Saturday, May 31, 2008

Orioles Throw the Game Away

Red Sox fans were glad to have the team back on the east coast so they would not have to stay up late to watch the games. So, what happens? The very first game in Baltimore ends up going 13 innings! So much for not staying up late. Once again the Red Sox offense was quiet. Perhaps with Josh Beckett on the mound, they felt the two runs they scored in the first inning would be all they would need. Beckett pitched a good game, only allowing two runs, one in the second and one in the fourth. But, Baltimore batters battled well against Beckett and were successful in driving his pitch count up, forcing him to leave after the 6th inning with the game tied at 2. But, working the pitch count was all they did well as Beckett used those pitches to strike out 10 Orioles.

Josh BeckettThe game went on and on as neither team could muster a real rally. The Red Sox bullpen needs some credit here. The only reliever for the Sox who did not get into the game was David Aardsma (guess who will be first out of the bullpen tonight?). The Red Sox relief squad went 7 scoreless innings, allowing only 4 hits, 4 walks, and striking out 7. For one night, the bullpen held their own!

The Sox offense finally went ahead, scoring 3 runs in the 13th inning, but they did it with a lot of help from the Orioles, who just may have finally wanted to get the game over with and get some sleep. All three Boston runs in the 13th inning were unearned. With one out, Manny Ramirez (who was celebrating his 36th birthday last night) got a gift from Melvin Mora who threw wide of first base for an error, sending Manny to second. Mike Lowell promptly hit a single to drive in Manny for the winning run. Kevin Youkilis would single, and surprisingly, with Jason Varitek batting, Mike Lowell took off for third and slid in safely. Youkilis was paying attention and took second base for a double steal. After Varitek struck out for the second out of the inning, shortstop Freddy Bynum could not handle Coco Crisp's ground ball, and the error allowed two runs to score.

Jacoby Ellsbury Road RunnerSomeone let Jacoby Ellsbury off the leash last night, and he ran free. We know Jacoby is half Navaho Indian, but from this stop action photo, I would guess that the other half is road runner! Ellsbury stole three bases last night to fall one short of tying Jerry Remy's Red Sox record of four in one game (don't you know that record will fall to Ellsbury sometime this season). In the 7th inning he stole second base, and an out later stole 3rd base. Unfortunately, he was stranded at 3rd when David Ortiz grounded out to end the inning. He stole his third base in the 12th inning but again was unable to score - but not for lack of trying.

The win was much needed, but with the Sox going so deep into their bullpen, they need Jon Lester to pitch deep into tonight's game to provide some relief (no pressure Jon).

If you have not already heard, Daisuke Matsuzaka was officially put on the 15 day disabled list (DL), and won't be available until June 12th. He was diagnosed with a mild strain of the rotator cuff. This is good news, as no structural damage was found. Just some rest and rehab should be all he'll need. The Sox have yet to commit to who will pitch on Dice-K's scheduled Tuesday start. The hottest rumor is that Justin Masterson will get his third call-up, and that seems pretty likely. What about Clay Buchholz? He pitched last night for Pawtucket (going 4 innings giving up 3 runs, 4 walks, and 5 strike outs), so he would not be available for Tuesday. However, I would not be surprised if Dice-K's absence provides at least one start for Buchholz.

Now, the question is, have you entered the DVD giveaway contest yet? Have some fun, test your prognostication skills and give it a try!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Red Sox DVD Giveaway Contest - Enter by June 3, 2008

How would you like to receive a free copy of the latest Red Sox DVD set from A&E Home Videos, and just in time for Father's Day? The DVD is called "The Boston Red Sox: Essential Games of Fenway Park" and if you have not already done so, take a look at the full review I did of the DVD to get you excited about it!

Excited? Okay let's go...

The DVD set is based around historic games at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will be returning home to Fenway on Tuesday, June 3rd, to play 6 games against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners. This contest will be based on those 6 home games, and the winner will be announced on Monday, June 9th, 2008.

Entries must be E-MAILED (NOT posted in the comments) to me, prior to 7:00 PM EST on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008 (before the start of the first game in the series). Entries received after the first pitch of the game on June 3 will not be eligible.

Email Entries to:

Every entry will receive a reply email comfirmation!

So, how do you play? (I made this up, so stay with me, it's not difficult)...

You need to email me your guesses to the following 4 questions (you can copy and paste these questions into your email - at least make sure your answers are numbered 1-4):

For the 6 games played at Fenway Park between June 3 and June 8, 2008...

1) How many of those 6 games will the Red Sox win?
2) How many runs will the Red Sox score in those 6 games (in total)?
3) How many home runs will the Red Sox, as a team, hit in those 6 games (in total)?
4) How many bases will Jacoby Ellsbury steal in those 6 games (in total)?

Jacoby Ellsbury is on track to possibly break the Red Sox single season stolen base record this year, so question #4 ties the contest back to history being made at Fenway!

The winner of the contest will be the person who earns the most points, based on their answers to the above questions.

Points will be awarded as follows ...

5 Points - For each answer to one of the questions that is exactly correct.
3 Points - To the player whose answer to a question is the closest to the exact answer.
1 Point - To the player whose answer to a question is the second closest to the exact answer.

In cases where there is a tie, both players are awarded the points as if there was no tie.

For clarity, here is an example of how the scoring would work:

Let's say the Red Sox score 4 runs in each of the 6 games for a total of 24 runs, and there are five players whose answers to question #2 are:

Player 1: 24 runs
Player 2: 35 runs
Player 3: 14 runs
Player 4: 27 runs
Player 5: 27 runs

In this case, Player 1 earns 5 points for getting the exact answer. Player 4 and 5 are tied with the next closest guess, missing by 3. They each get 3 points. Player 3 missed by 10, and Player 2 missed by 11, so Player 3 gets 1 point, and Player 2 gets zero points.

Adding up your points for all 4 questions gives you your total points for the contest. Whoever has the most points will win. In the event of a tie, the winner will be selected at random from the players tied with the most points.

1) The Red Sox are averaging 5 runs per game this year.
2) The Red Sox scored 26 runs against the Rays in 3 games at Fenway, but only 5 in 3 games in Tampa
3) The Red Sox scored 8 runs in three games in Seattle
4) The Red Sox are 3-0 vs. Tampa at home, and 0-3 on the road.
5) The Red Sox are 1-2 vs. Seattle (all on the road)
6) The Red Sox are averaging about 1 HR per game
7) The Sox have hit 2 HR's vs. Tampa in 6 games, and 2 vs. Seattle in 3 games this year
8) Jacoby Ellsbury is averaging .4 SB's per game
9) Jacoby has 3 SB's vs. Tampa in 3 games at Fenway this year, and 1 in 3 games in Seattle

The winner will be required to provide a valid mailing address that the United States Post Office or Federal Express will deliver to (can be international). International (outside the U.S.) entries are welcome - just be sure you can view the DVD format in your country first!

Please share this with your friends - let's generate some fun with it!

The prize:
The winner will receive one, unopened copy of the A&E home Videos DVD set entitled:
"The Boston Red Sox: Essential Games of Fenway Park", a $59.95 USD value!
Shipping is Free!

If you are not winner, you can still order your own copy of the DVD set either through on or


Privacy Policy:

Email addresses will be kept confidential, they will not be resold or otherwise distributed, and you will not receive any unwanted emails as a result of entering this contest. You will receive one email confirmation that your entry has been received, and one email will be sent to the winner of the contest to arrange for shipping. That is all.

DVD Review: The Boston Red Sox - Essential Games of Fenway Park

On June 3, A&E Home Video will be releasing an exciting new six-DVD set called, "The Boston Red Sox: Essential Games of Fenway Park". A&E was gracious enough to provide me with a review copy of the DVD set, as well as a second set that I will be giving away to one of you through a contest. I will post the details of the contest separately, but seeing as how the face value of this DVD set is $59.95, I encourage you to join in for a chance to win a free copy!

