Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Red Sox Take Two From Seattle Behind Dice-K

So far, so good. The Red Sox, having lost three straight, could use three straight wins from Seattle to get back on track. With a win this afternoon, they could accomplish just that.

Dice-K MatsuzakaLast night, Daisuke Matsuzaka was brilliant. The key to that statement was the fact that he only walked three batters the whole game, and was more efficient with his pitch count. It has become unusual to see Dice-K standing on the mound in the 8th inning, but there he was, looking like he was heading for a complete game.

Unfortunately, his game began unraveling in the 8th inning. With JD Drew leading the way to a 4-0 lead, the Mariners were finally able to chip away as Dice-K began tiring. With one out, and a runner on base, Ichiro Suzuki laced a double to plate the first run, and Jose Lopez followed that with a single up the middle to score Ichiro. With the score now 2-0, Terry Francona felt it was time to give Dice-K some help and ensure he holds on to his 11th win of the season. So, Terry called for Hideki Okajima.

Ichiro SuzukiAs we all know, Okajima has not fared well entering the game with runners on base, but in this case, at least the runner was at first base, and the left handed hitting Raul Ibanez was due up. Sox fans were thinking "ground ball, double play, inning over". Sox fans were also praying "please, not a home run". As it turns out, neither prayer was heard by the baseball gods, but Ibanez did hit a ground ball to first, and Kevin Youkilis managed to throw to second base to get the lead runner for the second out. Oki followed that up by getting Jose Vidro to line out to center to end the inning and complete the transition to Jonathan Papelbon.

Jonathan PapelbonThe Mariners opted to not wait around for Papelbon to strike them out and came out with a strategy to swing early in the count. Good idea, but the result was the same, three straight outs, and Papelbon's 30th save of the. With the save, Papelbon becomes the first closer in Red Sox history to record 3 consecutive 30+ save seasons. Hopefully, that is only the start of more amazing years to come.

Meanwhile, this afternoon all focus will turn to Clay Buchholz. Will the young pitching phenom return to his former brilliance, or will he continue to labor through difficult innings, not fooling batters with an ineffective fastball? Another short and ineffective outing could result in another trip to Pawtucket. Bartolo Colon is nearing a return, but that may be weeks away. On the other hand, if Clay has a solid outing, we'll all breath a sigh of relief and welcome him back to Boston next week.

Last night's win, combined with Tampa Bay's loss, inches the Sox back to within 1/2 of a game of first place. Good timing too, as the Yankees, in their typical post-All Star surge, are starting to create pressure behind the Sox. The Yankees now have notched 5 wins in a row, and tonight will go for a sweep of the Twins before coming to town to face the Red Sox on Friday. That series will be huge. A sweep by the Yankees could vault then over the Sox into second place and return them to serious contention. A sweep by the Red Sox could stomp the Yankees back towards the basement where we'd rather see them. Stay tuned!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

6 comments:

Fenway West said...

A sweep and a solid outing by Buchholz will give the Sox the confidence they need for the Yankees series.

Rooster said...

Amen to that!

Suldog said...

Have to like it. They look lively and ready. Time for a beatdown of the Yanks, I hope.

Rooster said...

Can't wait - I'm going to the game Friday!

Peter N said...

Have a great time...Beckett and Joba...the weather will be grrrrreat! GO SOX!

Peter N said...

Be safe!