Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Red Sox Out-Pitched and Out-Managed in Loss to Rays

Do you miss Big Papi yet? The Red Sox sure do. Last night they were once again unable to get any real offense going in a 3-1 loss to the surging Rays. They are batting like zombies up there! Either Tampa Bay pitching is better than advertised, or the Sox need a rest. For the second night in a row, Rays pitching retired each batter in the Red Sox lineup in order the first time through. Two nights in a row the first 3 innings go 1-2-3. Last night, there were no solo home runs to tease us into thinking the offense was about to get going. As the key was turned in the ignition to get it started, the offensive engine sputtered, choked, coughed, and let out a sigh as it collapsed, refusing to start.

Red Sox Players Looking BlueEven JD Drew, the hottest batter this past month for the Sox, was unable to get it going. JD went 0-3 with 2 strike outs, the worse of those coming in the 8th inning. With one out and runners on first and second, the Red Sox had the makings of a rally started, but JD stood there and watched three straight pitches go by, each one of them called a strike. JD, wake up - you have to swing at least once! To JD's credit, he was credited with the Sox' only RBI of the night in the 4th inning. Jacoby Ellsbury had singled advanced all the way to third base when he hit a dribbler that catcher, Dioner Navarro, threw past first base for an error. JD Drew managed to hit a sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury from third, and that ended the Sox' offense for the evening.

Manny Ramirez remained silent at the plate, also going 0-3 with a walk and a strikeout. Even Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis were cold, both of them going 0-4. In games like this, the manager will try to shake things up with a timely pinch hitter. Terry Francona tried to shake things up, but failed in two ways. First, he fell for a little bait and switch by Rays' manager, Joe Maddon. Joe sent starter, Matt Garza, who had already thrown 102 pitches, back out to the mound to start the 8th inning. Joe knew that Tim Wakefield was most likely done for the evening, and that meant that the lead off batter for the Red Sox that inning, catcher Kevin Cash, was likely to be pinch hit for. He played Francona like a fiddle. Terry went for the bait and sent in left handed hitting Sean Casey to bat for Cash. As soon as he saw the move, Maddon marched to the mound and made the move he was planning all along. Maddon sent in the left handed reliever, JP Howell, in to replace Garza.

Grant Balfour Finishes the Game
Then, Tito proceeded to make his second mistake. The Sox had only 3 players on the bench last night with Coco Crisp serving his suspension. That left Sean Casey, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo, who was getting a night off. We all love Varitek, but he has been mired in a slump lately and looks terrible at the plate. Meanwhile, Sean Casey is batting .358. But, Casey bats left handed, so shouldn't that favor NOT sending him up to face Howell? It might, but Casey is batting .350 this season against left handed pitching! So, who gives the Sox a bigger chance to create a spark for the offense? You say Sean Casey? Terry did not think so, and he pulled Casey, now ineligible to return to the game, and sent Varitek up to bat right handed. Varitek watched the first pitch go by for a strike, then swung at and missed the next two pitches. Then, in the 9th inning, with two outs and Alex Cora on second base with a double, the batter was again Jason Varitek, facing the right handed Grant Balfour. This would have been a sweet spot to have Casey batting, but alas, we again got to see Varitek strike out on three straight pitches to end the game.

Meanwhile, poor Tim Wakefield, who went 7 innings, allowing only 2 runs (one of them unearned), got saddled with the loss. It is nights like that when you realize how meaningless wins and losses can be as a meaningful statistic on the effectiveness of a pitcher. Wakefield pitched even better than we could have expected, and not only doe not get the win, but adds another loss to his name. Has to be frustrating.

The Red Sox have yet to win a game in Tampa this season. Can they break that streak tonight with Daisuke Matsuzaka facing off against Scott Kazmir? Kazmir is a tough lefty that will cause trouble for the Sox who have largely left handed outfield and bench. Ellsbury, Moss, and Drew will all have their work cut out for them, and Casey will be forced to ride the pine again. it would be a nice time for Manny Ramirez to get his fire going again, and for the Dice Man to keep them in the game long enough to get past Kazmir and start working on the bullpen. A loss would send the Sox on to face the Yankees trailing the Rays by 3 1/2 games. A win would cut the Rays' lead to only 1 1/2. Let's work on a win!

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)


MCG said...


It is 9:00 Spain time at the wee hours of the morning EST so I think I can officially say it is July 3rd so HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Keep up the great writing. I enjoy my daily read.


Peter N said...

I didn't know it is your birthday today, Thursday, July 3. Happy birthday, Rooster.
Boy, did the 'pen stink last night? Answer...YES. Just two of 'em...Little Manny and Hansen. But they were enough.
MCG, great comment. Maybe check my place out, too. I'm on Rooster's link list. And for that, I'm thankful.
Happy b'day, blog friend. Peter

Rooster said...

Thank you - yes I'm officially older now - yeah!

Peter - very lousy game. Everything looked like it was clicking, especially for Pedroia, and then it all fell apart.

Poor Varitek - the Rays abused him, twice intentionally walking Youk to get to him.

Now the Yankees!