Friday, April 11, 2008

Wang Spins a Gem

Well, I gave the edge to the Yankees in the first game, and Chien-Ming Wang, unfortunately made my thoughts come true. Both starting pitchers had great games. Wang and Clay Buchholz went toe to toe with brilliant pitching. Why was Wang so effective? Two reasons. First, he had excellent command of his pitches putting the ball exactly where he wanted. Second, he kept the ball around the strike zone all night. The result is that the Sox were not able to be patient at the plate and force Wang to throw a lot of pitches. Wang forced them to swing earlier, but kept the ball out of the sweet zone. So, most players made outs early in the count allowing Wang to get away with very few pitches. That sped the game up and let Wang pitch all nine innings.

I loved the job Buchholz did. I wish he could have gone deeper, but after 6 he was up to 98 pitches. Last season he tired out early, you can't kill him this early on.

Once again, I was questioning Terry Francona's logic. We knew Clay was done after 6, and we had Okajima and Papelbon lined up for the 8th and 9th. So, all we needed was to nail down the eight. So, with Jason Giambi leading off, as a potentially dangerous lefty who loves fastballs, I'm not sure why Terry brought in Mike Timlin to face him. Timlin is fresh off the DL and is a righty fastball pitcher. Why not bring in the lefty reliever Javier Lopez to go after Giambi, then bring in Timlin? That's what I was thinking at the start of the inning. I thought Timlin worked Giambi well, but Giambi won in the end.

After that, the real question was whether we could score off of Wang. Other than JD Drew, who is still in a groove and hit a homer off Wang for the Sox only run, the answer was a resounding NO. So, don't worry about the rest. Wang owned the show. We were never going to score a second run in this game. It could have ended 2-1, 4-1, 8-1, or 12-1. Any way, the Sox were only getting 1. So, the first battle was won hands-down by Wang.

Next up - the Red Sox get their turn to send their ace out as Josh Beckett faces Mike Mussina (weather permitting). Clearly, the Sox have the edge on pitching in this one, and the bullpen is rested enough, so the Sox have the edge. The one strength Mussina will bring to the table is some effective off-speed stuff, especially a nasty knuckle-curve. That pitch can keep hitters off balance. Sox hitters have to try to lay off that pitch and sit on Mussina's near-underhand fastball. Manny will do that - not sure about the others.

Oh, in case you were wondering, Big Papi is still in a rut going 0 for 3. Hmm.
And lastly, why was Jacoby Ellsbury NOT playing on Native American night at Fenway?

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