The Boston Red Sox - Essential Games of Fenway ParkA&E set out to discover, directly from Red Sox fans, what they felt were the greatest games ever played at Fenway Park. Red Sox Nation voted, and the top six games were chosen. In this DVD set, each of these six games is presented in its entirety as it was originally broadcast (excluding commercials, thank goodness). This should sound very tempting to any true Red Sox fan - the ability to pop in a DVD and watch one of these classic games at any time - perfect during those long off-season droughts! What games would you have chosen? Well, I'm sure each of us has some very special games in mind, but I feel the games selected are terrific. My only surprise was that no games from the 2004 World Series run were chosen (although "the Steal", and Papi's walk-off hits are included in the bonus features). So, let's get down to the review...


The DVD set comes in an attractive, compact, and sturdy metallic case. Each DVD is emblazoned in red, indicating the game, the date, the opponent, and the box score of the game. Nice touch, and very attractive. My only confusion was that none of the discs indicates where the Special Bonus Features are located. A minor oversight, but to save you the search, they are at the end of disc #6. The only other thing I was surprised at, was that there is no insert at all in the box - just six discs. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I was surprised there was no fold out pamphlet with photos, disc index, and credits on it. But, there are also no advertisements stuffed in there either, so, I'm not complaining!


This is a no-frills collection of these games. Each disc starts up quickly to a menu where you can select to play the entire game, or jump to a particular inning. This is nicely done by highlighting a cell in the box score, making it easy to pick an inning with scoring. None of the discs includes any sort of introduction to the game, which I found a little disappointing. It would have been nice to have had a brief introduction (that the viewer could opt to skip) of each game to set up the situation in terms of the importance of the game's outcome (ex: losing the '67 game would have eliminated the Sox from playoff contention), why the game was special, what makes it one of the top six, etc. I'm sure they would have had celebrities lining up to do such introductions, Johnny Pesky might have been my choice.

The games themselves are tremendous. The games have been copied from the original tapes, and the quality is fully dependent on the quality of the archived tape. Watching the old games truly brings you back in time, listening to the original broadcasters, seeing Fenway before it's makeover, noticing the styles worn in the crowd, and appreciating how far broadcast technology has come. But, the most wonderful part is seeing some of the best players in history (Red Sox as well as opponents) competing at their very best level. Just a thrill to watch!

I did find one goof. One of the Bonus Features is titled "Vintage Film" Yaz 1968 World Series Highlights at Fenway". As far as I can recall, Yaz did not play in the '68 WS. I believe they meant 1967? Oops.

The Games:

Sept. 30, 1967: Regular Season vs. Minnesota Twins

This game was a true gem to watch. It was the second to last game of the 1967 season, and the Red Sox were one game behind the Twins for first place. A loss on that day would have eliminated the Red Sox from the playoffs. Carl Yastrzemski and Harmon Killebrew of the Twins were both tied for the league lead in home runs with 43, and both homered that day. All the while, Yaz was in the running for the triple crown (which he would be the last winner of). Along with the fabulous 1967 Red Sox, you get a wonderful look at Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Tony Oliva playing at their very best. The quality of the video is not bad, considering how old it is. Fenway Park looks great, and the Green Monster initially looks bare with no Coke bottles or seating. This game truly is special. Watch for Vice President Hubert Humphrey sitting along side a very young Ted Kennedy in the front row by the Sox dugout!

1975 World Series Game 6 vs. the Cincinnati Reds

I'm sure we all know this is the famous game where Carlton Fisk willed his home run fair in the bottom of the 12th inning, but have you ever watched the whole game? Luis Tiant with his unique pitching style, the fabulous Freddy Lynn patrolling center field, Bernie Carbo's home run to save the game, Carl Yastrzemski still out in left field after all these years, and Don Zimmer coaching third base. And what about the Bid Red Machine? It was fun to see Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Sr., and of course, every one's favorite announcer, Joe Morgan, all playing in their prime! I had forgotten about Fred Lynn knocking himself unconscious plowing into the center field wall at full speed in a futile effort to chase down a fly ball. Remember, the wall was not padded then! Have a laugh watching the relief pitchers get driven from the bullpen in the old golf cart! New technology can be witnessed compared to 1967 - instant replays!

April 29, 1986: Regular Season vs. the Seattle Mariners

While most sports fans were across town at the Boston Garden, Roger Clemens was writing the first chapter in his legacy. This game is thrilling to watch as every inning the strikes just keep piling up. It has the intensity and build up of a no hitter. The right field wall is covered with "K" signs by the ninth inning as Clemens approaches history with a 20 strike out game!

1999 MLB All Star Game

This has no pre-game contests or hype, just the ball game. And you know what - it was a great one. The beginning is special as Pedro Martinez, in only his second season with the Red Sox and at the very top of his game, starts the All Star game off by striking out the first four batters he faces! And remember who the opposing pitcher is for the NL? None other than our very own Curt Schilling. Manny Ramirez, still with the Indians, is also a sight to see. One of the best All Star games in modern history.

1999 ALCS Game 3 vs. the New York Yankees

Unfortunately, the Red Sox eventually lost the ALCS to NY that year, but this game gave Red Sox Nation something to cheer about. Pedro Martinez faced off against ex-Red Sox star, Roger Clemens. Pedro was truly on his game that day, striking out 12 Yankees on the way to a 13-1 blowout that sent the Fenway fans home smiling. A great chance to see the quality of team the Yankees had that year, while they were on their way to a World Series win!

April 22, 2007: Regular Season vs. the New York Yankees

To be honest, I'm not sure I would have included this game over, say, game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, but it is a good one as Manny Ramirez, JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek hit four consecutive home runs off of Chase Wright in the third inning. The win features Daisuke Matsuzaka's debut against the Yankees and culminated in the first sweep of the Yankees at Fenway Park 17 years.

Bonus Features:

The bonus features are fun, but appear quickly assembled - almost an after thought. But, they do help round out the set and are worth watching. They are:

  • The Origins of Fenway Park
  • Ted Williams: Fenway's Hometown Hero
  • Ted Williams Throws out First Pitch at 1999 All-Star Game
  • Vintage Film: Yaz 1968 (oops) World Series highlights at Fenway
  • Yaz 400th HR and 3000th hit
  • Red Sox Clinch 1986 ALCS in Fenway
  • Brunansky's amazing catch clinches 1990 AL East Crown
  • Last Inning of Derek Lowe's No-Hitter (4/27/02)
  • Red Sox score 10 runs before making their first out (6/27/03)
  • Bill Mueller walk-off HR vs. Mariano Rivera (7/24/04)
  • Dave Roberts: "The Steal" 2004 ALCS Game 4
  • Big Papi's 2004 Postseason Walk-off Hits
  • Last Inning of Clay Buchholz's No-Hitter (9/1/07)


This is a terrific addition to any Red Sox fan's collection. You will be preserving a genuine piece of red Sox history in your own home. would make a terrific Father's Day gift! Definitely worth the purchase. The list price is $59.95, but it is currently on sale for $41.97. I'd definitely try to grab it on sale.

For more information, and to buy the DVD Set, go to:

Sets will be available for sale at and (presuming you are not the lucky winner of the contest!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sweepless in Seattle

My loyal readers once again get in-depth analysis to answer your difficult questions about baseball. The question for today is, "why are the Red Sox not hitting?". After careful analysis poring over hours of game film, I have found the answer you are looking for. I'm not sure how it happened, but there is an old, underhanded, baseball trick (employed in other sports too) whereby somebody discretely swaps a team's equipment bags during travel to away games. The original equipment is replaced with near replicas of the original, but with subtle changes designed to hinder the performance of the team.

In this case, using cutting edge stop action photography, I have created a close up image of the "altered" baseball bats that were substituted for the Red Sox original equipment. As you can see from the photo below, these replacement bats are near identical to the original equipment, but with very subtle differences. If you look closely, you can see a cane-like handle coming out of one the end of the bat, and a rubber stop at the other end. That's right, these bats are designed specifically for drawing walks, but are good for little else. Only the best hitters would stand a chance of getting a hit with one of these, and even then, a single would be the most you could hope for.
Baseball Bat Cane
Well, sure enough, just look at last night's game. The Red Sox managed only two hits the entire game, both of them mere singles hit by World Series MVP players, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell. In contrast to the lack of hitting, the Red Sox were able to draw 6 walks! So, there you have it. Once the Red Sox are back at home, and do not have equipment bags to worry about, the offense will return. You can rest easy about the upcoming away games in Baltimore, I already sent an email to the Red Sox management team alerting them to this situation. I'm sure I'll get a thank you shortly, and they will carefully inspect the equipment upon arrival in Baltimore.

