Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Jose Bautista Show

Last night's loss was less a story about Red Sox failings, and more an epic tale of one man proving that high socks give you superpowers. If you do a Google image search for Jose Bautista, it's pretty obvious that he normally wears his uniform the way that nearly all the Red Sox players do: with long pants and socks hidden beneath them. But last night, Bautista went for a different look (in my opinion, a better one), and had an excellent performance to boot.

Bautista hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to put the Blue Jays up 2-0. The blast was the 18th of the year for Bautista, and the 200th of his career, but he wasn't done. After the Red Sox managed to tie the game on a bases loaded, 2 RBI single from Shane Victorino in the bottom of the seventh, Bautista promptly hit a two-run homer in the next frame to put the Jays on top for good.

Even in the field, Bautista thwarted the Red Sox, as his strong throw from right field to the plate in the sixth inning prevented Victorino from scoring the first run of the game for the home team. Bautista's heroics were surely uplifting to Jays fans, but they (along with the performances of the rest of his teammates) prevented Felix Doubront from earning a win (though he did turn in a quality start), and snapped the Red Sox's four-game winning streak. For the sake of the Red Sox, hopefully Bautista returns to his usual style this afternoon.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Exactly as planned

Last night's game went as well as you could hope (excepting Andrew Bailey's seventh inning struggles), as the red hot Red Sox bats managed to oust Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson just one out into the fourth inning. Meanwhile, rookie Allen Webster managed to lower his abysmal 11.25 ERA to a merely terrible 9.50 with six innings pitched and four earned runs allowed.

Webster did improve upon his last outing, allowing six hits in six innings, as opposed to 8 hits in just 4.1 innings last week in Detroit, and he showed pretty good control in last night's game, walking just two batters and striking out three. Webster is definitely improving, and as this was his first season playing even as high as AAA, I'd say he has a very bright future; indeed, he's making me feel woefully unaccomplished, as the righthander is nearly a month younger than I am, and already a big league pitcher.

Webster departed in the sixth inning with a lead, looking to earn his first major league win, but Andrew Bailey came in and recorded two strikeouts before allowing a two-out home run to Edwin Encarnacion, tying the game and erasing Webster as the pitcher of record. Andrew Miller pitched the end of the seventh and the eighth, earning himself a win when Jonny Gomes put the Red Sox on top for good with a pinch hit RBI single, followed by a Jarrod Saltalamachia walk that forced in an insurance run.

For the third day in a row, Koji Uehara, aptly described by Globe reported Peter Abraham as "the game's most exitable 38-year-old," earned the save and copious high fives from his teammates, coaches, translators, and training staff.  Unfortunately for the Jays, their bullpen didn't come through to the extent that Boston's did, as they needed five pitchers to get through the final 4.2 innings.

You really couldn't script things much better than this from the Red Sox point of view, as they've already guaranteed themselves the series split with two games to go. They're still in line for a four-game sweep of a division rival, and they've put themselves in good position to win the final two games, as they've pretty effectively abused the Jays bullpen for two straight days.

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's always about the pitching

Jon Lester was less than spectacular last night, but he managed to get the job done, allowing all four Blue Jays runs in seven innings last night in the 7-4 Red Sox victory. Lester departed the mound in the top of the eighth inning with a jammed hip. At the time of the injury, the lefty was at 94 pitches, and could probably have completed the inning if not for the wet mound that caused him to slip.

Luckily for the Red Sox, Lester has reported that he feels fine, and that neither he nor the Sox medical staff is concerned about any long-lasting effects or missing any future starts. Junichi Tazawa took over for Lester and pitched a clean eighth inning before giving way to closer Koji Uehara for the ninth. Uehara faced the minimum number of Jays batters and struck out two of three to earn his third save of the season.

On the Jays' side of things, Chien-Ming Wang couldn't even make it through two innings, retiring just five Red Sox in his shortened outing, and allowing all seven Red Sox runs in the bottom of the second inning before being pulled for reliever Aaron Loup. Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons had to use four relief pitchers to get through the game, which is certainly a boon to the Red Sox as this series still has three games to go, and a tired opposing bullpen is always an advantage.

