Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched his best game of 2008 last night as the Red Sox treated fans to a near identical game as the one the night before. Does this sound familiar? Low scoring pitching duel, game is tied, last of the ninth inning, Papelbon has just preserved the tie in the top of the inning, Big Papi is on second base, Manny Ramirez is on first base, the batter hits a single to center field...
The night before, the batter was Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells bobbled the ball to let Papi score from second to end the game in walk-off fashion. Last night was a bit different, but not a lot. Last night, Terry Francona pinch ran Jed Lowrie for David Ortiz (thank you Terry), and Brandon Moss hit the single to center. But, this time Wells did not bobble the ball and he threw a strike to home nailing Lowrie for the second out of the inning. That brought Jason Varitek to the plate with Manny now on second, and Moss at first, with two outs. The Captain proceeded to rip a single to center, Vernon Wells fielded it cleanly and fired home. This time his throw was a little up the first base line, pulling the catcher away from the plate and Manny took advantage and slid in for the walk off run.
David Ortiz belted his 5th home run of the season in the 7th inning to give the Sox a 1-0 lead, but Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima combined to allow the Jays to tie it at one in the eighth inning, setting up the drama in the ninth.
I still say the cold weather has slowed down the bats, allowing the pitchers to get a slight edge. Nothing wrong with that, and it was fun to see Dice-K submit a masterful performance, pitching 7 shutout innings, allowing only 2 hits to go with 4 strike outs and 2 walks. This is the fourth such pitching start for the Red Sox in a row. The last four starters went as follows:
Buchholz : 8 innings, 3H, 2R, 9K, 1BB
Beckett: 7 innings, 4H, 2R, 13K, 1BB
Lester: 8 innings, 1H, 0R, 6K, 4BB
Matsuzaka: 7 innings, 2H, 0R, 4K, 2BB
Before you get too excited about that, remember that you need at least a little bit of offense to win a game. Over the last 45 innings that the Red Sox have played, they have ONLY SCORED 5 RUNS! If you are a math expert, you already know this is an average of one run per 9 inning game. If I recall, Albert Einstein had identified that as the classic formula for a losing streak. Luckily for the Red Sox, they have won 2 games in those 45 innings.
Tonight, all the pressure is on for Tim Wakefield to match the feats of his fellow starters. My recollection is that cold weather does not create the best conditions for the knuckle ball. The Jays send potential ace, AJ Burnett to the mount to face Wakefield, and in my book, the pitching match up leans in favor of Toronto. The one thing to hope for is that the law of averages is enforced, and the runs once again start flowing.
Are you worried about injuries? You should be. Last night the Red Sox had NO extra outfielder available for the game. Julio Lugo would have been recruited had there been an emergency need. Let's hope Jacoby Ellsbury is available tonight off the bench at least. JD Drew will probably need a couple more days.
I leave you with a joke my daughter made up tonight...
"Why did Jason Varitek suffer with a such bad case of the flu?"
"Because he catches everything!!!"