The equipment situation is unfortunate, because Tim Wakefield pitched a tremendous game. After a couple of bad outings, reactionary fans, who judge baseball solely on what happened yesterday, were crying for Wake to be sent off to the bullpen. After last night, they may want to rethink that stance as Wakefield was masterful going 8 innings allowing 5 hits, 1 solo home run, no walks, and 8 strike outs. It is tough to have to take a 1-0 loss on such a well-pitched night!
Tim Wakefield
Tomorrow night, Josh Beckett opens the first game of a three game set against the Orioles. If Sean Casey gets another start in the series, take notice if either he or Kevin Millar reaches first base. The two most talkative players will be chewing the fat like no one's business. Hopefully, Beckett has a good game, and the Sox enjoy their reunion with their true bats!

Last note. Please be sure to tune in tomorrow, for the first ever product giveaway from the Rational Sox Fan! A&E Home Video will be releasing an exciting Red Sox DVD Set called "The Essential Games of Fenway Park". This set includes 6 DVD's containing 6 historic Fenway baseball games, shown in their entirety, along with many special features. The games were chosen by a vote from Red Sox Nation, and they are good ones. This DVD set is set to be released on June 3, so tune in tomorrow for a sneak peak, and a chance to win a copy - just in time for Father's Day!

(The Baseball Bat Cane displayed is an actual cane for purchase at Cane & Unable)
(Tim Wakefield Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Red Sox Road Woes Continue

Yesterday's 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners was somewhat inevitable. If you follow baseball long enough, you come to understand that everything likes to settle into its place over time. Streaks do not last, neither the positive ones nor the negative ones, and patterns will develop over time. That is why so many people get obsessed with baseball statistics and numbers, because they do ultimately have a story to tell. Last night was no exception.

Manny RamirezThe Seattle Mariners were on a 7 game losing streak, holders of the worst record in baseball, and facing the World Champion Red Sox. What happens? They win, and break the losing streak. The Red Sox had Daisuke Matsuzaka starting the game. Dice-K was undefeated at 8-0 in 10 starts prior to the game. Pattern? No decision - 4 straight wins - no decision - 4 straight wins. So what happens? No decision. Manny Ramirez had been on a streak of 45 at-bats without a home run, and broke the streak with a 3 run bomb to tie the game in the 6th inning. Manny's home run was the 499th of his career. He hit home run #400 in May of 2005 at Safeco Field, and has a chance to hit #500 there tonight. Stats all settling in to their resting places.

Jose LopezBut, not all streaks were due to expire last night. Mike Timlin entered the game with a record of 0-5 at Safeco Field, and left the game with a record of 0-6. The Sox and Mariners battled to a stalemate 3-3 tie until the bottom of the ninth inning. Timlin did not really pitch too badly, but the Mariners clawed their way to a run anyway. Wladimir Balentien started the inning with a ground ball that Alex Cora, at shortstop, was able to stop but had no play on. Miguel Cairo bunted him to second for the first out, and Jeremy Reed grounded to Dustin Pedroia for the second out, which moved Balentien to third base. With two outs, Ichiro Suzuki stepped up to the plate. Ichiro was already 2-4 on the night, and has been giving the Red Sox fits so far in this series. The Red Sox wisely opted to intentionally walk Ichiro, only needing one out to send the game into extra innings. But, Jose Lopez was not willing to cooperate. Timlin left a fastball a little too high on the inside part of the plate, and Lopez ripped it down the third base line for the game winning hit.

Miguel BatistaOther than Manny's home run, the Red Sox offense was silent. Seattle starter, Miguel Batista (who eerily resembles Bernie Williams), was expected to be clobbered by the relentless Red Sox lineup. But, Batista pitched his best game of the season lasting 7 full innings surrendering only 5 hits, the only runs coming on Manny's home run. Sean Casey, filling in for the injured Kevin Youkilis, was the exception as he went 3-4 last night. But, while Casey did his best to get on base, he had absolutely no help from his pals. There was no one for Casey to drive in, as the three batters before him went a combined 0-12, and there was no one to drive him in as the two batters behind him went 0-8.

Dice-K MatsuzakaThe concern last night is for Matsuzaka's shoulder. Dice-K reported that he felt "wrong" all night, even prior to the game. Terry Francona removed him after 4 innings, and it is being reported that he has a "tired shoulder". Well, with all the walks he's given up, of course he has a tired shoulder! There is no word yet on what this will mean. Dice-K is to be examined today and determine a course of action. As we've spoken about here, it is a good thing to have extra pitching. If Dice-K needs time off, you can expect Clay Buchholz will be called back up to take his next start. That is a good situation for the Red Sox. One starter goes down, another quality starter can step up.

Speaking of starters, tonight Tim Wakefield will try to turn his own fortunes around. Wake has been shaky in two of his last three starts. Wonder about stats and streaks? Wakefield has never won a game at Safeco Field, going 0-2 in 6 outings there. A streak is like fruit. When it is ripe, it will fall. Is Wakefield's winless streak at Safeco ripe yet? Let's hope so!

Predictions for tonight - all on gut feel...

Wakefield goes 6 2/3 innings, gives up 3 runs, gets the win.
Manny hits HR #500 prior to Wakefield's departure - ensuring him the victory.
Jacoby Ellsbury starts the game - goes head to head with Ichiro to see who can steal the most bases.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Red Sox Kid Nation Vote

You may not be aware of this, but the Red Sox have a club for children called "Red Sox Kid Nation". It is very fun, and my children have been members since its inception. Members get a membership kit that includes fun items such as a Kid Nation Red Sox hat, membership card, newsletters, and shoelaces. Members also get the chance to buy Red Sox tickets to selected Kid Nation games at discount prices! To top it all, in 2004 my daughter won a Kid Nation raffle and got the chance to play baseball and spend the afternoon with Trot Nixon in Fenway Park with about 30 other winners! What an amazing day that was.

This year, Kid Nation is trying something new. They are electing 12 members to become Kid Nation Captains! I was approached by one 10 year old girl who has already been selected to be one of the top 25 candidates. I have read all about her, and I feel she is a remarkable little girl, who is from Lynn, Massachusetts, and has already been very active in her love for baseball. I'd tell you more, but I think she tells it best.

Please take a moment to read Victoria G's blog, find out what she has done for baseball already, and read her essay to become a Kid Nation Captain. If you are as impressed as I was, please make sure you give her your vote!

Good luck Victoria!

Colon Ends Red Sox Losing Streak

Bartolo Colon pitched his second start of the season for the Red Sox last night and collected his second win, beating the Seattle Mariners 5-3. Colon continues to look sharp, throwing mostly fastballs in the low 90's, but hitting 96 on the radar a number of times, and showing good movement on his 2-seam fastball. By the way, has anyone mentioned to the Mariners that Colon is still fresh off of a rehab assignment to recover from surgery, as well as a couple of minor injuries? He is on a limited, but increasing, pitch count as he works himself back into shape. So, what do the Mariners do? They swing early and often, allowing Colon to make it through 7 innings while only throwing 84 pitches.
Bartolo Colon
Colon faced 28 batters last night, and 14 of those plate appearances lasted no more than 2 pitches! A wiser, more patient lineup would have worked Colon's pitch count up much earlier and challenged his conditioning. That may be part of why the Mariners have lost 7 in a row, and currently possess the worst record in all of baseball.

But, a win is a win, and stopping a losing streak is essential, especially when that losing streak allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to jump over you and re-take possession of first place.

Ichiro SuzukiThe highlight of the game was a spectacular catch by Ichiro Suzuki to rob Jason Varitek of, what looked to be, a sure double off the wall in right center field in the 5th inning. When the ball first came off the bat, it looked like it had the legs to be a home run, but Ichiro got on his horse and flew after the ball on a collision course with the outfield fence. While still running full speed and a single step to go before reaching the wall, he jumped and caught the ball over his shoulder, and plowed into the wall face first, both feet still up off the ground. Luckily the wall is well padded and it threw Ichiro back towards the field. Ichiro, while falling backwards, incredibly ensured his grip on the ball was secure, grabbed his hat to keep it from flying off his head, and rolled back onto the grass. He was shaken, but firmly cemented in history, just completing one of the top catches of all time.