Hopefully the Red Sox bats can get to Josh Johnson just as quickly as they got to Wang, because rookie righthander Allen Webster will take the mound for the home team tonight, and he was beat up pretty badly by the Tigers in the first inning of his last start before settling in. Webster is the not-so-proud owner of a 11.25 ERA to go with his 0-2 record and is looking to prove himself, though it's common knowledge that his time is limited regardless of performance, as he'll be optioned back to Pawtucket when Clay Buchholz returns.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

No rest in the AL East

Every year, there's talk about how good the American League East is going to be. Every year, there's a discussion of how the five AL East teams will wear each other down, that the unbalanced schedule will be the undoing of at least one of them. And every year, something else is the downfall of the basement dwellers and middling performers in the division - usually a bizarre spate of injuries combined with uncharacteristically poor performance from some franchise players.

This year the American League East is insane: every single team is playing above .500, and each one has something to prove. The Yankees have to prove that they can be something without all of the big-name stars they've relied on for so many years. The Red Sox need to prove that September 2011 and 2012 were flukes. The Orioles need to prove that 2012 wasn't a fluke, and that they are the real deal. The Rays must prove that a winning culture is sustainable in a small market (and a crappy stadium). The Blue Jays, of course, are looking to live up to the hype they generated this offseason.

So far, everybody's doing a heck of a job, as the Jays have the worst record of the lot, and they're doing better than fifteen other teams across baseball. In fact, if the currently last place Toronto Blue Jays were playing in the NL East or the NL West, their record would be good enough for second place. Doubtless the Blue Jays would be doing even better if they hadn't lost some key players to injury in the early part of the season, but they seem to be making up for lost time in the last two weeks, winning 12 of 14 contests headed into this weekend's series.

The Red Sox, of course, are coming off a two-game sweep of the Rockies (themselves playing above .500 until traveling to Boston), and have the recently struggling Jon Lester opening the series on the mound. The Jays will trot out Chien-Ming Wang, recently of the Nationals, but I'll always think of him as a Yankee. Wang pitched in the Bronx from 2005-2009, and there are a number of Red Sox players who have performed well against him.

Dustin Pedroia has hit .278 against Wang in 19 plate apprearences, including a home run and three doubles. Shane Victorino is 2-for-6. Most impressively, David Ortiz has done better than any other single (active) batter, hitting .432 (16-for-37) with four doubles, two home runs, and eleven RBIs against Wang, which coud be key if Jon Lester turns in another start like the last few.

It should go without saying that with Clay Buchholz's status so uncertain, the Red Sox really need Lester to return to the form he displayed earlier this season. Ideally, he would get back on track tonight, starting the weekend series with a dominant performance and a win - I'm sure David Ortiz is chomping at the bit to give him some run support.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seriously wacky for Lackey

Today's game was the first I've been able to watch since moving deep into enemy territory (I'm in Syracuse, New York for the next year for graduate school), and it was a good one. I'll have to get used to the idiosyncrasies of, including complete silence during commercial breaks, and a slight lag behind the actual action, but overall it worked swimmingly.

John Lackey was fantastic, tossing seven full innings and striking out twelve Rockies en rout to his fifth win of the season. He allowed just two runs, scattering eight hits, and didn't give out any free passes, with no walks and no hit batsmen. This is the Lackey we were expecting and hoping for when the Red Sox signed him before the 2010 season, and if he can toss more gems like that one, I for one will forgive him for his part in the great Beer and Chicken Caper, as well as the lost season of 2012, when he was out recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Lackey's season ERA is down to 3.03, much better than the struggling Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster. Of course, it's nowhere near as good as Clay Buchholz's best-in-the-majors 1.71 ERA, but a sparkling stat line is meaningless when you can't take the mound (however, that's an entirely separate issue for another post). For now, I'm content to revel in Lackey's beautiful performance, enjoy my newly installed internet access, and catch up on my blogging.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another blown save for Bailey

After a strange last outing in which he blew the save and then was credited with the win (sometimes baseball rules are weird), Andrew Bailey looked to redeem himself this evening. He came on with a one-run lead, and promptly allowed a walk off homer to Jhonny Peralta. John Lackey pitched very well - much like Felix Doubront did on Tuesday - but could not claim the win because Bailey couldn't lock it down.

