Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Captain to the Rescue

You've probably heard it before - it's all about pitching and defense. Last night's game was a perfect example of that. Matsuzaka had a terrific game! Great to see him so sharp, only allowing 1 run and 2 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Add to those numbers 9 strikeouts and no walks, and you are looking at a nice night. With a guy having such a nice night in such a close game, I thought it was a tough decision for Francona to pull him with 2 outs in the 7th. My guess is that Francona planned on pulling him after 7 no matter what, so it was only one batter different. And that one batter was Cust, who had hit a home run off a good pitch in the second inning, and is a lefty - all adding up to having Okajima face him. That plan kind of backfired when Okajima walked Cust, but he got the next batter on a pop-up, so no harm done.

If you are a regular reader, you recall prior to game one I said Ellsbury batting 8th would not last long - only until his bat started getting warmer. Last night he was back at the top of the order doing some nice damage. I also surmised that Papelbon's less than stellar performance against the Dodgers was likely due to him trying some new things in a meaningless game - like a new slider he's been developing. Last night, he threw nothing but fastballs and was his old dominating self. Great to see, although I hope the slider does improve, having more weapons is a good thing.

Defense was very sharp - no signs of fatigue after the day off. Crisp was diving all over center field, Lugo was a vacuum at short, and Youkilis tied ex-Dodger Steve Garvey's major league record of 193 consecutive errorless games games at first base. That is good company to be in.

The offense for the Sox was quiet, unfortunately. Youk scored from 2nd in the 6th with 2 outs on an extremely close play at home. The ump probably could have called it either way, but it think he got the call right - looked like the tag from A's catcher Suzuki just missed. The only other run also involved a close call against the Sox as Varitek's 2 out smash in the 6th appeared to barely clear the yellow line in right center for a home run, but the umps saw it as a double. Luckily Youk scored on the hit, and thanks to great pitching, the lost run was a non-factor.

While the Sox looked sharp, other than on offense, the A's, again, were a bit mistake-prone. Not a good thing against a team like the Red Sox. Suzuki got picked off stealing at a somewhat questionable moment in the 3rd - but I think they were trying to be aggressive. The Captain turned that threat back. In the 8th inning, with a runner on first and no outs, Jack Hannahan lays down an awful bunt right into Mike Lowell's hands allowing Lowell to easily throw out Bobby Crosby at second. Had the bunt gone towards first base, the sacrifice would have worked easily. In the 4th, first baseman Daric Bartman simply dropped an easy foul pop-up by Mike Lowell, but escaped damage when Lowell went on to strike out.

This afternoon, I'm not sure, with it being so early in the season, if Francona will go back to Okajima or Papelbon. So, we're going to need either a lot of offense, or a solid night from Lester and the rest of the bullpen. JD Drew will be back in the lineup, so I expect we'll see Ellsbury sit this one out. As much as we love him, he's the 4th outfielder as long as Crisp plays well.

Funny sight of the night...

Late in the game, the NESN cameras showed an A's fan happily holding up a nice big sign overhead proclaiming that they still believe! Unfortunately, the sign was upside down and created a very comic moment. Maybe when he looked up it looked right side up to him? Glad he's on their side!


Anonymous said...

Too funny - I'm glad that the 'upside down' fan is on the other team too. And your review of the game is worthy of some Captain's Cabernet! I enjoyed the DiceK/Okajima effort, and I agree with your take on Papelbon - May his new slider prove to be worth the wait.

Right before the game started, all the Sox looked well-rested and were smiling, particularly Ellsbury (for good reason :)

After all of the wacky start times (and some stadiums) so far, this afternoon's game should be a treat!

Rooster said...

My favorite Red Sox wine label is Manny Being Merlot. That cracks me up every time I see it!

Thanks for the kind words. Can't wait for 7:00 games!