Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hide the Gatorade Cooler

Jonathan Papelbon Gatorade Kick
The Red Sox lost to the Minnesota Twins last night 7-6. It was the second time in three days that they lost via a blown save by Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th inning. Papelbon, usually a sure thing, suddenly looks vulnerable. In Detroit, Papelbon took his frustrations out on the Gatorade cooler, last night he only publicly beat up his hat. In Detroit the game was lost through a series of strange events, including an accidental hit on a check swing and a damaging error.

Jonathan PapelbonBut, last night was a straight out loss. He just was not intimidating to the Twins, and that forced him to fatally mix in an ineffective splitter. Consider this. Papelbon threw 18 pitches in the 9th inning. Out of those 18 pitches, he had zero called strikes, and only one swinging strike. Every other pitch was either a ball, a foul, or a hit. Since the fastball was not quite doing the trick, he went to the split finger, but was not able to execute it well. He looked "okay" after the first three batters giving up a lead-off single, followed by a sacrifice bunt and a foul pop out. But, with two outs, the Sox allowed Delmon Young to steal third base, setting up a dangerous situation with the Sox clinging to a one run lead. After four straight fastballs to Gomez leading to a 2-2 count, Papelbon went to the split finger, but Delmon was not biting as he watched two of them go by for ball 3 and ball 4. Young proceeded to steal second base, putting the winning run in scoring position for Mike Lamb. But, Papelbon could not get the fastball by Lamb. The count was 1 ball and 2 strikes after four straight fastballs in the upper 90's when Papelbon again went to the split finger, and Lamb stayed with it, sending a lofting single into left field to send both runners home and win the game. So, what went wrong? The splitter was not effective and lost the game.

On another sour note, Julio Lugo continues to ring up the errors. Last night's damage came in the 2nd inning and cost the Red Sox 2 unearned runs. With two outs and a runner on second, Lugo blew an inning ending ground ball to keep the Twins at the plate. A quick steal and a single then sent two runs across the plate. Sloppy play forced the game to be closer than it should have been.

Boof BonserThe offense did well, making Bonser go "BOOF" in the 5th inning. Bonser was unable to get out in the 5th. A single by Dustin Pedroia, a walk to David Ortiz, and a single by Manny Ramirez loaded the based for Mike Lowell. Lowell hit a double, two runs scored, and Bonser went - "BOOF" - time to hit the showers big guy. Every batter in the Sox lineup had at least one hit, and the six runs scored would normally be enough for the win. But not last night. Put that one in the column of wins that got away.

Tonight, Daisuke Matsuzaka heads to the mound to right the ship. Dice-K has had a good start to the season, as evidenced by his 5-0 record. It will be important to keep the ball around the plate against this Twins team that seems to have a very good eye for the strike zone and rarely chases bad pitches - a favorite tactic of Dice-K's. The Twins counter with 25 year old left-hander, Glen Perkins, who will be making his first appearance with the Twins this season, and his first start for them ever. Perkins has made a few appearances over the past two years, all in relief. He struggles in the minors earlier this year, but has gotten back on track recently, giving the Twins the confidence to call him up in place of the injured Scott Baker.

This one won't be easy.

(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports) (Gatorade kick - AP Photo by Duane Burleson)

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