So now what? The Red Sox started the season with a surplus of closing options, but now Joel Hanrahan has had season-ending surgery and Andrew Bailey has blown two saves in a row. Any baseball fan around my age or older remembers what a catastrophic failure the "closer by committee" experiment was, but there is no obvious Plan C if Bailey's troubles can't be straightened out.

Junichi Tazawa has a few saves to his credit this season, but in my opinion there's more value in his current role, able to go out and pitch multiple innings on a pretty regular basis. Koji Uehara is always fun to watch, and he clearly thrives on the adrenaline rush of a successful single inning, displaying what could be defined as the "closer's mentality, but you have to be concerned by Uehara's age: the 38-year-old righty can't pitch multiple days in a row.

The Red Sox bullpen has some pretty intriguing and successful arms, but they all work so well where they are - aside from the recent spate of blown saves, the 'pen has been a clear strength this season. There's talk about looking to trade for a closer, and if/when Will Middlebrooks gets his bat up to speed, Stephen Drew could be interesting trade bait. One thing is certain: if Andrew Bailey can't get his act together, he can't be the Red Sox closer much longer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A blown save and a walkoff win

Felix Doubront deserved a win tonight. Sure, there were a few times this year when Doubront got to claim a "W" by the grace of god and unreasonably quality run support, but he was most certainly cheated this evening.

After eight shutout innings, Doubront could have reasonably returned to the mound to pitch the ninth - his pitch count was at 93 pitches - but John Farrell called for the closer, instead. And Andrew Bailey couldn't get it done. He gave up the game-tying home run on the second pitch of the inning, and that was that for Doubront's win bid.

It was a strange day for baseball all around, as the afternoon game (already a makeup game after inclement weather in April) included a three hour rain delay. It felt somewhat like there were three separate games played at Fenway Park today, what with the long baseball-less stretch between the first half of the day game and its conclusion, and then the nightcap with all it's shenanigans.

Thankfully for the Red Sox (and the otherwise disgraced Andrew Bailey), Jonny Gomes absolutely CRUSHED a two-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, allowing the Red Sox to take both games today. Of course, that doesn't deliver justice to Felix Doubront, as he'll still be saddled with a no-decision after what can only be termed as an incredible start. Here's hoping there's more performances like that in his future - albeit with better outcomes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Game 3 tonight!

It's never ideal to have an off day after a loss, and the Red Sox just dopped three out of four games to the Orioles, and have today to brood about it. Luckily for us Boston sports fans, there is something to distract our attention: Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I'm guessing that quite a few Red Sox players will also tune in, especially as many of them sport such fantastic Bruins playoff beards.

I'm twice as excited as I normally would be for this game. Beyond the normal adrenaline that comes from an overtime win and tying up the series, I get to watch the Bruins without ignoring the Red Sox. Yes, I'm aware that it's the Cup, while the Sox still have more than half of their season left to play, but I'm a baseball girl above all else, and I always feel a little guilty when the Red Sox are playing and I'm watching something else - anything else.

That won't be a problem tonight, since the Red Sox won't return to Fenway to take on the Rays until tomorrow, when they'll play a day-night double header and then a regular night game on Wednesday. Tonight is all about the Bruins, and I don't know about you, but if there's another overtime this evening I'm going to cry.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

With more theatrics, Bruins even the series

After the exhausting debacle on Wednesday night, I have to admit that I was nervous and exasperated when the Bruins and Blackhawks ended regulation play last night, tied 1-1. I kept thinking how awful it would be to lose in sudden death for the second game in a row, and how annoyed I was going to be if I stayed up through three overtime periods AGAIN to watch the Blackhawks celebrate.

