Monday, May 5, 2008

Walk in the Park as Red Sox Beat Tigers 6-3

Dice-K Matsuzaka
Walk in the park indeed, but it was the Tigers who did the walking as Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up 8 free passes in just 5 innings and still managed to exit with a 4-1 lead. The Tigers just couldn't convert those free base runners into runs. It is very unusual for a pitcher to survive that many walks, but that shows you that Dice-K battled hard and never gave in. In fact, he seemed to be following a trend he started last year. Dice-K is stubborn and does not like to give up hits to batters. In counts where a fastball over the plate is warranted, Dice-K would rather keep the ball away from the batter and risk the walk, and last night he gave up a dangerous number of them. But, when he wasn't walking batters, he was getting them out, as the Tigers only managed two hits against him, as he improved his record to a perfect 5-0 on the year.

Following Dice-K to the mound was Craig Hansen, fresh up from Pawtucket. The Red Sox are looking for someone to step up into a dependable middle relief role, and Hansen is loaded with talent that the Red Sox hope is finally ripe for the picking. Hansen did not disappoint as he make quick work of the Tigers with a 1-2-3 6th inning. The 7th inning, however, was not as clean. With runners on first and second and no outs, Hansen induced the dangerous Magglio Ordonez to hit into a double play, leaving one runner on third. But, rather than a quick out to escape any damage, Hansen tore a page from Dice-K's play book and walked the next two batters to load the bases. Terry Francona had seen enough, and with the left handed Matthew Joyce coming up, he brought in Hideki Okajima to create a favorable lefty-lefty match up.

Hideki OkajimaBut Tigers' manager, Jim Leyland, has been around far too long to fall for that old trick. Jimmy said, "I'll see your lefty and raise you a righty", as he sent Marcus Thames to pinch hit. Sure enough, Marcus drove the first pitch he saw into center field, driving in two runs. Okajima immediately settled down and retired the next four batters he faced before turning the game over to Jonathan Papelbon to close shop in the ninth for his tenth save of the year. It has become clear that Okajima does not do so well with inherited runners. He is much better coming in at the top of an inning (note to Francona).

Mike LowellThe Sox got some nice hitting from Mike Lowell as he went 3 for 5 with a 2 run home run, a double and a single. Believe it or not, the home run gave Lowell his first RBI of the 2008 season, thanks to his time on the DL. Kevin Youkilis also contributed with a 2 run home run of his own, while Big Papi collected the final 2 RBI with a single that drove in Pedroia from second in the 7th, and a solo home run to right in the 9th. Great to see Papi driving the ball again as the home run tied him with Manny Ramirez for the team lead with 6. Manny had himself a well hit double (that would have been an easy triple for Ellsbury, who unfortunately went 0-5), but Manny remained homerless, unable to close in on magic number 500.

So, the Sox extend their winning streak to four games, while the Tigers match with a losing streak of four games. Tonight, Tim Wakefield squares off against Nate Robertson, who has struggled this year starting off with a 1-3 record, but may be coming around as his win came in his last outing against the Yankees. The Red Sox should pounce on the Tigers while the Tigers are cold - they have too much talent to want to face on a winning streak. Let's get our wins and get out of town.

On the injury front, Curt Schilling will throw this afternoon for the first time in his rehab program. He'll be throwing from 60 feet just to feel things out and take it slow. One step at a time, but keep your fingers crossed. We all know how valuable Curt can be come October! Bartolo Colon, meanwhile, pitched two scoreless innings in an extended spring training game against the Orioles. He experienced no pain in his injured oblique, and topped out at 93 MPH. Good news - you can never have too much pitching!


Matt said...

Kind of a mixed bag from Hansen... much like the rest of the pen. It was nice to see him pitch well in the 6th I just wish it had ended there. I wonder when someone is going to step up and be the 7th inning guy...Timlin? Delcarmen? Anyone...anyone?

Rooster said...

Good question - very good question. Would be interesting to chart the runs scored in the 7th this year - always seems like a tough inning for the Sox.

Anonymous said...

If no one steps up as the RH set up guy I can see a situation where Buchholz becomes that guy once Colon is brought up. He's the only starter we have who might be effective out of the pen, and is on a limited amount of innings this year. This sort of kills two birds (weak BP, crowded rotation) with one stone.

Rooster said...

Interesting thought about Buchholz, but, I'm not sure I agree. The type of training, conditioning, preparation, and mental approach is very different for relievers versus starters. Clay is young, has been used exclusively as a starter, and is still learning the starting role. I worry that the jump to the bullpen would throw him off.

I'd be more inclined to move Wake to the 'Pen. Wake has spent time in the 'pen for the Sox, has had success there, and bringing in a floating, slow knuckle ball right after Beckett is a sure fire way to mess with batters!

So, I am with you, but I'd opt for Wake over Clay. But - good point about Clay's innings. Not sure if he is being limited, or monitored. That could be a factor.

Thanks for the great comment!

david mcmahon said...

Came here from Suldog's blog. If I teach you Aussie Rules, will you teach me all about your great game?


Rooster said...

Welcome David, I'm glad you came by, thank you! I think you can call that a deal! But, I am not as much of a novice at Aussie Rules as you'd think. I lived in Sydney for two years and played baseball there for 3 seasons while I was there (1994-1995). Mostly followed rugby, and learned some cricket - I got the impression Aussie Rules was more popular in Melbourne than in Sydney - so I could defintely brush up on that!

Still have friends in Sydney that I owe a visit too one of these days. Hope you stop by often.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I could see Wake moving there as a viable alternative but he's can be known to walk people and doesn't work well with Varitek, which would have to figure into the decision. He'd still probably be better than the other middle relievers on our team currently, but being used a starter probably maximizes his arm.

Not sure if Clay could handle the switch from rotation to BP, he might have specific situations outlined for him ala Joba Chamberlain, but I bet its something that the front office and staff will have to look into.