Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dice-K Leads The Way

That's the type of game we like to see from Daisuke Matsuzaka. But, in the first inning, were you thinking what I was thinking? "Here we go again" were the only words that made sense. Dice-K retired the first two batters of the game on infield pop-ups, and then proceeded to make it exciting by loading the bases on two walks and an infield hit. He got out of the inning by getting Delmon Young to ground out to Kevin Youkilis, but thoughts of walks and high pitch counts were already dancing in my head.

Dice-K MatsuzakaI'm not sure what Dice-K did after the first inning to right the ship, but form there on he pitched very sharp, lasting into the 8th inning, and only giving up one more walk along the way. Perfect timing for a dominating outing, since the Twins' starter, Scott Baker, was also spinning a gem. Baker looked just as good as Matsuzaka, neither one of them allowing a single run to be scored against them.

Hideki Okajima came in to replace Dice-K in the 8th inning and did his job to raise tensions and keep fans interested. Dice-K was tiring. He got the first batter out thanks to a diving catch by Jacoby Ellsbury in left field, then gave up a bunt single, and a single to right field to put two batters on. He was done and Terry Francona needed to bring in a reliever. So, the game is knotted in a scoreless tie in the 8th inning with one out and two runners on base, and Justin Morneau coming to the plate, the Twins' outstanding cleanup hitter. Hmm, who can we bring in to relieve Dice-K who can really hold inherited runners on base? Oh, I know, Hideki Okajima! As my daughters are prone to say, "wait...what?". Okajima has been abysmal when brought into an inning with runners on base. It has been almost a sure thing that at least one of those runners would score, and yet that's who was coming in. Well, Morneau, and the on deck batter, Jason Kubel, are both left handed. At least we have that going for us.

I have to say, Okajima waged a valiant battle against Justin Morneau, but in the end, Morneau was able to draw a walk to load the bases. Rather than send another lefty up to bat, the Twins sent in Craig Monroe to pinch hit. Okajima buckled down and got Monroe to pop out to Youk for the second out, and then got Delmon Young to harmlessly ground out. Can you believe it? That was the game right there. Right then, you knew this one was ours.

Manny RamirezSure enough, in the bottom of the inning, Dustin Pedroia hits a double, and with one out, Manny Ramirez (finally) gets a clutch hit single to right to score the game's only run. Jonathan Papelbon made short work of things in the ninth, and with Tampa Bay finally losing a game, the Sox managed to creep one step closer, now 4 games behind the Rays.

The Rays will now be facing off against the Yankees in New York. Can you bring yourself to cheer for the Yankees to win to help us get closer to the Rays? That's a tough one, isn't it?

An interesting move on the horizon, as the Sox are ready to bring Clay Buchholz back up from Pawtucket. To make room for Clay, Justin Masterson has been sent back to Pawtucket, however he will begin working on coming out of the bullpen rather than starting. The Sox do have extra starters, with Bartolo Colon still waiting to rejoin the team, Masterson might have a tough time getting back into the rotation this season. However, as a reliever, he can surely contribute. I like the idea.

Now get out there and cheer for those Yankees (boy it hurt to type that).

(photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports)


Fenway West said...

With the Yanks/Rays playing at least one of them is going to lose. This is one of the longer Manny slumps that I can remember...let's hope the hit will bring him back.

wicked pissa dude said...

We want run support!! We want run support!! My God, it's the least we could do for Dice-K. He doesn't even get a win from this gem of a game? That's a travesty.


Rooster said...

FW - but if the Yanks sweep the Rays, it only helps the Sox to climb back to first place, which is where I like to see them.

WPD - we got some last night, and I really think the lack of power in the lineup is in part due to Papi's absence. With him in there, it stretches the lineup, and adds more pop. Hopefully he'll be back before July is over!