Thursday, April 3, 2008

Next stop - Canada

Good win yesterday, but not a prefect performance. Very good pitching on both sides for the first 6 innings, and then Big Papi breaks out the big bat for a 2 run home off of old friend Alan Embree. It does feel odd watching the A's trot so many ex-Red Sox pitchers out of their bullpen, doesn't it? They've got Embree, Keith Foulke, and Lenny Dinardo out there.

For me, the story of the day was John Lester. Like I said before, the key for Lester is his command. If he is locating and moving his fastball around where he wants it, it sets up his other pitches better, and keeps the batter off balance. When his command is off, batters either get better pitches to hit, or sit on more pitches, driving up the pitch count - which is when you know Lester is not sharp. Yesterday he was sharp and it showed.

The other big story was Kevin Youkilis setting a new MLB record of 194 consecutive error-less games at first. His reward - the first base bag signed by his teammates, and the ball is off to Cooperstown. Nice job Youk!

The offense was, at times, offensive. First inning, bases loaded, no outs and what happens? Ortiz strikes out swinging, Manny strikes out swinging, and Drew grounds out. You have to tip your hat to Harden - he worked out of that jam. But, the Sox really let him off the hook there. Especially Manny and Papi - just a fly ball brings in one run. While Manny remained cold (0 for 4, 2 strikeouts, and left 8 men on base), Papi warmed up with a 2 run homer in the 7th. In the 8th, the Sox again loaded them up with no outs, but this time the little guys got it done with Pedroia and Youk both hitting RBI singles. Then, in the 9th, Jason Varitek hit his second, oops, first home run of the season to wrap things up.

Like I predicted, Francona let Okajima and Papelbon both rest. In this game, that was an easy decision with the lead they generated late in the game. I expected Manny Delcarmen to get the nod for the ninth inning and he did, and did well with a 1-2-3 inning.

So if you are a learned fan, what do you see down the road, and what are you interested in...

The upcoming schedule is a huge test. You wanted to know if this team is a top contender again? You are about to find out. The Sox play 3 in Toronto, the team many pundits are picking to win the AL East, followed by two home series against Detroit and New York, after which they are back on the road to face Cleveland and New York again. This is scary. If they are cold, they can find themselves with a big hill to climb to get back in. It will take quite and effort to dominate this stretch, and if they do, that could very well lead to a letdown. Scary trip!

Also, I am interested in how Francona handles the outfield. We have two speedy and talented center fielders. Francona hates to sit young talent for too long so he'll get Ellsbury in as much as possible. But, Crisp is a gold glove candidate, and a high paid veteran. JD Drew got in an early rut last season. If he does again, Ellsbury could spell him (like Cora did for Pedroia last year). My guess is that Francona will take it a game at a time for the short term. Each game, he'll examine matchups to see if Crisp or Ellsbury would give him an edge. In a tie, he'll lean towards Crisp by default, but plug Ellsbury in enough to give him work. From there, I think Francona expects it will work itself out. In other words, a trade, an injury, or performance will make it obvious what to do.

At least we they are in the Eastern Time Zone!

Stay tuned - we'll start breaking down the enemy before they get to town. Are the Yankees as big of a threat as they claim to be, or is the opinion that their aging roster is done for more accurate? All that and more coming soon. Don't change that dial.


Anonymous said...

Here's to them being back in the Eastern time zone, but do we really have to go to Canada already? (dragging feet)

Yay for Youk - The first base bag was a perfect & symbolic souvenier (and may his dog not chew it up ;)

I agree with "Francona leaning on Crisp but plugging in Ellsbury."

And regarding the A's trotting out ex-Red Sox pitchers, I think that it's also reminiscent of Dennis Eckersley's career.

Yankees talk on the horizon?- Can't wait!

the blue state blogger said...

If they come out with a winning record this month, it's practically sewn up!

The Yankees don't scare me, either. They don't have the pitching IMO, and their lineup is yet another year older.

Rooster said...

Caroline - LOL - about the dog chewing up the bag - that's great.

Yankees talk will probably be Monday - on their day off right before the home opener.

Blue State - glad to hear those positive vibes - this is definitely a month that could make or break things. Nice post today - I think Manny needs some of those positive vibes next. Although, he hits so well in Toronto, maybe he doesn't need any yet.

Peter N said...

Rooster, I told you she was funny!~

Peter N said...

And about the upcoming schedule...BRING 'EM ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!