Saturday, July 26, 2008

Without Manny, Sox Have No Answer for Joba

Yes, I was at the game last night. Unfortunately, the results were not what I was hoping for, but for the most part, it was an interesting and well played game. This was our first look at Joba Chamberlain as a starter, and he looked good. As expected, he fed Sox batters a steady dose of fast balls, topping out at 100, but not very frequently. In addition, he mixed in a slider and a curveball to keep batters from sitting on the fastball. Joba lasted 7 innings and baffled Sox hitters all night, recording 9 strikeouts while only allowing 3 harmless singles and one walk. The only time it looked like the Sox might get to Joba was in the 2nd inning. Mike Lowell lined a soft single to left field, then JD Drew came up and ripped a shot to center that Melke Cabrera dove for and made the catch. Had he not come up with that, Lowell would have been on third, and they might have gotten something started.

Joba ChamberlainLast night David Ortiz made his debut from the DL. Papi has been hitting minor league pitching well, but it is a big jump from minor league prospects to facing Joba's fastball. Papi looked like he needs a little more time to get his timing down. Meanwhile, there was little excitement while the Sox were at bat until the 7th inning when Joba, AGAIN, almost took Kevin Youkilis' head off with a pitch. Joba has twice before thrown at Youk, once at his head, and once behind him. Joba was precise in his command all night, only walked one batter, and hit no batters. So, could it be coincidence that this one pitch that gets away from Joba all night happens to be against Youk, and happens to go right at his head? Only Joba knows for sure, but I have to say, the game situation just did not make sense for it to be intentional, unless Joba is a complete idiot. At the time, the Yankees were leading 1-0, and Youk was leading off the 7th inning and had a 2-0 count. It just would not make sense for Joba to want to let the lead-off man get on base.

Counterpoint...If Joba does have it in for Youk, and wants to plunk him for some reason we don't know, but he sure makes obvious, then when would he do it? Well, he would not do it early in the game and risk getting thrown out, right? If he was going to do it, it would be late in the game when his turn to pitch was nearly over, like maybe the 7th inning? Joba's pitch count was in the 90's, he knew this would be his last inning, and his last chance to face Youkilis for the series. It was now or never. The way he was mowing the batters down, I'm not sure he was worried about getting through the inning with Youk on first, and if he made it looks accidental, he made not have been ejected for the first offense. Hmm, now that you put is that way, maybe it was not accidental at all! Now, what the hell does Joba have against Youk?

Josh BeckettJosh Beckett pitched well, but not as dominating as Joba. Beckett also went 7 innings, striking out 6 and only walking one, but be gave up 9 hits, all of them singles. Beckett allowed the Yankees to get runners on base, but stayed enough in control to prevent anyone from crossing the plate. That is except for the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, Bobby Abreu and A-Rod hit back to back singles to put runners at 1st and 3rd. With Jason Giambi coming up, the Sox put the shift on moving Dustin Pedroia out into shallow right field and shortstop, Jed Lowrie, shifted over to stand behind 2nd base. Giambi swung at and barely connected with an 0-1 fastball that lazily rolled out to where the shortstop normally plays. With the shift on, there was no one there to get the ball in time to make a play, and Abreu scored the only run from third base. Not Beckett's fault, but what can you do?

The Red Sox big chance came in the 8th inning when Chamberlain left the game and Kyle Farnsworth came in. I had all the confidence in the world that the Sox could at least score one run off Farnsworth and most likely send the game into a late night extra inning battle. This was a Yankee game, after all, and we all expected it to last at least 5 hours, and this one looked like it was on track to end in a mind-boggling 3 hours! The inning started with Jed Lowrie getting a single, a feeble looking Jason Varitek popping out, and Coco Crisp getting a single off of a swinging bunt. The top of the order was coming up with two men on and only one out. Things looked good! But, if we knew the Yankees were in trouble, you'd expect their manager would know it too. Sure enough, Joe Girardi spoiled all the fun when he realized that if he wanted to steal a 1-0 win from the Red Sox in Fenway Park, he was going to have to nail it down right now. That meant a call to Mariano Rivera to get 5 outs. It only took Rivera 6 batters to get those 5 outs.

Mariano RiveraIt looked like some trouble might be brewing in the 9th inning. Oritz lead off with a soft fly out to right, but Youk followed that with a single to left. With Mike Lowell and JD Drew due up next, things looked promising. That is until Yankee catcher, Jose Molina, slipped the umpire a little something. Mike Lowell was waging a battle for the ages against Rivera. The first two pitches were a ball and a called strike. Then Lowell fouled off three straight fastballs, watched ball two go by, and then fouled off another fastball. The eighth pitch of the battle was a fastball, but clearly (on replays) not a strike. Lowell let it go by to bring the count to 3 balls and two strikes (in his mind), and then, as the umpire remembered the Molina bribe, called out strike three instead. Lowell could not believe his ears. He leaped about 3 feet into the air, spilling out Cuban curses on the way up, and at the peak of his leap, slammed the bat down to the earth, and I swear we felt the vibration out in right field. I have never seen Lowell lose his cool like that, and he went after the home plate umpire as if he had just parked in his parking space after Lowell spent an hour shoveling the snow out of it.

Mike Lowell Discuss Strike ThreeWe all figured Lowell ought to get this off his chest and go ahead and get thrown out. Maybe it will fire up his teammates! So, Lowell got sent to his room for a time out, and JD Drew stepped up. Drew has been swinging a hot bat, and one good swing could end this one, right? Well, with one ball and two strikes, instead of being inspired by Lowell, Drew decided to emulate him and sat there watching strike three go by without a swing. This one was not a ball, this one was a strike. Game over.

So, a 1-0 loss. Anyone think Manny Ramirez might have helped in that game?


Fenway West said...

I got ripped over at Joy of Sox for suggesting that Manny gets some of the blame for the loss. I saw the same thing out here with Bonds, hometown fans cannot always see the problems of a player when they are looking right at them.

Rooster said...

Well, Manny obviously did not "directly" contribute to the loss, but in a 1-0 game, one swing of Manny's bat could have tied it, and having him in there stretches out the lineup, and would have moved Ellsbury to 9 instead of leadoff. So, his lack of presence made a difference.

I also think the team is not playing tight, and Manny could be contributing to the "lack" of team solidarity.