Crap. Seriously... there's not a whole lot to say. The Red Sox had been playing absolutely uninspired baseball for the last two months now, and today was the culmination of it all. The Red Sox were not defeated by a superior Angels squad. The Red Sox did this to themselves. Papelbon's meltdown is certainly troubling, and could have implications for the future... but for now, it really doesn't matter... does it?
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Welcome back... to the playoffs that is.
The Red Sox clinched yet another Wild Card playoff berth, but there was no celebrating last night at Fenway, as Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox fell victim to an absolute mortar shelling by the Toronto Blue Jays, losing, 8-7, last night. Thankfully the Angels put the hurting on the Rangers to knock Texas out of contention... not exactly the way the Red Sox wanted to head into October... but beggars can't be choosers now.
After a strong month, Buchholz looked uncharacteristically hittable last night, giving up five home runs to the Jays, three of them to Adam Lind. But even after Big Play Clay's second sub-par start in a row, it's not time to panic just yet. He has shown that he has the stuff and his command is improving weekly. The only issue to worry about is whether or not his nerves will let him stay in command as the Red Sox head to the post-season.
What is cause for concern is Jon Lester. The veritable ace took a laser off the knee cap in this weekend's start against the Yankees. While he walked off the field and later was confirmed to have negative X-Rays, Red Sox Nation let out a collective 'oh crap,' as the hopes of October seemed to momentarily get "contusioned" away. (On a more serious note, the announcers could not have used the word "contusion" any more times than they did without having to declare the show "Medical Programming." Worst part is, they most likely don't even know what the word "contusion" means. WMYM apologizes for not knowing who exactly called the game... it was hard to make out the voices on the national broadcast over the droning sounds of "Margaritaville" on loop at some dive bar in Tampa, FL named Miss Vicky's. Can't make that stuff up.)
As for the playoffs, only time will tell what shape the rotation will be in. With Tim Wakefield's issues, his spine might actually start to resemble a question mark -- where is the school nurse with that scoliosis test when you need her? Buchholz has looked shaky in his last two starts, Beckett isn't his old self, and now Jon Lester has a second knee where his shin used to be. Who ever thought that Dice-K would be our most dependable starter going into the post-season... oh crap.
As of this morning, everyone and their uncle had their jock-straps in a twist
over some theoretical announcement regarding Diasuke Matsuzaka's future with the Boston Red Sox. Was he going to start? Was he going to be benched? Was he going to be released? Taken out back and shot? WHAT? Somebody... please tell us what is going on.
But as the tension become more and more palpable (mostly because of the unreal amounts of media attention it was getting... but what do you want? -- it was an off-day), it became clear that Red Sox fans weren't even going to get a nugget of anything
. The Red Sox are almost as bad as the Patriots in that respect. They have become masters in saying literally nothing. It's almost enough to pray for an Ozzie Guillen-type figure... almost.
But taking a step outside the box, the question is this: does it really matter when Dice-K comes back? We've already seen he's no Beckett in the post-season. And now that our bats have woken up from their beauty rest, the team is winning... without him.
Obviously, you want your ka-trillion dollar man out there earning his salt. But his return isn't going to make-or-break the season. If anything, it's going to give Red Sox fans more heartburn
, as pointed out in a brilliant, funny, and awe-inspiring article by a good friend of Who Made You Mirabelli, Michael James Silver, or Pythagorus, as he is known is some circles. He's a talented young writer for FireBrandAL
who is really going places. No wonder why his work has gotten picked up by the likes of ESPN.com's Rob Neyer
, and was featured on the MLB Outsiders homepage
Although it is somewhat silly that Dice-K, in all of his virtual irrelevance, is making the homepage of anything these days... slow news day.
You've got to be happy for Dustin Pedroia after his first career multi-home run game. It's quite a big accomplishment, especially for such a little man.
But it seems like the only one not jacked about his pair of jacks last night is D-Peds himself. After the game, he told the Globe, "I'm not trying to hit home runs. I'm just trying to hit line drives. Some times they get up in the air and get out of here."
Humility has never been the name of Ortiz's game, a game which tied a record for home-runs amongst DH's at 269, tying the Big Hurt's utterly useless record.
Now, riddle me this... who the hell saw Alex Gonzalez coming? Three homers all season with Cincy... three in the last month. Yes, please.