But thankfully, the Bruins came through, as Daniel Paille scored the winning goal with just over six minutes to go, tying the series at one game apiece heading back to Boston for Games 3 and 4. No matter what happens, there will be at least one more game in Chicago, and for what it's worth, I'm pretty confident that this series is going to go seven games.

In the first two games of this Stanley Cup Finals, these two teams could not be more evenly matched - we have yet to see a regulation length contest. For the first two periods of Game 1, it looked like the Bruins were going to take this thing easily, but it's become clear that it won't be that easy. I'm not sure I can handle this kind of excitement for five more games, but I know I'll miss it when it's all over - though if the Bruins bring home the Stanley Cup again, I'm sure I'll have an easier time dealing with that imminent hockey withdrawal.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Red Sox bats silenced in Baltimore

After the second extra-innings game of the week, the Red Sox bullpen could use some serious rest and relaxation. Alex Wilson was a lifesaver, as he was called up from AAA and was able to come in and pitch multiple innings, saving some of those worn-out bullpen arms. But what the Sox really need tonight was a nice long outing from starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, and he delivered.

Unfortunately for Dempster, the Red Sox run support was nonexistent  though I suppose you might call that karma, given the fact that recently he's had ridiculous offensive clout behind him. Dempster made it through seven and two-thirds innnings, and allowed just two runs. But with runners at the corners for Matt Wieters in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs, it was pretty clear that whatever the outcome, Wieters would be the last batter faced by Dempster tonight, and Dempster walked him to load the bases.

It wasn't the ending Dempster (or the Red Sox) hoped for after delivering a quality start (better, in fact, than the 6 IP and 3 ER required to qualify). Though Koji Uehara was able to come in and record the final out of the inning, striking out J.J. Hardy on three pitches, the Red Sox couldn't stage a comeback. Orioles closer Jim Johnson struck out Mike Carp for the first out the ninth inning, then hit Daniel Nava with a pitch before inducing Jose Iglesias to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to earn the save and clinch the win for the O's.

This is the first time in more than two weeks that the Red Sox have lost two in a row (the last time was when they dropped two to the Phillies), and while they're still atop the American League East, their lead is now at a scant 1.5 games. The Sox have John Lackey going for them tomorrow, and Jon Lester will be on the mound to close out the series on Sunday, but it doesn't matter if you have Cy Young on the mound if you can't score any runs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Aceves successfully steps in

Not even three weeks ago, I had to write a post apologizing to Alfedo Aceves, because I had predicted the worst from him. I'll happily apologize when players prove me wrong, and here we are again. Last night, when a large portion of Red Sox Nation was tuned into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Aceves earned a win down in Tampa Bay.

The performance from the oft-maligned and sometimes volatile Aceves was much appreciated, as his six innings went further toward resting the bullpen than Lester's 4.2 the night before. Sure it would have been nice to see Aces go deeper into the game, but the battered bullpen managed to piece together the final three innings to get the win.

Aceves night was better than many he's had in recent starts (excepting the last time I had to apologize to him, when he was quite good), as he allowed just a single run (a solo homer) and scattered four hits and four walks in his six innings. WEEI is speculating that his newfound success has something to do with the fact that he's stopped shaking off signs from the catcher.

Whatever it is, Aces should keep doing it. He might need to make another appearance soon, if Clay Buchholz needs more time, or if we discover that Lester's struggles are caused by an underlying injury. Of course, I'd love nothing more than for the Red Sox rotation to stay completely healthy so Aceves won't be needed - but I'm not so naive to think that's a reasonable expectation. 

Bruins fall in Game 1

Despite an early lead, the Bruins lost the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals early this morning during the third overtime period. For those of you not totally familiar with hockey, that means that the Bruins and the Blackhawks played the near-equivalent of two regulation length games, for a contest that spanned more than five hours and took place on two different days.

