental advantage" the Sox supposedly had over the Yanks this season is long, gone, and hard to find.

Instead, despite it being only one game, the momentum and mental advantage seems to have clearly moved 300 miles south of Beantown. All the local sportswriters in both cities have been calling for the Yankees to roll over the Sox in this series, with the only win expected for Boston coming in tomorrow's game solely because of their ace Josh Beckett....but with the offensive inconsistency, a full four game sweep is expected by some.

Since these two teams last met they have been heading in completely opposite directions. What's funny is that you can almost tie the Sox performance to the hot and cold nature of J-Bay's season. They were an unbeatable monster until early June, when both Bay, and the rest of the team fell into a slump of mediocrity. ITM note: the 2004 Boston Red Sox played like crap (around .500) for 3 months in what will always be the greatest season ever.

The blame for the turn of events can be shared by nearly everyone, but tonight it was undoubtedly John Smoltz failing to come through. Going into the game I said to Joe Murph, "this is why we got Smoltz in the first place, for big games like this, on the big stage, when the Sox are in need of some pitching help."......well Samsonite, I was way off. Once again a big inning sunk his battleship and he was unable to make it through 4. A pitiful showing on the biggest stage in baseball while taking part in the greatest rivarliy in all of sports. Nothing about tonight's performance (or anything thus far this season for that matter) indicates to me that Smoltz is a value-added addition to this team. Stick a fork in him, he's done. Just consider his last four starts:

W-L: 1-3
IP: 20
Hits: 35
ER: 24
HR: 8

You guys don't need me to do the math...those numbers just suck. T Murph could take Smoltz yard, and he gets thrown through tables at bachelor parties for fun.

Looking for Beckett to bail us out tomorrow....

Wednesday, August 5

Deep Thoughts Aboard Boston's Subway

Once again I find myself stuck on Boston's subway coming home from work, and I'm worried about the Sox. You would think that with my wedding coming up on Saturday my mind would be elsewhere, but it's not, it's focused squarely on Brad Penny and Boston's bullpen.

As soon as the Sox went into extras last night the worrying started,not only in regards to the game at hand, but to the repercussions it could have on the bullpen during the most important stretch of the year thus far. Not only did the Sox use up their bullpen arms last night with stressful innings,but Brad Penny takes the mound against a scrappy Rays team that seems to raise their collective games against Boston (see Evan Longoria...he's a great talent and hard to dislike,damn that guy).

I don't think I've ever wanted to see Tim Wakefield take the mound more than tonight. Ol' reliable would go out there and eat innings all night long, Penny on the other hand, while also a veteran, has yet to show the ability to go deep into games. He tends to suffer from the John Smoltz syndrome of one bad inning. Usually it's in the 4th or5th, and that's something Boston's current record and bullpen simply cannot afford. They'll have to bring up an arm from Pawtucket, most likely Hunter Jones (they may have done so already, but I'm underground with no signal to check). Jones may have a great baseball name, but he's not exactly the best person to be sending onto the bump during such a pivotal stretch.

So let's collectively pray Penny gives the Sox what they need tonight;a significant amount of quality innings to keep them in the game and save the bullpen to fight another day. God willing.

Go Sox

Monday, August 3

Going Around the Horn

If you're not excited for this upcoming week of Red Sox baseball you don't have a soul. A quick two game series with the Rays in the foreclosure capital of the world, and then a big 4 game set against the Yanks in the big apple. The pitching matchups are listed below, and there is a lot to look forward to.
  • Lester vs Garza- Probably the best pitching matchup of the week. Should be a great leadoff game tomorrow.

  • Penny vs Price

  • Smoltz vs Joba

  • Beckett vs Burnett- The media will hype this one up, and somehow both pitchers will probably be out of the game by the 4th.

  • Buchholz vs CC

  • Lester vs Pettitte

~The series in NY has all the makings of a classic. The outcome of each game could determine who has the AL East lead that night. There will surely be steroid chants, there is that eight straight victories over the Yankees thing, and Clay Buchholz will likely become a hero or a goat in his start against CC.

~The Sox have seemingly found their offensive stroke with the addition of V-Mart. I'm pretty sure T Murph would already have a V-Mart jersey if he didn't spend money on a LaRoche one. I can't wait for the newest addition to come to Fenway and rake. Between his versatility and hitting style, it's like adding another Youkilous to the lineup.