But, Ichiro could not provide all the defense for Seattle, and the Red Sox found ways to get enough runs to win. Seattle starter, Felix Hernandez, pitched a terrific game, only giving up a 4th inning solo home run to David Ortiz through 7 innings. But, the 8th inning would be his downfall. In the 8th the Red Sox finally wore him down (see how that works, Seattle?) as all nine batters got a turn at bat against Hernandez in the inning. By the time it was over, the Red Sox had scored 4 to take a 5-1 lead.

Hideki Okajima relieved Colon and pitched a scoreless 8th inning to turn the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th. But, what looked like a textbook game for red Sox pitching started unravelling. Papelbon struck out the first batter to start the inning, but got himself in trouble as the next batter hit a dribbler back towards the mound. Papelbon fielded the ball but rushed the throw and sailed it over Sean Casey's head at first. Another single and a strikeout later, Papelbon found himself in more trouble. With runners on second and third, and two outs, Ichiro ripped a fastball to center to plate one run and put another runner at third. Papelbon then bounced a pitch to the next batter that flew 20 feet off of Varitek's Memorial Day camouflage armor to allow a second runner to score. But, a nifty play on a ground ball to his left allowed Dustin Pedroia to put an end to the game and preserve the 5-3 win.
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tonight our own Japanese sensation, Daisuke Matsuzaka, will try to improve his record to 9-0. The stars look like they are lined up for that to happen against the struggling Mariners who send Miguel Batista to the mound. Batista is 3-6 with a 6.47 ERA this season, and has been experimenting with a new throwing technique - one that is not working well for him. Stranger things have happened, but this seems like a game that Dice-K should win. The Mariners do not seem to possess the patience to let Dice-K get into trouble with walks or a high pitch count. When he paints the corners, they'll be swinging. That should work to his advantage, and keep the Sox in pace with the Rays in the chase for first place!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When the Cat's Away, Mice Will Play

Please click on the image below to view the strip in full size.
Have a nice weekend!

Red Sox Comics

Friday, May 23, 2008

Slam Blam Thank You Maam!

The Red Sox rode the good fortunes of not one, but two grand slams en route to a, not as close as it sounds, 11-8 victory to complete a four game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. The sweep of Kansas City comes on the heels of a three game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving the Sox perfect on their latest home stand as they take off for the west coast to meet the Oakland A's.
Dice-K Matsuzaka
Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, earned the win to improve his already impressive record to 8-0 on the season. Dice-K had a good game, but not a great game. He, once again, tried dancing around the strike zone with mixed success. While refusing to give in to batters, he also ran his pitch count up to 118 pitches, throwing 67 for strikes. He struck out 7, but walked 6. He gave up 6 hits, but held the Royals to only 3 runs, going 5 2/3 innings before handing the ball over to Javier Lopez, holding on to a 5-3 lead. Lopez did his job, striking out the only batter he would face to end the 6th inning.

JD DrewThe big story of the day was the offense, specifically from JD Drew and Mike Lowell, both the authors of devastating grand slams. JD Drew's was an opposite field shot into the Green Monster seats that gave the Sox a 4-1 lead in the 2nd inning. Mike Lowell's came in the 6th inning after the Sox had already plated two runs and lifted the lead to an insurmountable 11-3 advantage for the home team.

The Red Sox bullpen, however, decided that a blowout was not exciting enough for the fans at Fenway Park. Fearful that fans would start streaming out of Fenway too soon, Terry Francona sent Craig Hansen in to level things out in the 7th inning. Hansen got to work early allowing a lead off home run to stop any early exiters in their tracks. That seemed to slow some fans from leaving, but many fans were still feeling a bit too confident. So, a walk and a double later put another run on the board narrowing the score to 11-5. Hansen finished up the inning without further damage, but fans returned to their seats, afraid that Hansen might come back out for the 8th inning. When Francona opted to send in David Aardsma, fans breathed a sigh of relief and began packing again. Well, Aardsma did what he could to hold the audience, so with two on and two outs, wisely surrendered a powerful three run home run to narrow the score to 11-8.

Jonathan PapelbonAt this point the bullpen had done their job. They had returned excitement to the game and left the outcome in doubt. Fans would be foolish to leave now. Holding on to a three run lead, the Red Sox now had a save situation, and we all know what that means - this is a job for ... Jonathan Papelbon! Papelbon started the 9th inning off with two quick ground outs, but when he noticed a few people starting for the exits, he quickly allowed back to back singles to draw them back in. Not that all eyes were riveted, and the stage was set, Papelbon wrapped it up with a fly out to Jacoby Ellsbury to seal the win.

So, has Manny Ramirez been saving his 499th and 500th home runs for the west coast fans? If so, today might be the day! Manny is 3 for 8 in his career against today's starter, Rich Harden. Those three hits? All home runs!

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Colon Looks Sharp Earning First Win for Red Sox

Bartolo Colon made his much anticipated first start for the Boston Red Sox last night, and walked away with his first win of the season as the Sox defeated the Royals 6-3. As anticipated, Terry Francona planned to limit Colon to 80 or so pitches while he continues to build up his strength. Colon lasting 5 innings, throwing 74 pitches (60 fastballs, 12 sliders, and 2 change ups). The grounds crew had to continually reinforce the pitcher's mound as Colon's imposing size kept packing it down (just kidding), but Colon was able to put his weight behind his pitches, regularly keeping his fastball in the low 90's, but topping out at 96 mph. For a guy who relies on power to overwhelm batters, this is a good sign - he has the strength to still throw with power, and if he is fortunate enough to suffer no physical setbacks, he'll only get stronger, and the Sox will continue tightening their hold on first place (currently 2 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays).
Bartolo Colon

Facing the Kansas City Royals at home may be helping the Sox' pitching look even more imposing, but in 3 games against the Royals, the Sox have only given up a total of 4 runs. Last night Colon gave up only 2 runs in 5 innings and walked off the mound with the Sox behind by a score of 2-1, Jacoby Ellsbury providing the one run with a lead off homer in the first inning. In the bottom of the 5th, Jason Varitek got things rolling with solo home run of his own, and by the time the inning was over, the Sox had put 4 runs on the board for a 5-2 lead that would provide Colon with the win. The Red Sox bullpen had a terrific night. Craig Hanson, Javier Lopez, and Manny Delcarmen each pitched a scoreless inning to get to the ninth, where Mike Timlin came in to wrap things up. With a 6-2 lead heading into the ninth, this was not a save opportunity, so Papelbon got the night off. Timlin preserved the win, allowing a single run resulting from a walk, stolen base, and a single, all with two outs.
Jacoby Ellsbury
So, for now, Bartolo Colon is an official part of the Red Sox starting rotation. He will be pitching every fifth game for the near future at least. If he continues to improve, the Red Sox will clearly have the most imposing rotation in the AL. If anyone goes down, Clay Buchholz will be able to quickly step right in. With the success that Justin Masterson has had, the red Sox pitching talent goes even deeper. Right now, you have to feel real good about the Red Sox starting pitching.

Speaking of starting pitching, the NY Yankees are not only jealous of the Red Sox, and regretting not securing Johan Santana in the off season, they are also starting to take some desperate measures to improve theirs. Specifically, they are officially beginning to alter Joba Chamberlain's workouts to get him ready to move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Prior to spring training they were leaning towards a starting role for Joba, but he ended up in the bullpen. Brian Cashman wanted him there, Hank Steinbrenner wanted him as a starter. Hank ranted about it in April when the Yankees obviously needed to improve their starting rotation, Cashman held his ground. Well, the boss won! It could be a good move for NY, whose young starters have not come close to the success that Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have achieved. It is nice to see the Yankees squirming, and it will be interesting to see how well, and how quickly, Joba can make the switch. I think the biggest concern is whether he is ready to handle the load of pitching a full season yet. But, by waiting until June to make the switch, it may have shortened the season enough for him to last just fine.

This afternoon, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be gunning for his 8th win. Manny Ramirez will still be gunning for his 499th home run. I think they need to remove the "498" countdown from left field. It feels like he has not hit one (at least at home) since they put it up. Baseball jinxes are alive and well you know.

