Sunday, June 1, 2008

Red Sox Win with Power and Speed

The Red Sox won their second straight game, 6-3, over the Baltimore Orioles last night. Manny Ramirez stole all the headlines in the 7th inning when he launched a 410 foot home run, the 500th of his career. Manny has been anxious about getting past this historic milestone, and admitted he has been swinging for the fences to get it over with. Now that he has accomplished the feat, I assure you, he will relax, settle in to his swing, and start terrorizing opposing pitchers for a while!

The game had been an interesting back and forth battle. The Orioles scored first, squeezing in two runs off of Red Sox starter, Jon Lester. The Red Sox countered with back to back solo home runs by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in the top of the 3rd inning. Brian Roberts hit a solo home run off of Lester in the 5th inning to regain the lead for Baltimore, but the Red Sox answered right back when Jason Varitek singled home Kevin Youkilis in the top of the 6th inning to tie the game at 3.

Jacoby Ellsbury as Road RunnerJacoby Ellsbury was, once again, a terror on the bases. Unfortunately, the Red Sox have been failing to take advantage of the opportunities Ellsbury has given them. I have the feeling that Baltimore starter, Garrett Olson, had been obsessing about Ellsbury's speed prior to the game. He was so worried about Ellsbury getting on, that he walked him on four straight pitches to start the game. Once on first base, the left handed Olson could hardly focus on the batter, staring down Ellsbury, and firing pick off attempts to first. Olson's fourth pick-off attempt sailed away from Kevin Millar and Ellsbury was handed second base on the error. Having Ellsbury at second changed the defense for Baltimore. With David Ortiz at the plate, Baltimore will shift the defense towards the right, with the third baseman basically playing shortstop. However, with the threat of Ellsbury stealing third, the third baseman had to cheat back to third, leaving a huge gap at short for Ortiz. Additionally, the shortstop had to hover around second base to try to keep Ellsbury from getting too big of a lead. None of this would end up mattering, as Ortiz watched the next pitch go by for a (terrible) called strike, and Ellsbury took off with the pitch and stole third base easily. After all that work to get to third base, Manny Ramirez flied out to (deep) center field to end the inning.

Jacoby Ellsbury Steals ThirdFast forward to the 5th inning. With one out, Olson again walks Ellsbury, and this time Ellsbury swiped second base. With Ellsbury now in scoring position, Dustin Pedroia flied out to left for the second out. Big Papi came up to the plate, and Ellsbury wanted to increase the odds of scoring, so he quickly stole third base. The kid can sure fly out there! But, alas, Papi followed Pedroia's lead and ended the inning with a fly ball to left.

But, Ellsbury is not one to give up. In the 7th inning, Ellsbury lead off with a long line drive to the right-center field gap that one-hopped the wall. Orioles' outfielders were on the scene instantly, and most mortal players would have held up for a double. But, Ellsbury never even slowed down, leaving a cloud of dust as he passed over second base. He slid into third base, but there was no need. No throw would be coming from the Orioles - Jacoby was safe on third, with no outs. Ellsbury had been stranded on third twice so far, would this be a third time? Dustin Pedroia hit a soft grounder to Alex Cintron at shortstop. Cintron looked Ellsbury back to third and fired to Millar for the first out. Ellsbury began to get concerned. The Orioles sent in left-hander, Jamie Walker, to pitch to Ortiz. Ortiz got a piece of a slider and sent it high into mid-left field, drifting towards the foul line. Left fielder, Jay Payton, had plenty of time to get to the ball, position himself well, and prepare for a throw home. Not a good situation for a base runner. Ellsbury, fearing this may be his one and only chance to score, decided to trust his fleet feet. Payton caught the ball, Ellsbury sprinted home. Payton, in perfect position, threw a perfect throw home that took one short hop to the waiting glove of catcher Ramon Hernandez. 99.9% of players would have been out by a mile, but Ellsbury, somehow, was arriving at the plate at the exact same time as the ball. Just as the ball tried to settle in to the glove, Ellsbury was sliding in. Knowing he had only a fraction of a second to apply the tag, Hernandez rushed, just a bit, and the ball slipped away. Ellsbury was safe - he manufactured his own run, and the Sox now lead 4-3.

Manny Ramirez Home Run 500Enough drama for one night? Not really. It turns out, Ellsbury could have just waited one more batter and jogged home on the back of Manny Ramirez' 500th home run! Chad Bradford went in to pitch to Manny. He only threw one pitch - an 82 mph fastball right down the middle. Manny's eyes lit up, the bat roared through the zone, and for one split fraction of a second, the round ball was hammered flat. A second later it was on its way to history as Manny sat back and watched it sail through the night sky into the outfield seats. Manny was fortunate to hit the historic home run in front of the Red Sox faithful. That's right, 48, 281 fans were at the game last night, and my rough estimate is that 30,000 of them were Red Sox fans. There were "let's go Red Sox" chants all night long echoing through downtown Baltimore. And when that home run landed and became official, the crowd went crazy - just as loud as it would have been at Fenway Park.
Manny Ramirez waves to the Crowd
This afternoon, the Red Sox go for three in a row behind the third outing of the season for Bartolo Colon. Colon has looked terrific in his first two starts, both of them wins. As his strength builds, we should see Francona letting his pitch count get higher - possibly nearing 100 pitches tonight, presuming he keeps the Sox in the game.

The one case of bad news for the Sox came in the ninth inning last night as David Ortiz strained his wrist on a swing and had to be replaced by Sean Casey. The injury appears to be mild, but expect Papi to get a day or two off to let the wrist heal.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Anonymous said...

Good morning Rooster! I loved last night's game - That Pedroia & Papi went back-to-back, that roadrunner (lol) Ellsbury rattled the Orioles (which you depicted well), and of course Manny's #500 and the fact that the Sox won! Perhaps A&E should include this game in a future-released DVD :)

And now that the pressure is off, I'll look forward to Manny "terrorizing pitchers" :D

Anonymous said...

I continue to be amazed with this team's balance. Yeah, Manny's shot got all the mainstream attention, but the E's base running and the continued mastery of small ball is why this team will keep winning.

John McCain: Bush is right - Screw kids!

Rooster said...

Caroline! Manny is already starting his reign of terror!

Anonymous (Rob?) you speak very wisely. This is a good team, they have pitching, hitting, and have numberous ways to attack, with pretty good depth!

You both should join the contest - it will be a fun week - looking for more contestants!

Insight said...

Noooooo.....nobody should enter the contest.....improves my odds! Only on!

gingerly said...

I can't believe how fast Jacoby can
run from home plate to third. No one could do that. This guy truly flies. Your picture is perfect.

I'm also glad Manny got 501 because the fans were still focusing on him too much when he was at 500. Now, with 501, the fans will really let him go back to just being Manny and hitting however he wants. I think that's a big plus and that he wasn't truly free until 501.

Wakefield makes me nuts, but I'm still hoping for tonight.

Rooster said...

G - Ells got caught steling last night, but it took a miracle to do it, and replays showed he may have been safe. He can fly!

Manny will surely tear things up for a while - his mind is clear (too clear maybe - lol).