There was some speculation that the two days off in between each game were somehow excessive, but as one of the scores of fans who were up until the wee hours of the morning, I personally might need two whole days to recover. I was never good enough at hockey during my short failed high school playing career to truly understand how exhausting it is to play for an entire game. Indeed, I think I could count the number of shifts I played in two years on one hand - my field hockey prowess didn't translate well to the ice.

In any case, hockey has to be one of the most physically demanding team sports, combining the physical stamina required for basketball (but with the added challenge of skating rather than walking), with the hand-eye coordination of baseball (with the additional restraint of a huge layer of protective gear), with the brute force of football (only hockey hits can happen at much higher speeds). The whole thing is insanely intense, and two days to recuperate from last night's marathon game is only unreasonable if you think they deserve three or more.

I also think that the two days off will prove helpful for the Bruins in terms of momentum - by Saturday evening, Wednesday's loss will seem like ages ago. Any momentum that the Blackhawks might have derived from such an exciting OT win will have pretty much dissipated, and though the Bruins will be playing one game down, they will have had time to shake it off. They'll come back and win on Saturday, and go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lester falls short, De La Torre picks up the slack

The Red Sox really need Jon Lester to pitch late into last night's game, and he couldn't come through. To his credit, he took total responsibility for his struggles, and AAA call-up Jose De La Torre came in and was able to finish out the game on 52 pitches, earning Lester's thanks.

The fallout from Monday's ridiculous 14 inning victory will continue tonight, as Alfredo Aceves will take the mound for what should have been a Franklin Morales start until Morales ended up pitching the final two innings on Monday.  Thanks to De La Torre, the bullpen has had at least one day to recover, though given the amount of work some of the arms have had lately, and the age of some of the bullpen pitchers (Koji Uehara, I'm looking at you), they could probably use another.

But there are going to be rough spots in any season - and this season has had far fewer rough spots than last year, so I won't complain too much. The Red Sox have more wins than any other team in the American League, and only the St Louis Cardinals (42-22) have more in the NL. The Sox have a rough stretch coming up, with a few series against AL East opponents, and games against the first place Tigers and second place Rockies.

It would be great if Aceves could get things back on track tonight, as he certainly has something to prove to the team who demoted him to the minors, but I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't happen. Although I was wrong in my predictions for Lester yesterday, so hopefully I'll be wrong about Aceves today.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bullpen in shambles after extra innings win

Last night's game was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. After the Red Sox supplied a six-run lead to starter John Lackey right off the bat, he gave up four runs in the five and two-thirds innings he pitched. Though Lackey left the game in line for a win (after hitting the showboating Matt Joyce with a pitch and clearing the benches), the Rays tied the game at six in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The game ended up lasting 14 innings and nearly five and a half hours, and by the end those of us still awake and watching started to get a little loopy. Twitter turned into an even stranger place than usual, as Red Sox fans lost our sanity bit by bit. Thing were briefly ahead by two runs in the top of the tenth inning, but the Rays tied it up again in the bottom of the frame when Andrew Bailey allowed a home run, two walks, and an RBI single.

Things stayed tied up at eight apiece until the top of the fourteenth inning. Shane Victorino scored the winning run after some heads-up base running and an RBI single from Nava. Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in Nava for an insurance run, but the Sox wouldn't need it, as Franklin Morales (who had come in to start the thirteenth inning, sacrificing his Wednesday start) allowed a single but no runs to finally cement a win for the Red Sox.

The win, though as exciting as it was exhausting, left the bullpen in shambles. The Red Sox will have to make a few moves to cover the players who will be unavailable for a game or two, as well as to get someone who can start on Wednesday after Morales took one for the team early this morning - although he did earn himself a win two days early and with just 35 pitches, so there's that.

