Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sox Re-Take the Lead

Another thriller in Cleveland last night! Indians fans must be getting pretty sick of the Red Sox beating them in last minute drama. The feature of the night was the debut of hot shortstop prospect Jed Lowrie (who played third base interestingly enough). Lowrie looked sharp on defense with a gun for an arm. He did not have a great night batting, but made the most it. He struck out twice, and in the fifth he grounded into what looked like an inning ending double play, but as a switch hitter he was batting lefty and the extra step allowed him to just barely beat out the relay to first. That allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to score from third for the Red Sox first run. So, what was almost a disaster turned into a memorable at-bat. His at-bat in the 7th was better. With bases loaded, no outs, he was able to bat right handed (his natural side) against lefty reliever Rafael Perez. He made the most of it hitting a ground ball single through the infield into left, scoring two runs. Not a bad night. The three RBI were the most by a Red Sox player in his debut appearance since Merl Combs did the same in 1947.

Alex Cora has been nursing an ailing elbow, and may be headed to the 15 day DL. This could extend Lowrie's stay with the big club. However, he is not the type of player you want wasting on the bench. He is best served doing some spot duty this season to get experience, but should do most all of his playing in Pawtucket until the Sox have a starting spot for him (watch out Julio Lugo).

The drama built up in the 9th inning. With the score tied, Terry Francona, trying to give Jason Varitek the night off, caved in and sent him up to pinch hit for Kevin Cash with one out and the bases empty. The Captain earned his title, clubbing a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence, giving Boston a 4-3 lead. Kevin Youkilis provided an insurance run with two out and bases loaded. The Indians had wisely walked Manny Ramirez with runners on second and third, but Youk still made them pay with a single to left, which easily scored Coco Crisp from third. Dustin Pedroia, ever full of energy, tried to be aggressive and score behind Crisp, but was gunned down at home to end the inning.
It is nice to write about offense for a change, but, the pitching held their own too. Tim Wakefield started and only allowed 3 runs through 6 innings, but came out of the game down 2-1, so was not able to get the win. Javier Lopez started the 7th inning with two easy outs, but got in a jam putting two runners on with a hit-by-pitch and a single. Terry Francona called down to the bullpen and told Manny Delcarmen to grab a bucket of water and come put out the fire. Unfortunately, Manny grabbed the bucket of kerosene by mistake, and only added to the fire while earning his first blown save of the season. Delcarmen was sloppy, walking the first batter he faced to load the bases, and then hitting his second batter to force in the tying run for Cleveland.

Francona, clearly preferring to save Jonathan Papelbon for the Yankees, went to Hideki Okajima to sew up the game. Unlike Delcarmen, Okajima brought his best thread and needle, striking out the first two batters he faced.

Now, did I say drama? You know the saying "fight fire with fire"? To wrap up the game, the Red Sox fought the Indians with an Indian (sorry, couldn't resist). With two outs in the ninth, Jhonny Peralta, who still can't spell his first name right, sent a long fly ball slicing foul to right field. Jacoby Ellsbury, who is part Navajo Indian, tore after the ball and managed to crash, leap, and stretch in the stands to snag the ball away from a fan who thought he had caught the ball. Jacoby showed the ball to the ump - game over.

Next up - round two with the Yankees, this time on their home turf. If everything works out the way you might expect, you'd have to give the edge to the Yankees tonight with Chien-Ming Wang going up against Clay Buchholz, who is still trying to find his best stuff. Wang was stellar against the Sox last week, but maybe seeing him a second time will help. Tomorrow, the pendulum swings back Boston's way as Red Sox ace Josh Beckett squares off against softball pitcher Mike Mussina, who probably won't be trying to sneak any more 84 mph fastballs past Manny Ramirez.


~**Dawn**~ said...

I found playing Lowrie & Lugo side by side in the field to be a nice way to contrast & compare. ;-)

And I will take Lowrie's just barely making it on to Lugo's bases loaded double play in a tie game.

Lowrie for SS! ;-)

Rooster said...

One game is certainly not enough to make a final judgement, but I thought Lowrie looked very good. I hope we get to see him at short before he heads back to AAA.

He looked decent at bat, good balance, good swing, seemed to have a good eye. He should be good - the question is when? How long is Lugo's remaining contract?

~**Dawn**~ said...

I know it's a bit premature. I am hoping for a few more performances like last night while he's in the bigs to show that that was more than just a fluke.

Lugo's contract (which quite frankly nauseates me a little that we pay him this much to get what we get from him): 4 years/$36M (2007-10), plus $9M 2011 vesting option

Rooster said...

Well, they obviously will use Lugo the rest of this year. If they want to move on from Lugo next year, they can still swing a trade. They'll need a team that maybe lost their starting shortstop to free agency or injury and are desperate for a solid replacement. If that team won't go for the contract, they could opt to pay for a portion of the contract - like they did with Rentaria. It makes for shoddy business, but they can get out of the contract.