Monday, June 30, 2008

Astros Shoot Red Sox Out Of First Place

In a surprise turn of events, the Houston Astros stole a close game from the Red Sox, winning by the score of 3-2 on a night when the Sox had their ace, Josh Beckett, on the mound. Beckett pitched a decent game, going 7 innings and only allowing 2 runs, but was unfortunate to be pitching on a night when the Sox offense was unable to get anything going.

Josh BeckettThe only runs the Sox were able to generate were on 2 solo home runs, one by Dustin Pedroia, and one by Manny Ramirez. Manny has been in a bit of a slump the past few weeks, so it was good to see him go deep. But, the National League format with no DH seemed to hinder the production last night. In particular, in the 6th inning the Sox were able to put runners on 1st and 3rd with only one out. However, the next batter was the pitcher, Josh Beckett. Terry Francona had two choices. He could pull Beckett and send a pinch hitter up to hopefully bring in the man from 3rd. But, this would force them to go to the bullpen 2 innings sooner than planned. the other choice was to allow Beckett to hit, and hope for a little luck - perhaps a walk or a fortunate hit. But, Houston starter, Brian Moehler, was pitching a nice game and was not about to let an AL pitcher ruin his night. Beckett tried to at least bunt the runner over to second base, but Moehler threw nasty tailing sliders to keep that from happening. With two strikes on him, Beckett had little choice other than to swing at the next good pitch, which he did, and struck out.

Dustin Pedroia's Home RunEven though the Sox could not generate a real rally, they were tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 8th. David Aardsma went in to replace Beckett. Aardsma got Carlos Lee to fly out, but then gave up a single to Miguel Tejada. For some reason, Francona opted to pull Aardsma at this point and send in Hideki Okajima. I He may have been trying to keep Aardsma's pitch count down, but other than that, I'm not sure what the logic was. The next batter, Jeff Blum, is a switch hitter, so no lefty match up there. The batter after that was the pitcher, so you could be sure there would be a pinch hitter. But, Francona went with Okajima, who continues to prove he cannot keep inherited base runners from scoring this season. I am wondering if he is somehow tipping his pitches? Just seems like a big change from last year for him.

Mark LorettaOkajima threw a curve ball in the dirt that got past Jason Varitek sending Tejada to second base. He then got Blum to ground out for the second out of the inning, only to bring up pinch hitter, Mark Loretta. Loretta has been a thorn in the side for the Sox in this series, and continued to pester last night, sending a single to center on a very ineffective change up to score Tejada for the winning run.

Losing last night dropped the Sox out of first place, a half game behind tonight's opponent, Tampa Bay. The Rays are still looking strong, and in the fight longer than most people thought they would be already. The Red Sox have beaten Tampa Bay 6 games straight in Fenway Park, but lost three straight to the Rays on the road. This will be an exciting series. The Rays need to win to prove they are real, and solidify their hold on first place. The Sox need to step it up, and show who the true World Champs are. Having been watching the Rays over the past few seasons, I do not think they are wise enough to put the past confrontations with the Sox behind them. I don't expect them to come out fighting, but I do expect them to over-react to any little incursion, like a hit by pitch or collision on the base paths. Tune in to this series, should be exciting.

Lastly, if you have not heard, Manny has been causing more trouble in the clubhouse this week. On Saturday, he asked traveling secretary, Jack McCormick, for 16 tickets for Saturday's game. Who knew Manny had so many friends in Houston, but since Manny was asking for so many tickets on the day of the game, Jack told him he might not be able to fulfill his request. Manny did not want to hear that and shouted at Jack to "just do your job". That started an argument, Manny pushed Jack, Jack fell, nearby players jumped in to break things up.

So, what do we make of this? Hard to say. Manny is generally very laid back. Has there been bad blood between these two before? Was Manny in a bad mood for other reasons and took it out on Jack? For whatever reason, Manny snapped, which is unusual for him. He has since apologized, Jack has accepted the apology, and the team has moved on. Sounds like a good idea. But, Red Sox management need to have a chat with Manny to understand what's going on there. He may be having personal issues which have him stressed. In any respect, flare ups within the team like this do not help pull everyone together for a playoff run. Terry Francona would be well advised to understand what's going on, and try to help, if possible, to keep the close camaraderie in the clubhouse going. No need to suspend anyone over a brief spat, just get to the bottom of the real issue, ease the problem as much as possible, and play ball.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)


Fenway West said...

not a lot of positive news right now...sucky bullpen, Manny acting like a Yankee fan after 12 beers, and the Rays moving into first. I hope they can sweep at the Trop and get ready for the Yanks series.

Rooster said...

Well, when you lose 2 out of three to a team you are better than, things never look good. But, the season is one long roller coaster, sometimes you'll be on top, other times you'll be down, but it is important to keep your seatbelt fastened, and keep your head and hands inside the car.

I really doubt they will sweep in Tampa, but it sure would be nice. If the Rays relax and just play their game, they should play well and at least take one game, if not two. But, if they stress out about playing the Sox, they'll make mistakes, and get their butts kicked.

Seems like a while since we've played the Yankees - can't wait! I miss them!

Suldog said...

First Manny gets in a dugout beef with Youk, then this. Maybe something truly setting him off? Home life? Who knows?

Hey, Rooster, I don't usually beg folks to come read, but I figure today's entry would be amusing to you especially.

Rooster said...

You need to beg, Sul. I try to stop by your place every day - just had a busy morning. On my way there now.