Peter Abraham has outlined the specifics of the pitching conundrum over at the Extra Bases Blog - basically, it looks like Clayton Mortensen might be headed for the disabled list to make some space on the roster, and it's likely that Alfredo Aceves will take Morales' start on Wednesday. Regardless of how the roster configuration shakes out, it's super important that Jon Lester has a fantastic start tonight. The Sox need a lot of innings tonight more than any other point this season, and I have great confidence in Jon Lester.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Bearded Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have always been pretty lax when it comes to the physical appearances of their players. Until this season, there was no dress code for players on road trips (Terry Francona apparently just requested that they dress at least as well as he did, and Bobby V. kept expectations pretty much the same). John Farrell has changed that, as he has now required that his players wear a suit jacket when traveling, though ties are apparently optional.

But anything beyond that is up to the players discretion. The Yankees are [in]famous for never allowing facial hair below the mouth on their players, and no haircuts longer than the ears - a curious distinction that prevented Johnny Damon from manning the outfield resembling Jesus, but allowed Jason Giambi to parade around for years sporting a mustache that made him look like a '70s porn star.

The Red Sox have no such rules about hair length or personal grooming, and we've seen some interesting personal style over the last decade, from the aforementioned Damon, to the flowing deadlocks of Manny Ramirez, to the famous goatee (and one-time fu manchu) sported by Kevin Youkilis. Overall, players have been somewhat scruffy much of the time, but this season has included many more full beards than I remember seeing.

These styles include what I like to call the sometimes- or sparsely-bearded, pictured below:
Left to right, top row first: Pedro Ciriaco, Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront, Koji Uehara, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Junichi Tazawa, Shane Victorino, and John Lackey.

Of course, the semi-beardedness of some of these men might have more to do with sheer laziness than any actual attempt at maintaining facial hair. We see some of them clean-shaven at times, scruffy at others, and sometimes even with groomed goatees.

I think my personal favorite among the barely-there-beard coalition is Clayton Mortensen:
The tiny spot just underneath his mouth is often slightly off-center, but it's obvious that it takes significant maintenance to stay baby smooth and scruff free outside that one square inch. The style is too small to be a goatee, but I just can't use the phrase "soul patch" and Clayton Mortensen in the same sentence without giggling.

But the best of all belong to those who have allowed their facial hair to become a full fledged bushy beard. 
Left to right, top row first: Andrew Miller, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Carp, Ryan Dempster, and David Ortiz.

Napoli and Ortiz almost don't qualify, as they keep their beards so short, but one look at the precise shaping will tell you that these are men who take pride in their facial hair. Miller has even toned down his look from the beginning of the season, for a few weeks he looked positively wild. Miller, Gomes, Ross, Pedroia, Carp, and Dempster all sport what I like to refer to as "lumberjack beards."

Perhaps another time I'll go through the roster and compare the stats of the many bearded players to the few baby-faced ones, but for now this post was just for fun. It's much more entertaining when each player manages to showcase a personal look on the field, despite the fact that they all must dress alike. I'll take the style and personality of these Red Sox over the stuffiness and uniformity of the Yankees any day of the week.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Run support and Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster earned his second win in a row and third win of the season this afternoon against the Angels, giving the Red Sox six innings and allowing just three runs, and earning a quality start on a beautiful afternoon at Fenway Park. The bats were alive and well, giving Dempster fantastic run support to the tune of ten runs - though any offensive outburst would pale in comparison to the absolute explosion during Dempster's last start, when the Sox punished Rangers pitching for seventeen runs.

I certainly picked a great time to put Ryan Dempster on my fantasy roster, as I added him before that ridiculous victory against the Rangers. He seems to be coming into his own now: up to today, his season ERA is 4.39, significantly higher than the 3.74 that Bill James has projected for the full campaign.

I see Dempster continuing to build on his recent success, and as the weather continues to get warmer, he can probably expect a respectable amount of run support going forward (though perhaps not as extreme as today and last week). A sizable amount of the blame for Dempster's six losses can be attributed squarely to a lack of run support early on, and it seems like the Sox bats have been trying to make it up to him all at once.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sox fall to Halos in the day game

After inclement weather postponed the first game of the Red Sox-Angels series last night, I looked forward to the day-night doubleheader today. It's always fun to be able to spend an entire day watching baseball; there aren't many things that indicate SUMMER IS HERE louder than that.