If Red Sox fans don't already have enough to smile about, take a look at the cover of this month's Sports Illustrated! Derek Jeter getting clobbered by a hefty Rays player in a comic book spoof cover.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Masterson Masterful in First Big League Win

Justin Masterson has made two major league appearances. His first was a terrific debut on April 24 against the Angels, in which he went 6 innings only allowing 1 run and left the game with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately, the Red Sox bullpen combo of Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen could not hold the lead, and the Red Sox lost that game 7-5. Masterson looked incredibly solid, and made Sox fans pay attention and wonder if this kid was for real.

Justin MastersonLast night Masterson added to the sentiment that he is indeed for real. He pitched a very similar game as his first outing, going 6 1/3 innings only allowing 3 hits and 3 walks to go with 5 strike outs. When he walked off the mound in the 6th inning he had a 2-0 lead, with one out, and a runner on second base. The next two pitchers in line from the bullpen? Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen! Was history going to repeat itself? Not last last! Lopez did his job, striking out the left-handed Ross Gload. Then Delcarmen came in and his first pitch, a curveball to John Buck, stayed too high in the zone and Buck sent it up the middle for a single, scoring the run from second. The score was now 2-1. But, Manny settled down and was able to strike out the next batter to end the inning, preserving the slim lead.

Hideki Okajima, pitching for the first time in 6 days while nursing a sore wrist, did not look as sharp as usual, giving up a leadoff double to David DeJesus. The inning was not smooth. He did induce a groundout and a strikeout, but also walked two batters to load the bases. With the game on the line, Terry Francona handed the ball to Jonathan Papelbon. You know the rest of the story. Four Royals batter later, the game was over, and the Sox had won their 5th game in a row, this one by the narrow score of 2-1.
Jonathan Papelbon
The Red Sox pitching depth has been impressive so far this season. Clay Buchholz and John Lester have been fine additions to the rotation, and when needed, the Sox have confidence in spot starts from guys like Masterson, David Pauley, and Devern Hansack. Yesterday's announcement that Julian Tavares has agreed to an assignment in Pawtucket give the Sox some additional depth for middle relief. But, what about experienced pitching depth? How about Curt Schilling, who is still making progress in his recovery from shoulder problems, and has increased his throwing distance to 100 feet. He'd be a nice last season addition for a playoff run!

Want more veteran help? How about former Cy Young award winner, Bartolo Colon, making his season debut tonight against the Royals? Colon has been getting progressively better in his recovery from elbow troubles suffered last season. He has shown his strength is returning as his fastball has been clocked in the low 90's. Tonight, he'll most likely be limited to 80-90 pitches. The hope would be that he can get the Sox into the 6th inning on that pitch count, and be able to go deeper with each successive outing. If Colon is effective, what an incredible addition to the rotation! It could push the Sox over the top, so keep those fingers crossed that he stays healthy, and still has the stuff to get big league batters out.

Derek JeterMeanwhile, things are looking bleak in Gotham City. Alex Rodriguez returned from the DL and contributed to last night's game with a 2 run home run. But it was, once again, too little too late for A-Rod as the Yankees lost their 4th in a row getting spanked by the Orioles 12-2. This was one night after being spanked by the Mets 11-2! In the game, Derek Jeter was hit on the hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative, but he may be out for a couple of days now. The Yankees are looking up from the basement of the AL East today, 7 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. But, if there is any consolation for Yankee fans, it is this. Last year, through 45 games, the Yankees were 21-24, ten games behind the Red Sox, and they ended the season 94-68, only two games back. This year they are 20-25, and only 7 1/2 behind the Red Sox. So, if this season plays out like last season, they are within striking distance.

So, let's hope the Red Sox good fortunes continue, in the form of a healthy Colon, and we can keep the Evil Empire in the rear view mirror.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lester Becomes Legend

John Lester
John Lester has written himself into the history books, thanks to an inspiring performance last night, as he dominated the Kansas City Royals' lineup on his way to a thrilling no hitter! There was something different about Lester last night. I was not able to tune in to the game until the 5th inning, having just coached my daughter's softball team on a cold and windy day. The first thing I saw was the 5-0 lead - all right! Then, with the first glimpse I got of Lester, I immediately saw a deep fire in his eyes and confidence just emanating from him. I thought, "excellent - Lester has a 5-0 lead and looks like he is 'on' tonight!". NESN was showing replays of a terrific diving catch in center field by Jacoby Ellsbury. This looks like a fun game!

Jacoby EllsburyI had no idea what the game situation was, other than the 5-0 lead, and was forced to bounce between activities until the 7th inning. But, I was impressed with his confidence, swagger, and command. He KNEW what he was doing with every pitch, he was getting ahead of hitters, and his location was the best I've seen this year. With the no-hitter in progress, Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, in my glimpses bouncing in and out of the room, never mentioned "that which cannot be spoken" during a no hitter. So by the time I settled in to watch the game for good, it was the 7th inning, and I still had no idea there was a no hitter in progress. They mentioned his low pitch count and I wondered if he had a shot at a complete game, but assumed Terry Francona would rest him in the ninth if the score held up.

Then they showed the scoreboard. My eyes lit up. Was that a zero in the hit column in the 7th inning? No wonder Don was being so coy in his commentary. Now, this was exciting, but there are still nine outs to go, so let's not get too excited. Then I watched as Lester, with brutal efficiency, breeze through the 7th 1-2-3, ending with a swinging strikeout to Jose Guillen. The butterflies in my stomach began stirring. Six outs to go. Terry Francona tried to give Lester as much help as possible, removing future gold glove left fielder, Manny Ramirez, replacing him with the defensive expertise of Coco Crisp. Coco took over center field, and Jacoby Ellsbury moved to left. With JD Drew in right field, the Sox now had in place one of the fastest group of outfielders in the game. I wanted to assemble the family to witness this, but maybe it was too soon.

John Lester 8th Inning StrikeoutFirst batter in the eighth inning - called out on strikes. Second batter - strike out swinging. Butterflies in full flight now. Third batter puts the bat on a curveball and sends it to center field. Coco Crisp is ready and waiting - three outs.

Okay, we are heading in to the ninth inning - time to assemble the troops. The kids are a little confused, as I cannot say the words, "no hitter", out loud, but they quickly catch on. With everyone in position, we watched the ninth inning. Francona tightens down the defense one more time - this time sending in Alex Cora for shortstop Julio Lugo. First batter, walks! Uh oh! Well, its not a hit, and could set up a double play. Next batter hits a high chopper towards third, this could be trouble. The incredibly high bounce could give the runner time to beat the throw to first. Mike Lowell charges, plays it perfectly, and fires to first beating the runner by a full step. We all jump in the air and cheer. Runner on second base, one out. Left-hander, David Jesus, hits a ground ball towards first base. We hold our breaths as Kevin Youkilis easily scoops the ball and tags first base himself. Youk does not even glance at Lester after the play - superstition is alive and well in Boston.

We are all on edge, and we remember just last year when Curt Schilling carried a no hitter right down to the last batter, who ruined it with a single to right. This was not over.

The final batter, Alberto Callespo, was not going to go down easily, and he was looking for a hit. Callespo swung and fouled off the first pitch, swung at and missed the second pitch. He watched the third pitch go by for a ball, before swinging at and fouling off the 4th pitch. With every swing we cringed, praying it would not result in a hit. Lester was about to throw pitch number 130. He had plenty of adrenaline flowing, and looked even stronger than in the earlier innings. His eyes grew fierce, his lips tightened. Lester had had enough - everything he had left would go into this pitch. He wound up, and let loose a 96 MPH fastball. Callespo, down 1-2, could not let it go by. He swung, but all his bat got was air. The ball popped into Jason Varitek's mitt - strike three! We leaped into the air with cheers, mimicking the celebration on TV.
John Lester Celebrates
What a day for Lester! Two years ago he was on extended leave, fighting a battle against cancer. Last night, he culminated his fight back reaching one of the highest pinnacles a pitcher can reach. Congratulations John - Boston loves you!

(Photos courtesy of

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brewers Short on Braun, Swept by Boston

No, the title does not have a misspelling. Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder, Ryan Braun, had an impressive afternoon yesterday, hitting two home runs off of Red Sox ace, Josh Beckett, accounting for 4 RBI and 2 runs scored. Shortstop JJ Hardy also had a 2 run home run, and Prince Fielder contributed with a solo home run of his own. All four home runs came off of Beckett, who was not his usual masterful self, yet amazingly, the Brewers would need more brawn than that if they hoped to beat the Red Sox yesterday, as Boston completed the three game sweep with an 11-7 victory.

