Friday, April 11, 2008

Mighty Casey Helps Tame Tigers

I'm sure we are all happy today. The Red Sox offense finally woke up and drove them to a win, beating the Tigers 12-6 on the first warm April night in Fenway. Tim Wakefield pitched well enough, but you could see his knuckle ball actually had too much movement on it. That is a mixed blessing. It keeps the batters off balance, but also keeps you catcher off balance, and creates too many walks. It also drives up your pitch count, as Wakefield only lasted 5 innings on 108 pitches, but only surrendered 2 runs on 3 hits - to go with 5 walks and 5 strikeouts. Wakefield was without his trusted Doug Mirabelli, but Kevin Cash looked great behind the plate, making a few terrific stops on errant balls. If he keeps that up, I don't think we'll be treated to another scene of Mirabelli being rushed to Fenway in a police escort this summer.

Yes, the offense finally broke out, but you should still be concerned about middle relief as Julian Tavares gave up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning, while Manny Delcarmen allowed another home run, luckily only a solo this time. Look at it this way, the 6 runs the Tigers scored would have beaten the Red Sox in EVERY other game they played this year except for the opener in Japan. In that game the 6 runs would have sent the game to extra innings. Tonight Mike Timlin joins the team, and Brian Corey will be moved to make room, as we all predicted. Hopefully Timlin brings some stability to the middle relief - it is desperately needed.

But, last night the offense took center stage (finally). When pitching struggles, clobber them with offense. When the offense struggles, smother them with lights-out pitching.

It was an entertaining game! In the second inning, JD Drew took a swing at a pitch and only got a piece of it. The ball rolled down the first base line like a bunt. Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson fielded the ball awkwardly with his back to first base. In a desperate move he hiked the ball, football style, through his legs to the first baseman Carlos Guillen who, fortunately, was not ready for that and the ball sailed by him. It might have been a close play had he caught it.

Sean Casey was tremendous off the bench going 2-5 and driving in 3 runs! JD Drew remains on fire, going 3 for 3 with a walk, 2 runs scored, and 2 RBI. Manny Ramirez provided some entertainment in the fourth inning. Manny was on second base with one out when JD Drew hit a line drive to Magglio Ordonez in right. Manny came flying around third to score, failing to acknowledge third base coach, Demarlo Hale, holding up both arms to stop him. Manny ran right by and scored easily as the throw was cut off at first base. Manny is sure showing his aggressive side lately - nice to see - until it does not work out, then fans will start complaining. It was not a bad play on Manny's part - he just should not make it a habit to ignore the coaches.

Dustin Pedroia got in the aggressive running spirit in the 5th inning. He hit a sharp ball down the third base line which got past Miguel Cabrera and into foul territory. When Cabrera chased it down Pedroia took off for second. To many fans, this may have looked ill-advised, but in the top half of the inning Cabrera almost came out of the game with a hurt hamstring. Pedroia (or the first base coach) probably had that in mind and tried to take advantage. Unfortunately, Cabrera got to the ball quickly and without even setting his feet threw a Drew Bledsoe-like bullet to second base beating Dustin by half a step. I had to tip my hat to that throw - amazing.

There was an interesting call in the 4th when Coco Crisp sent a line drive down the right field line. The ball bounced once in fair territory, then deflected off the right field foul pole and back out onto the field without touching any fans. The play was ruled a ground rule double. That seems odd, as normally the foul poles are actually considered in fair territory. If a fly ball hits a foul pole, it is ruled a home run. So why is a ball that bounces into a foul pole ruled out of play? I'm not sure they got that one right.

They also completely blew a called third strike on a check swing by David Ortiz in the 4th. Replays clearly showed Papi had checked the swing and controlled the bat - not even close. I guess when you are slumping, everything goes wrong. Ortiz went 0 for 2, but managed to walk twice. He has been seen heavily icing the knee that went through surgery this off season. Let's hope he is just in a slump, and not inching towards a stint on the DL.

Speaking of the DL, that's where Mike Lowell is residing for the next 15 days, nursing his left thumb. In his place at third, Kevin Youkilis did a tremendous job. In the first inning, he made a terrific barehanded play on a ball that hit the bag and hopped up on him. His third base instincts are clearly still intact. Youk was also hot with the bat going 1 for 4 with a walk, 2 runs scored and 2 RIB in Lowell's spot batting 5th. Adding to yesterday's discussion of too many lefty's in a row in the batting order, last night Tito had the luxury of working in Sean Casey where he fit best, batting him 8th between the switch hitting Crisp, and the right handed Cash.

Tonight, we welcome the Yankees to town with Clay Bucholz going against Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang. You can count on both teams bringing their games up a notch. My heart is looking for a Red Sox sweep. In practicality, I see the Yankees having the edge tonight, but I think the Sox have the edge over the weekend when Josh Beckett goes up against softball pitcher Mike Mussina, and the recently dazzling Dice-K Matsuzaka takes near teenager Phil Hughes to school.

Interestingly enough, Clay Bucholz grew up as a big fan of Derek Jeter (how's that feel old timer?) and Phil Hughes grew up a big Red Sox fan. Did you know that?


Anonymous said...

I can't wait for this series to get underway, and for those pitching match-ups! And if Clay grew up admiring Jeter, did he ever say if the Yankees had (once) been his first choice?- Enquiring minds want to know...

Rooster said...

Good question - I imagine his dream was to play for NY at one point as a "kid". He grew up in Texas, but was a teen in the 90's, so that's when the Yankees were still good ;)