Unfortunately, despite a ninth inning two-out rally, the Red Sox came out of today's first game with a loss. Felix Doubront just couldn't find the strike zone, but he did manage to get through six innings and give up three runs, earning a quality start and a loss. His Angels counterpart was Tommy Hanson, who got the win despite making it through the minimum number of innings to qualify as the pitcher of record.

Both bullpens were taxed rather more than the respective managers would have liked with another game to play this evening, as the Sox used Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, and Andrew Miller, while the Halos needed four bullpen arms to make it through the final four innings.

It didn't look as if Angels closer Ernesto Frieri would be needed heading into the bottom of the ninth inning as the Sox were trailing by seven runs. Garrett Richards managed to record two quick outs, but then the Red Sox began to rally. Mike Napoli, Jarrod Salalamacchia, and Mike Carp all hit singles, then Stephen Drew doubled, and Jose Iglesias singled to bring the score to 9-5. Frieri came in and struck out Ellsbury to end the game, but the momentum certainly had started to turn.

Clay Buchholz and CJ Wilson will face off in the nightcap. Buchholz is still undefeated in 2013, and will be trying for his ninth win and attempting to preserve his sub-2 ERA, while Wilson's season record is 4-4 with a 3.93 ERA. Buchholz's presence on the mound is even better for the state of the bullpen, as he's likely to be able to go for a lot of innings.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Meanwhile, in Crazytown

I have a lot of respect for Rangers manager Ron Washington. Seriously, he's led his team to the playoffs with impressive regularity in recent years, and even in the AL West that's no small feat.

But on what planet do you intentionally walk the player batting before David Ortiz during a tie game in the bottom of the ninth? Because yeah, that just happened, and it ended just how you thought it would: with Big Papi lining a game-winning three-run homer into the right field bullpen.

I get that it's tempting to intentionally walk red-hot Dustin Pedroia under ordinary circumstances - but it's not like Ortiz has been in any kind of slump. And we don't call Papi "Mr. Clutch" just for kicks, he's been extensively field tested.

So David Ortiz did what he has done his entire Red Sox career, and delivered a win in the bottom of the ninth. The homer also earned the series win for the Sox, and gave them so valuable momentum with the Angels coming into town tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lackey's solid effort not enough

Perhaps the Red Sox exhausted all of their offensive capabilities in last night's rout of the Texas Rangers, as they were only able to muster two runs in tonight's loss. Just as the Rangers' bullpen let them down last night, so the Sox 'pen fell short this evening (though the Red Sox relievers allowed just two runs tonight, while the Rangers relievers allowed a whopping nine runs yesterday).

John Lackey was great, allowing just a single run in six full innings. Lackey's one mistake was giving up a home run to former Red Sox Adrian Beltre, and he left the game after the sixth inning trailing 0-1. In the bottom of that frame, Dustin Pedroia tied things up with a solo homer, erasing Lackey as the pitcher of record.

Craig Breslow ended up taking the loss for the Red Sox, as he gave up a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning, and though the Red Sox managed to score a run in the bottom of the eighth, the final score favored the Rangers. Tomorrow the Sox will look to take the rubber match in the series, with Jon Lester on the mound looking for his seventh win.

Remy and Eck: a match made in heaven

Let me first start by stating the obvious: like any true Red Sox fan, I have endless love for Jerry Remy, and I wish him the speediest of recoveries as he fights his most recent health issues.

I love the dynamic duo of RemDawg and Don Orsillo, and their voices have been the soundtrack to my summers for a long time (along with the dulcet tones of Joe Castiglione, on occasions when I am away from the TV). But I have a confession to make.