David OrtizDavid Ortiz led the way for the Red Sox offense, and with Manny Ramirez' bat acting a little bashful lately, Ortiz had to look for another dance partner. He found one in Dustin Pedroia, and what dance partners they made! In the first inning, Pedroia walked and Big Papi drove a beautiful double into the left center field gap to score Dustin from first base. In the third inning, Pedroia lofted his second home run of the year into the Green Monster seats, and Papi followed with a solo home run of his own around the Pesky Pole in right field. The dance continued in the fifth inning when Pedroia led off with a single and Papi drove his second home run of the day into the right field seats, this one 3 rows behind the visiting bullpen. Between the two of them, Papi and Pedroia drove in 6 runs and scored 5! Quite a 1-2 punch. But, they were not the only ones with offense. Jacoby Ellsbury drove in two with a bases loaded single in the 4th, and Kevin Youkilis hit a 2 run home run in the 7th, his 9th of the year.
Dustin Pedroia
With all that offense, Josh Beckett did not need to be brilliant, and he really was not as bad as the score looked. He went 7 innings, saving a tired bullpen, and struck out nine batters while only walking one. Three of the four home runs he gave up came on curve balls, and the fourth was on a change up. The curve balls all stayed up in the zone, and when they do, they are very vulnerable. The fact that it was the curve ball that got Beckett in trouble is better news for Sox fans than if the home runs came off of ineffective fastballs. But, this is something to keep an eye on. Beckett pitched reasonably well for the Sox in 2006, but a rash of home runs (36) prevented him from having a stellar season. Last year he kept the ball in the park much better, only giving up 17 home runs, and nearly won a Cy Young award. Let's hope this is just a blip on the radar, as he has now given up 9 so far this year.
Josh Beckett
Jacoby Ellsbury, even with his blinding speed, finally got thrown out stealing in the 4th inning on a perfectly executed pitch-out by the Brewers. The pitch-out was the only way they could have caught Jacoby, and it was inevitable that someone would time that play right.

We talked about this briefly yesterday, and at the time I thought it was only a one-time oddity. But, for the second day in a row, Terry Francona pulled Julio Lugo out of the game prior to the 9th inning in favor of Alex Cora, presumably only for defensive reasons. I am struggling to recall a time when a starting shortstop was ever pulled late in a game for defensive reasons only. Starting shortstops become starters because they are good and don't need to be replaced for defensive reasons! Typical defensive substitutes are terrific batters who are playing first base or outfield, but are defensive liabilities (think Jason Giambi), but not your starting shortstop! I am surprised I have not heard anything about this yet, but after you all read this, spread the word and let's get the talk going.
Julio Lugo
Every relief pitcher, other than Hideki Okajima who was resting a mild wrist sprain, was used on Saturday, so the Red Sox called up pitcher Chris Smith from Pawtucket as an insurance measure on Sunday. Van Every was sent back to the minors to make room. Smith did not get in to the game on Sunday, and that is unfortunate as he'll most likely be headed back to Pawtucket shortly. It appears the Red Sox were indeed planning on bringing up Bartolo Colon to pitch on Tuesday to take Clay Buchholz' spot. But, with the rain out Friday, Daisuke Matsuzaka was bumped up to Saturday. If Dice-K takes his next scheduled start on Wednesday, he'd be doing it on only three days rest, something the Sox would rather avoid. So, rather than have only one start to fill, the Sox now have two to fill. So here's the plan...

Justin Masterson will be called up for the second time this year to pitch Tuesday's game, and Bartolo Colon will pitch on Wednesday. Justin will be sent back to the minors after his start to make room for Colon, and it is clear that Smith will be sent back to Pawtucket to make room for Masterson. As long as the plan holds up, get ready for the Bartolo Colon experiment to begin! At least we are going up against the Kansas City Royals, so a little experimentation does not feel as risky as if we were going up against serious contenders, like the New York Yan....wait, strike that, I meant the Tampa Bay Rays!

(Photos Courtesy of Boston.Com)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sox Take Two from Brewers

Gabe Kapler
In a day that featured plenty of sloppy play, patches of brilliant pitching, and a few timely home runs, the Red Sox managed to sneak away with two wins over the Milwaukee Brewers, moving them into a tie for first place in the AL East. It was also a day for the fans to show their heartfelt appreciation for the visiting Gabe Kapler as he was treated to a rousing standing ovation. Boston fans honor and respect loyalty with a passion. Gabe Kapler, like Trot Nixon before him, are fine examples of that. Not all ex-Red Sox players demonstrate such loyalty, and are not greeted as warmly (are you listening Johnny Damon?).

Dice-K MatsuzakaDaisuke Matsuzaka was the star of the first game going 6 2/3 innings and improving his record to 7-0 on the season. He also lowered his ERA to 2.15, third best in the American League. Dice-K held the Brewers scoreless through 6 innings, and then allowed 2 runs in the 7th inning, both of them unearned thanks to a fielding error by Kevin Youkilis with 2 outs. The error ended Youk's streak of errorless baseball, and kept the inning alive for Mike Cameron, who took advantage by hitting the first pitch he saw from Dice-K for a 2 run home run. Dice-K was effective all day mixing in all his pitches, only walking 2 batters, and fighting his way out of a couple of jams. The Red Sox also got some effective pitching out of Manny Delcarmen, who got the last out of the 7th inning and pitched a scoreless 8th, only allowing one hit, and preserving the lead for Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th. Papelbon got the save, but took one bruise in the process as he gave up a solo home run to Ryan Braun with two outs.

The Red Sox got one run in the first inning when JD Drew walked with the bases loaded, but the big runs came from the Big Papi in the second inning. With two outs and two men on base, Big Papi launched his 8th home of the season into the Green Monster seats giving the Sox a 4-0 lead. Manny Ramirez, only 2 home runs away from 500, did not go deep yesterday keeping us all in suspense for this afternoon's game.
Big Papi
In game one, both the Sox and Brewers had an error each. As the day wore on, the players got more tired, and the errors mounted. In game two the fans were treated to a total of 13 runs, but only 7 of them were earned as the Red Sox committed 3 errors and the Brewers committed 4! The Red Sox and Tim Wakefield were cruising into the 6th inning holding a 5-0 lead, but the Brewers fought back scoring 3 in the inning. Terry Francona went to Craig Hansen in the 7th. Hansen looked like he was going to fare well. He gave up a leadoff single to Prince Fielder (who really looks like more like a softball player), struck out Corey Hart, and then induced the next two batters to hit ground ball to the infield. Unfortunately, the first ground ball put another runner on when Mike Lowell's throw to first went for an error, and the second ground ball loaded the bases when Alex Cora bobbled the ball for another error. Rather than being out of the inning, Hansen now had his job cut out for him. A ground out plated one run, and before Hanson could end it, Craig Counsell got a hold of a slider for a double, plating two more runs and giving the Brewers their first lead of the day.

The lead would not last as a pair of errors by the Brewers in the bottom of the inning allowed the Sox two squeeze two more runs in for a 7-6 lead that they would manage to hold. Mike Timlin would make sure of that as he earned his first save of the season with a nifty 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Interesting moves by Francona in the first game. To open the ninth inning, Francona not only sent in Papelbon to close the game, he also made a couple of defensive moves. He moved Youkilis to first replacing Sean Casey, and sent in Mike Lowell to third. Was it to shore up defense at third, which Youk having made one error there, or to shore up defense at first base, where Youlikis still has an errorless streak going? He also made a move pulling Julio Lugo and sending in Alex Cora to play short stop. Now, I can't imagine he'd pull his starting shortstop for defensive reasons (although many fans would make the move for that very reason). My guess is that Lugo may still be feeling some side effects from the mild concussion he had.

Today, Josh Beckett will try to complete the three game sweep. Josh was not happy after his last performance. If he is feeling healthy and strong, he will come out firing and the Brewers will take the brunt of his frustrations. Perhaps Manny Ramirez will take it out on them too and treat us to another step towards baseball's history books.

Lastly, MLB has tentatively listed Bartolo Colon as Tuesday's starter for the Red Sox. They admit that no such announcement has been made by the Red Sox, but the mystery continues!

