In a day that featured plenty of sloppy play, patches of brilliant pitching, and a few timely home runs, the Red Sox managed to sneak away with two wins over the Milwaukee Brewers, moving them into a tie for first place in the AL East. It was also a day for the fans to show their heartfelt appreciation for the visiting Gabe Kapler as he was treated to a rousing standing ovation. Boston fans honor and respect loyalty with a passion. Gabe Kapler, like Trot Nixon before him, are fine examples of that. Not all ex-Red Sox players demonstrate such loyalty, and are not greeted as warmly (are you listening Johnny Damon?).
Daisuke Matsuzaka was the star of the first game going 6 2/3 innings and improving his record to 7-0 on the season. He also lowered his ERA to 2.15, third best in the American League. Dice-K held the Brewers scoreless through 6 innings, and then allowed 2 runs in the 7th inning, both of them unearned thanks to a fielding error by Kevin Youkilis with 2 outs. The error ended Youk's streak of errorless baseball, and kept the inning alive for Mike Cameron, who took advantage by hitting the first pitch he saw from Dice-K for a 2 run home run. Dice-K was effective all day mixing in all his pitches, only walking 2 batters, and fighting his way out of a couple of jams. The Red Sox also got some effective pitching out of Manny Delcarmen, who got the last out of the 7th inning and pitched a scoreless 8th, only allowing one hit, and preserving the lead for Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th. Papelbon got the save, but took one bruise in the process as he gave up a solo home run to Ryan Braun with two outs.
The Red Sox got one run in the first inning when JD Drew walked with the bases loaded, but the big runs came from the Big Papi in the second inning. With two outs and two men on base, Big Papi launched his 8th home of the season into the Green Monster seats giving the Sox a 4-0 lead. Manny Ramirez, only 2 home runs away from 500, did not go deep yesterday keeping us all in suspense for this afternoon's game.
In game one, both the Sox and Brewers had an error each. As the day wore on, the players got more tired, and the errors mounted. In game two the fans were treated to a total of 13 runs, but only 7 of them were earned as the Red Sox committed 3 errors and the Brewers committed 4! The Red Sox and Tim Wakefield were cruising into the 6th inning holding a 5-0 lead, but the Brewers fought back scoring 3 in the inning. Terry Francona went to Craig Hansen in the 7th. Hansen looked like he was going to fare well. He gave up a leadoff single to Prince Fielder (who really looks like more like a softball player), struck out Corey Hart, and then induced the next two batters to hit ground ball to the infield. Unfortunately, the first ground ball put another runner on when Mike Lowell's throw to first went for an error, and the second ground ball loaded the bases when Alex Cora bobbled the ball for another error. Rather than being out of the inning, Hansen now had his job cut out for him. A ground out plated one run, and before Hanson could end it, Craig Counsell got a hold of a slider for a double, plating two more runs and giving the Brewers their first lead of the day.
The lead would not last as a pair of errors by the Brewers in the bottom of the inning allowed the Sox two squeeze two more runs in for a 7-6 lead that they would manage to hold. Mike Timlin would make sure of that as he earned his first save of the season with a nifty 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Interesting moves by Francona in the first game. To open the ninth inning, Francona not only sent in Papelbon to close the game, he also made a couple of defensive moves. He moved Youkilis to first replacing Sean Casey, and sent in Mike Lowell to third. Was it to shore up defense at third, which Youk having made one error there, or to shore up defense at first base, where Youlikis still has an errorless streak going? He also made a move pulling Julio Lugo and sending in Alex Cora to play short stop. Now, I can't imagine he'd pull his starting shortstop for defensive reasons (although many fans would make the move for that very reason). My guess is that Lugo may still be feeling some side effects from the mild concussion he had.
Today, Josh Beckett will try to complete the three game sweep. Josh was not happy after his last performance. If he is feeling healthy and strong, he will come out firing and the Brewers will take the brunt of his frustrations. Perhaps Manny Ramirez will take it out on them too and treat us to another step towards baseball's history books.
Lastly, MLB has tentatively listed Bartolo Colon as Tuesday's starter for the Red Sox. They admit that no such announcement has been made by the Red Sox, but the mystery continues!
(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)