I LOVE the games when Dennis Eckersley ends up in the booth with Don. Eck is full of hilarious slang to go along with his pitching know-how and awesome mustache that's been unchanged since the mid-1970s.

There are some interesting parallels between Remy and Eckersley, the most obvious being that they were Red Sox teammates for about six seasons. Though their styles are somewhat different in the booth, they both have tons of baseball knowledge and anecdotes (albeit their specialties differ), and they're both prone to fits of silliness.

I guess what I'm saying is that I want to see a three-man booth. I know NESN likes to have Eck doing pre- and post-game content, but all I want out of life is to watch a Red Sox game and hear the inevitable hilarity of Don, Remy, and Eck describing the action. I want to hear the best clubhouse antics from their days sharing a clubhouse, and most of all I want to know the details of the time that they both modeled for Playgirl.

Make it happen, NESN.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Red Sox crush Rangers, 17-2

Considering that it included twenty-two runs scored, it's pretty miraculous that tonight's game ended at a reasonable hour. Before the contest started, NESN's pregame analysts were discussing an interesting stat: of all current Red Sox players, only Stephen Drew had ever faced Rangers starter Justin Grimm, and he was 1-for-1, meaning that the team was technically batting 1.000 against him.

Once Grimm got on the mound, things didn't improve. He gave up two runs in the first inning, and managed to record just two outs in the second while allowing six Red Sox to score, before he was lifted for the first of four relief pitchers of the night. Indeed, Ranges manager Ron Washington apparently tired of calling on his bullpen (and likely wanted someone to be rested for the rest of the series) and resorted to putting a postion player on the mound for the bottom of the eighth inning.

You might remember David Murphy? He played for the Red Sox in 2006 and part of 2007, and he's been an outfielder for the Rangers ever since - until tonight, when he made his pitching debut. Indeed, he did better than any of the pitchers who came before him, as he allowed just a single hit (a double to Daniel Nava) and no runs.

The Red Sox were practically having batting practice tonight against the Rangers, scoring seventeen runs, and every single starter had either a hit or an RBI - only Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli failed to record at least one of each. David Ortiz's triple and Jackie Bradley Jr.'s first major league home run became footnotes in an explosion of offense  Ryan Dempster came through on the defensive end, allowing just three runs in seven innings before handing the ball off to the Red Sox bullpen. Normally having a 'pen give up two runs in as many innings isn't something to brag about, but compared to the travesty of Rangers relief pitching, I'll take it.

I was in sort of a funk all day, and this game was exactly what I needed. I know that a win is a win, and this one won't count for any more than the others when the season records are tallied up come October - but it counts more to me today.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Red Sox demolish Yankees

On a night when I really needed a save for my fantasy team (and I have both Andrew Bailey and Mariano Rivera on my roster), no save was necessary in the Bronx. The Red Sox obliterated Phil Hughes and the Yankees 11-1 on the back of a grand slam from Mike Napoli and a three run homer from Daniel Nava.

Napoli's slam was a real stroke of karma, as Hughes had intentionally walked David Ortiz to load the bases in the third inning before Napoli took a 2-2 pitch and deposited it into the right-center bleachers. The Red Sox were already on top by one run by that point, as Mike Carp had driven in Jackie Bradley Jr. earlier in the inning.

Things fell apart even more for the Yankees in the ninth inning as Stephen Drew homered to put the Sox on top 9-1, and then Jarrod Saltalamachhia doubled and Jose Iglesias knocked an RBI single. Bradley added a single of his own before Nava grounded out, but got the RBI as Iglesias came around to score. The inning finally ended with Jonny Gomes grounding back to the mound.

The Yankees could only muster a single run off of Sox starter Felix Doubront - doubly nice to see since Doubront has been rather less than impressive at times this season. Doubront went six full innings before giving way to Junichi Tazawa who pitched a clean seventh inning, and then Craig Breslow, who pitched a clean eighth. Koji Uehara took the mound for the Sox in the ninth, and finished the game up economically, sitting down the last three Yankees batters with just twelve pitches.