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Red Sox - Brewers Double Header Today

The Red Sox will try to get back to their old winning ways today and break their current four game losing streak. Last night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers was rained out, forcing the teams to agree to a double header today. It will be a separate admission double header, so if you are going to either game tonight, be prepared for some traffic and parking mayhem as the first crowd tries to vacate the Fens and the second crowd swarms in.

Jeff SuppanDaisuke Matsuzaka gets the start in the opener against our old friend Jeff Suppan. If you recall, Suppan started his career in 1995 as a twenty year old hot prospect rising rapidly through the Red Sox farm system. The expectations were very high for Jeff, and the hope was that he would follow in Roger Clemens' footsteps and become the next Red Sox ace. Suppan pitched in the rotation with Clemens for two years until Clemens' infamous departure to Toronto. But, Suppan never quite lived up to expectations. He has had a long and successful career, but mostly as a middle of the rotation type of guy. His best years, statistically, were in 2004 and 2005 with the St. Louis Cardinals when he won 16 games in both of those years. Plus, I think we all remember the Red Sox steamrolling Suppan on their way to winning the 2004 World Series, and his base running gaff that took the Cardinals out of a critical offensive rally. So, as we watch our current batch of new pitchers, we should remember, you never really know which ones will be truly successful and which ones will never quite make it.

Dice-K MatsuzakaDice-K has been on a roll, boasting a 6-0 record and a 2.45 ERA heading in to this afternoon's game. He has an advantage today facing a team that has yet to see him, so if his variety of pitches are all sharp, he and Jason Varitek should be able to keep hitters off balance today. The one thing he needs to work on is keeping the ball near the strike zone so he does not let batters get too patient, driving his pitch count up, and getting too many walks.

JD Drew and Julio Lugo will be available today and for first the first time in weeks, the Sox will have a full and healthy bench - presuming Coco Crisp's stomach ailments have passed.

Perfect timing in the pitching rotation for a double header. In the night game the Red Sox are starting Tim Wakefield, so Varitek will get a rest as Kevin Cash gets another opportunity to chase the dancing knuckle ball around. Wakefield had his worst outing of the season in his last start, but I don't think that is any indication of what we'll see today. The knuckle ball is very much a "feel" pitch. The feel can be perfect one day and nit quite right the next. But, with the heavy humid air today, Tim should have good conditions to work with.

Manny RamirezNeither of the Brewers' pitchers for today are overly worrisome for the Red Sox. There are 8 Red Sox players who have faced Jeff Suppan in the past. Those 8 batters have a combined .344 batting average against him. The only player out of those 8 with a batting average less than .333 against Suppan is Mike Lowell, who is oddly 0-11 against him. In the second game, the Brewers will send Dave Bush to the mound. In seven starts this season, Bush has only won one game, and carries a hefty 6.06 ERA with him to the mound tonight. If you are following Manny Ramirez' quest for 500 career home runs, you may be in for a treat. Bush has allowed an average of one home run per game this season. Could be a good night for Manny. No high fives for Manny from the fans tonight though - the Green Monster won't allow it!

So, the outcome of any game is always a surprise, but the signs look good for the Red Sox to get back on track with 2 or 3 wins from Milwaukee. There's no place like home - just ask the Boston Celtics!

(Photos Courtesy of

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yankees Share the Same Good Luck Thong?

That's just gross...but apparently true...had to share this disturbing story with you as a bonus post for today...

From the NY Post, the thong belongs to Jason Giambi, but he shares it with all his pals!

Found out about this from a blogger friend, It's a Wonderful Red Sox Life.

If this is your first visit here today, the real post is the one before this on...

Who's In First?

Red Sox Nation got a much needed day off yesterday. A chance to relax, reflect, and take a look at what else is going on around us. As we glance at the AL East standings, subconsciously expecting to see the Sox in first place with the Yankees breathing down their necks, we are greeted with a startling sight! The Red Sox are not in first place. That honor goes to the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only are the Rays in first place, but they are 8-2 in their last 10 games, with a 24-17 record that is currently the best in the entire American League. In all of baseball, only the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks have a better record than the Rays. Perhaps there was something to getting the Devil out of Tampa after all?

Scott KazmirAnd what of the once mighty New York Yankees? This morning they find themselves looking up from the cellar of the AL East, 4.5 games behind the Rays, with a 20-22 record. That record puts the Yankees a mere 1/2 game ahead of the Kansas City Royals! But, the Yankees are Goliath aren't they? Well, if the Yankees are Goliath (and honestly, only a New York fan would consider that this year), then the Rays are David. The Yankees have just completed a four game series against the Rays in Tampa Bay losing 3 out of 4 and getting their head handed to them. Yesterday's starter for the Rays was Scott Kazmir. Kazmir loaded the stone into his sling and hurtled it at Goliath who crashed heavily to the ground. Then, just like in the legend, Goliath's head was severed, this time the result of a 4th inning, 2 run home run by catcher Shawn Riggans. The home run came off of struggling Yankees rookie, Ian Kennedy, and provided the runs the Rays would need to secure the win. Kennedy was pitching his first game after spending some time in the minors to regroup. He apparently never regrouped, looking just as ineffective as when he went down.

New York Yankees ReelingHank Steinbrenner has been quite vocal about his feelings towards the team that he is spending all of his family fortunes on. Hank happens to work out of offices in Tampa Bay, so he was able to see his team up close and personal as they got embarrassed in the state flooded with "Rays" of sunshine. Is it all about money and winning for the Steinbrenners? Of course it is. Hank was quoted on Wednesday in the NY Post saying, "These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money." You tell them Hank!

So, who's up next for the Yankees? They face off against the New York Mets tonight. The Mets are toying with the Yankees a bit as well. The Mets' newly anointed ace, Johan Santana, the gem that slipped through Steinbrenner's fingers this off-season and landed right next door, was scheduled to pitch last night against the Washington Nationals. But, was it a bit of gamesmanship when Mets' manager, Willie Randolph, held Santana out for an extra day so he could start tonight against the Yankees and wave their new star under the Yankees noses? I think so!

Alex Rodriguez RehabsLast note from Yankee land. New York fans are churning from the news that their beloved star, Alex Rodriguez, has recorded a nice congratulatory message for our very own Manny Ramirez, to be played as part of a collection of messages when Manny hits his 500th home run, which will hopefully come on this home stand in front of the Fenway Faithful! To be honest, it is very magnanimous of A-Rod, but it is fun to see Yankee fans squirm at the thought of it. The message is apparently, "Manny, I'm going to keep this short because I'm probably getting booed. Congratulations and many more." Pretty funny?

Bartolo ColonGood news for Red Sox fans who want more pitching. Bartolo Colon started yesterday for the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Buffalo Bisons. According to The Buffalo News, "The sight of Pawtucket pitcher Bartolo Colon effortlessly slicing through the Buffalo Bisons’ lineup had to provide a source of hope for the Boston Red Sox". Music to my ears! Colon combined with Chris Smith to pitch a one hitter against the Bisons. Colon lasted 6 innings, throwing 64 pitches, 45 for strikes and was very sharp. Bison's Manager Torey Lovullo said, "What you saw was the effectiveness of a major league pitcher who was feeling it".

As discussed here yesterday, the Sox need a starter for Tuesday. Could that be Colon? Tuesday would be his next regular day to start for the PawSox, so I have to imagine the Sox are at least hoping it works out. But, the general plan had called for Colon to make 2 or 3 more starts before coming up. So, a start on Tuesday would certainly be accelerating things. I am guessing it will be a matter of seeing how he recovers from the start and how confident he feels. If the Sox feel he looks good, the final decision will be left up to Colon. However, Colon also had this to say:

“I’m still a little scared, but I haven’t felt any pain since I’ve been rehabbing,” he said. “It doesn't hurt, but I’m still a little scared.”

So, can he build up his confidence that his injury will not resurface by Tuesday? Stay tuned.

