Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cardinals Looking for Payback Sweep from Red Sox

With yesterday's 9-3 victory over Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Cardinals have a chance to sweep the Red Sox today and earn a little payback for the sweep the Red Sox put on them in the 2004 World Series. Yes, the victory was over Dice-K. Take the Dice-man out of the equation, and the Sox may have won that game. It was Matsuzaka's first outing coming back from the disabled list, and he simply had nothing to offer. How's this for a first inning? A walk, 3 singles, a double, and a home run resulting in a 4-0 lead for St. Louis right off the bat. In the inning, all nine Cardinals batter got to bat.

Dice-K MatsuzakaNot wanting to dip into the bullpen too early, Terry Francona sent Dice-K back out for the second inning, hoping he might settle down and keep them in the game. The first inning started with a walk to lead-off batter, Skip Schumaker, and the second started identically with another walk to Schumaker, followed by a single and another walk to load the bases with no out. Well, Francona finally threw in the towel, realizing that his starter had nothing to offer.

Earlier in the season the Red Sox had two pitchers in the bullpen who could handle long relief situations, Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavares, but both of them were cut loose. So, yesterday, Francona gave a rookie, Chris Smith, a chance to throw his very first pitch in the major leagues. Chris had been brought up from Pawtucket to add some depth to the bullpen when Dice-K was on the DL, and was allowed to stay after Dice-K's return by sending Mike Timlin to the DL with "knee tendinitis". For you non-medical professionals, I think you can translate "knee tendinitis" to mean "has been pitching like crap lately and we need an excuse to get him out of the bullpen".

Dice-K DepartsSo, Chris Smith has a chat with Jason Varitek on the mound, takes a deep breath, and gets ready to throw the most memorable pitch of his life to this point. That pitch was beautiful, an excellent slider that Rick Ankiel swung at and missed. It worked so well, that Varitek said, "throw another one just like that". Smith did just that, hitting nearly the exact same spot with the exact same result. Well, if it is working, it is working. Third pitch, another slider, exact same location, Ankiel swung and missed, and Chris Smith's career is forever in the books as starting off with a three pitch strikeout.

Troy Glaus HomersVaritek must have thought to himself, "the kid has a nice slider, let's see what else he has". So, bases still loaded with one out, Varitek called for a fastball. Way outside to the dangerous Troy Glaus. Okay, that did not work. How about a curve ball? Chris Smith threw the curve, it hung there like a pinata at a birthday party, and Troy Glaus clobbered it into the Green Monster seats for a grand slam. Welcome to the big leagues, Chris. Smith went on to turn in a very nice outing after that. Unlike Dice-K, he did settle down and showed us why he deserved a chance to pitch in Fenway Park as he retired the next nine batters in a row. He lasted 4 innings, which is incredible for a debut appearance by a rookie reliever, keeping St. Louis from scoring again off of him.

The Sox had one inning where they rallied for 2 runs, and even JD Drew, who smashed yet another home run, a solo shot in the 6th inning, could not help catch up to the enormous lead Dice-K had given the Cardinals.

The loss is the second in a row to the Cardinals in this series. This afternoon, the Cardinals have a chance to sweep the Red Sox and exact a little revenge for the 2004 World Series sweep the Red Sox handed them. However, to do so they'll have to get past Jon Lester. Lester has been pitching better and better this season, having won his last three starts, and you'll see the determination in his eyes as he bears down on the Cardinals lineup as he tries to make it four in a row. The win would give Lester a 7-3 record, tying him with Josh Beckett for the second most wins on the team, one shy of Dice-K's 8.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Anonymous said...

I still don't understand/agree with Lester pitching again today before Beckett.

Rooster said...

They have a plan, that throughout the year they will get pitchers an extra day rest here and there. This is an opportunity to do that for Beckett. Lester pitched 5 days ago, so this would be his normal day to start. If they did not do this, Lester would be th eone getting an extra day of rest. But, I guess it is Beckett's turn.

Waiting for rain delay to end... said...

It's funny, wifey saw the score and was like Dice-K sucks, he's overrated. I have to disagree. This was his first game back and we need to cut him some slack. If he is three or four starts deep, then there might be an issue.

Rooster said...

WPD - You are right, he may just be a little rusty. You don't win 8 games by not being good! Unless there is a physical problem we don't know about, he'll bounce back.