~The longer it takes for Ortiz to come out and explain himself....the harder it'll be to believe anything he says. Ortiz should hold a press conference today, get it out of the way. Tell the truth and get it over with before the big games start up.

~Since June 1st, Ortiz is leading the majors in taters....PED's or not.....check the eye drops?

~Anyone else think the steroid story with Jerry Remy's son is hilarious? Have you seen the pictures? Priceless.

Saturday, August 1

August 1st, the Day After

Geez Louise this week did a number on the nerves if you're a Sox fan. Now the dust has cleared, we're not 7 games back on the Yankees, and Victor Martinez is in the lineup batting third tonight against the Orioles. Quite a week.

They say in modern baseball you're either rooting for the laundry or the front office, but not the players. Theo showed again this weekend why we can feel pretty safe on that proposition, especially now that we don't have to look Julio Lugo in the face every night. Saturday afternoon and the national media has generally deemed the Phillies and the Sox the big trade deadline winners. Without seeing the new-look Sox in action yet, it's hard to disagree.

The big move, of course, was the Victor Martinez trade. The Sox gave up Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, Brian Pryce - which means they did not give up Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, or Junichi Tazawa.

Justin Masterson was beloved, but with the emergence of Daniel Bard, his worktime has gone down. He likely projects as a third or fourth starter, and with Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Buchholz, and Bowden / Tazawa / et al, it was going to be tough for him to earn a long-term spot in the rotation. So while it's tough to see a kid go (even if he's returning to the homestead, an Ohio native), Masterson looked like one of the more expendable pieces in the organization.

Hagadone and Pryce were first round compensation picks (for the depatures of Alex Gonzalez and Eric Gagne). Both were high-risk picks, and neither has proven much in their short tenures. Hagadone was a hard-throwing lefty until he got Tommy John surgery - the rehab from which is only now under way. Pryce had one good college season at Rice and skyrocketed up the draft charts out of nowhere. Since joining the Sox, he has been slammed in the minors and has not been rated highly within the organization. There are some in the Sox who think that if Victor decides to bolt Boston after next year, the Sox would essentially look at it as draft pick mulligans - another shot at a couple of compensation picks.

Which brings us to Victor Martinez. First off, gotta note the versatility he brings in. He switch hits, and could play at catcher, first base, or hit DH. He generally hits for a high average with average power. He has had an abysmal two month stretch, but has been consistent over his career, and has over-performed in Fenway. Martinez projects to hit third in the Sox lineup nightly, and will give the Sox a lot of looks against different pitchers. Presumably, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz will alternate off nights now that he's here. Papi's heating up, but still struggles mightily against lefties. And anyone who watched Lowell come off the field last night after getting thrown out at first will know, no matter how hard he's hitting the ball, he's going to be grateful for a few more off nights. All in all, Martinez has big potential in Fenway, is under a reasonable club option next year, and certainly adds a bit of intimidation to the Sox new lineups.

The less foreseen move of the day - Adam LaRoche going back to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman has put together a decent season at the plate, but is generally considered a stellar defensive first baseman. The potential is there, though - as recently as 2007, Kotchman hit .296, with an .839 OPS for the Angels. The Sox inquired about him that year, and Theo apparently kept him on the radar. He'll likely be used as a late-game defensive replacement, but could provide quality help pinch-hitting and taking starts at first.

All in all, a couple of strong moves, and it essentially cost the Sox Masterson. The other mid-level prospects can be made up for in compensation depending on contract negotiations and designations for Kotchman and Martinez. Not at all a bad haul for a team that was seen to have (and still have) a glut of pitching.

Even more important, perhaps - the Yanks and and Rays did nothing. The Yankees wanted Washburn but didn't go out and get him. The Rays wanted Victor Martinez, and in many ways, that was a big motivation for the Sox. Dioner Navarro is suffering, and the Rays would have loved, loved, to add the big Indians catcher. Instead, they had to stand pat.

So it's Saturday. The Sox were about four games out a few days ago, they hadn't scored 5 runs in a game in about two weeks, Papi broke our hearts just a little, and Clay Buchholz was seen as all but gone. Now all of a sudden we're taking a deep breath, looking at the Yankees from 1.5 back (with AJ Burnett getting pounded at the time of writing by the newly surging White Sox), looking forward to a pretty potent-looking lineup on the night, getting ready for another Buchholz start tomorrow, and remembering what a long, long season it is.

Custom Search
Free Blog CounterEnglish German Translation