(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports) (Colon Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Manny was Really Doing

Manny Being Manny
In last night's 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Manny Ramirez provided the entertainment with another memorable "Manny Moment". In the fourth inning with runners on first and second and one out, old pal, Kevin Millar, hit a deep fly ball to left that looked like a sure double. Both runners took off, confident the ball would drop in for a hit. Manny raced back and to his left and somehow managed to catch up to the ball, catching it at full speed heading towards the outfield wall with about three strides to go before reaching it. Manny let his momentum carry him to the wall, planted a foot on the wall and pushed off, propelling high up enough to reach the fans. In fact, sitting in the front row, right in front of Manny, was a fan in a Red Sox shirt. While he was there, it appeared that Manny gave the fan a quick "high five" before dropping back down to the field. Meanwhile, there was still a play going on, as that was only the second out. The runner from first was now between second and third and racing to get back to first base before Manny noticed. Manny fired a throw to Dustin Pedroia, who relayed the ball to Kevin Youkilis to complete the double play and end the inning.

Now, most people wonder what the heck Manny was doing high fiving a fan in the middle of a play, but the Rational Sox Fan has the inside scoop for you loyal readers. A "source" (who will not be named, but is the same source Boston Herald reporter, John Tomase, used for his piece about the Patriot's filming of the Rams pre-Super Bowl practice session) happened to be at the game and provided the information. Apparently, as Manny was chasing the ball down, the fan in the Red Sox shirt was heard yelling, "Manny, I'll give you ten dollars if you make that catch!!", and held a ten dollar bill in his outstretched hand. Manny apparently heard the shout, made the catch, and leaped up to snag the ten dollars from the generous fan. If you watch the replays closely, you can see Manny slip the bill inconspicuously from the fan's hand. Very clever move - and very entertaining. But, now you know the inside story.

Jon LesterJon Lester pitched a pretty good game, holding the Orioles scoreless until the 6th inning when a single, double, and another single put two runs on the board for Baltimore. He got out of the inning, striking out Aubrey Huff and Millar, and had only thrown 86 pitches to that point, but Brad Mills, filling in for Terry Francona for the night, opted to go to the bullpen to start the 7th inning.

Javier Lopez started the 7th, and did a nice job. He got the first two batters out and induced Freddie Bynum to hit, what looked like, an inning ending ground ball to Pedroia. Pedroia, uncharacteristically misplayed the ball and Bynum was safe at first. Somehow the official scorer did not see the play as an error, but the play would be the beginning of the Sox' downfall. At this point, the Sox were holding on to a 3-2 lead, thanks to solo home runs by Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek and a single by Pedroia that plated Jacoby Ellsbury from second base in the 1st inning.

Hideki OkajimaNow, cue up the funeral march music as it all unravels. The left handed batters had passed, so Brad Mills got Lopez out and sent in Craig Hansen in to get the quick out and hold the lead. But, Hansen instead gave up a single and a walk to load the bases and make things interesting. Mills apparently was uncomfortable with the situation, and decided to go for the "sure thing" and sent Hideki Okajima in to replace Hansen. What Mills failed to notice in making his decision was that Okajima has been awful this season when he enters a game with inherited runners. Going into that inning, He had allowed 8 of 11 inherited runners to score this year. Those runs get charged to the pitcher who put the runners on base, so Okajima's ERA stays nice and low. But, we've discussed here how Okajima does does not have the same success as when he comes in with bases empty. Well, Jay Payton liked the second pitch Okajima threw, an 85 mph fastball, and planted in the outfield stands for an Orioles inspiring, and Red Sox deflating, grand slam. Now that the bases were empty, Okajima felt more comfortable and got the final out of the inning, and pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning.

The Sox were out of time, out of energy, and done for this game. So, the Sox still struggle to find pitching relief that can handle the 6th and 7th innings effectively and consistently. Hansen may still be that guy, but not last night. And please, let's hold off on bringing Okajima into an inning with runners in scoring position for a while!

In other news, Clay Buchholz has been placed on the 15 day disabled list (DL) because of a split fingernail. Now, I know fingernails are important in controlling the ball on certain pitches, but 15 days to heal sounds excessive for a fingernail. There is a possibility that this move is partly to let Buchholz heal, partly to give him a rest and help him through his first full season, but could also be partly to set up a scenario to call up Bartolo Colon. If my sources are correct, Colon would get one more start in with the Pawsox, and then his next start would be set for Tuesday. The Sox would need a replacement for Buchholz on Tuesday. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

So, the Sox head home having lost 6 out of 10 games on this road trip and get today off as they limp back to Boston. Tomorrow they kick off three games against their one-time AL East rival Milwaukee Brewers. They were a team we were used to kicking around pretty well, other than their one shining year in 1982 when they made their one and only World Series appearance, which they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1994, the Brewers left the AL East and joined the AL Central when MLB added the third division, and in 1998 the Brewers joined the NL, and have not been seen around these parts since. The Brewers are at .500 right now, and let's hope they play more like the hapless Brewers of the 70's and the Sox can get a couple of wins under out of them.

(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports) (Source shall remain nameless ;-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Beckett Suffers Bruise in Sox Loss to Orioles

JD Drew
The Red Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles by the score of 5-4 last night, and watched in frustration as their health woes continued to pile up. Alex Cora and Sean Casey have thankfully just returned from the DL and Cora was starting at shortstop for Julio Lugo, who is recovering from a mild concussion. In the 3rd inning, JD Drew made a diving attempt to catch a soft fly ball from Freddie Bynum. The ball landed in his glove, but the momentum pulled the glove back as Drew rolled with the dive, forcing his wrist to get painfully bent back and the ball spilled loose. Drew came out of the game and was replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury, who had the night off nursing a bruised knee. Then, as the Red Sox took the field for the 6th inning, Coco Crisp did not join them. He had to come out of the game, suffering from stomach pains and a headache. With two of the Red Sox four outfielders out, the Sox were forced to move Kevin Youkilis to right field, shift Ellsbury over to center, and send Sean Casey in to first base. The only position player left on the bench was Kevin Cash. One more injury would have made for an interesting move.

Josh BeckettLuckily no further injury moves were required last night, but the Rational Sox Fan has discovered that Josh Beckett was also hurt during the game, but had managed to play through it, lasting 5 2/3 innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. His injury, like JD's, also came in the 3rd inning. With two men on base, two outs, and one run already in, Josh watched a 95 mph fastball to Luke Scott get hit a long way to right field and settle into the stands for a 3 run home run. As Beckett turned to watch the ball arch through the air, he claimed he felt a sudden pain to the right side of his powerful ego. "It was kind of a quick, jabbing sort of pain, like being punched in the shoulder after hearing a passenger say 'punch buggy blue, no punch back'", said Beckett during post-game interviews. He was able to work through the pain and managed to hold the Orioles scoreless until his departure in the 6th inning.
Luke Scott
We talked with trainer Paul Lessard about what we can expect from Beckett next. "Well, the injury does not look too bad", said Lessard. "We'll give him the next four games off to let it rest and heal up." According to Lessard, the Sox will start with some rest and some basic ego massages. Newspaper clippings of past excellence will be posted around his locker, and his 2003 World Series MVP trophy will be prominently displayed in the locker room. These sorts of gentle ego massages will be followed with more active ego strengthening exercises. The first will be playing cribbage against the notoriously bad Dustin Pedroia. We all know Terry Francona likes to beat Pedroia in a hand or two of cribbage before each game. It is one thing Francona does to boost his own ego, and the Sox feel Beckett will benefit from it as well. Presuming the cribbage goes well, the last stage of rehab will involve pitching a simulated game to Pawtucket outfielder, Joe Thurston. Thurston has played 4 games with Boston, and has gone 0-8 with a 0.000 batting average. "A few innings pitching to Thurston ought to really boost Josh's ego and get him ready for his next start", said pitching coach John Farrell.

Red Sox Nation is nervous today. The Sox will decide today if JD Drew will need any time off, and what moves might need to be made as a result. Thankfully, the prognosis for Beckett is not as bleak.

Tonight, Jon Lester takes the mound to try to stop the Red Sox' 3 game losing streak and send the team home to Boston on a happy note. Facing Daniel Cabrera, this seems to be the likely scenario. Lester is 3-0 in his three career starts against Baltimore, while Cabrera has gone 1-9 with a 7.84 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox. Alex Cora has had the best success against Cabrera with 11 hits in 20 at bats. Let's hope Lugo needs one more night off.

(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports) (Beckett's bruise is fictional - all other elements of the post are fact)