On to more pressing matters... Big Play Clay. Finally, his control is getting there. It's been the one missing piece to his puzzle, and it seems like he's learned to keep his mental game in check. Thank goodness. Last night, he racked up five strikeouts and one walk in seven innings. With the likes of Paul Byrd on the mound, Terry will take that any day of the week. Overall though, it was his comfort level that was the big difference. He's finally working smarter, not harder.
Michael Bowden, on the other hand, is working harder than anybody to get that 10.5 ERA down. Another two innings like he had last night might do the trick. He's still getting hit (two last night), but he needs to take his lumps in order to become a better pitcher. He'll get there eventually, but probably not this year.
According to the Providence Journal
, both Jed Lowrie and Paw-Sox catcher Dusty Brown will be on the bench for tonight's game against the Orioles... prompting dozons of people to ask, "Who the hell is Dusty Brown? And didn't we just paint the living room that color?"
Despite some fair play by the Red Sox over the long weekend, things don't seem to be going their way.
Marke Buehrle, who is emerging as the weirdest pitcher of the year (perfect game, followed immediately by six winless weeks), threw another gem against the Red Sox - while a bit down the coast, the Yankees were completing a sweep of the Rays. Moreover, Carlos Pena now has two broken fingers and is out for the season. Couldn't that have happened to someone in pinstripes? No? Too much to ask?
Well, at least we can look on the bright side... Derek Jeter apparently couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, so at least we've got that going.
Forget the six game lead in the Wild Card -- well don't actually forget it, because that's pretty awesome too -- but last night's rubber match against the Tampa Bay Rays showed us something that might be more useful come October: the emergence of Clay Buccholz as a control starter.
This is a guy with a career 1.73 SO/BB average, never knotching a season over 2.20. However, within the last week, Big Play Clay has earned himself a 4.0 SO/BB average. How's that for control? Hitting the spots has always been his biggest problem. His stuff is evident, and it's clear that he knows how to use it. But nibbling at the corners is something that he doesn't have yet... and that's fine. Those are the type of skills acquired by nothing but time and practice.
This trend is not only good for the kid, who very well may be a head case (emotionally... not psychologically... and yes... there is a difference), but it's also good for the team. Things are starting to click all over the place at the exact right time -- which as we've seen with the Rockies in '07 and the Rays in '08, trumps virtually all other skill sets.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox don't have time to stop and think about how nice this is starting to feel. Tonight, the Rangers go up against the Orioles, and Chris Tillman is going to call Scott Feldman his "daddy," after all -- he's practically old enough to be.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have won seven straight -- although tonight's matchup against Halladay and Baby Joba should be one for the ages... or in Joba's case, up until the fourth inning.
Tonight is sure to be nothing short of a number game. As the Red Sox prepare to start a three game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field, the focus once again turns to pitching - the one area where the Sox have a decided advantage.
Thankfully, the Sox are staring down the barrel of a Sonnanstine, Garza, Price match-up - and we're firing back with Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz. Lester has been nothing short of spectacular in his last seven starts, picking up the slack for mysteriously ill Josh Beckett (H1N1? We're not saying... but we're just saying...)
It seems like a few short days ago when people were taking to the streets, praying up and down for any form of a pitcher. But in a series when a 14-5 ace with a 3.8 ERA is your biggest question mark, it's not a bad position to be in, relatively speaking of course.
In fact the three that the Sox are putting up this week have a combined ERA of 11.78, while the Rays are working with a 15.19 ERA. Of course, ERA can be one of the most misleading statistics in baseball, but the team's 8.9 hits allowed per 9 innings seem to echo the hittability of their pitchers. Not that the Red Sox have had the loudest bats as of late, but these Rays pitchers could be the nice cup o' joe that we so desperately need.
Now, the Globe, as it has been known to do, is crying to the hilss over this week's series - but they might actually be on to something here. At this point, with a month left in the season, there is a lot of room for change. But against a fiesty AL East competitor, the playoff picture could be much clearer by weeks end. Although Chad Finn needs to temper his enthusiasm (no... the earth is not going to open up and swallow the loser of this series), this is going to be a big one... hopefully with some big numbers for the boys in Red.
There is a story about David Wells getting cut from the Yankees that's probably more myth than reality. According to the legend, the 946-pounder was called into Brian Cashman's office, and the young GM cut him lose, most likely for eating an entire party sub by himself. Wells takes it lying down, literally... as he allegedly dropped to his knees and starting crying like a 17-year-old acne faced theater kid on prom night.
Now, this is not to smear the reputation of Mr. Wells, although to be fair, his weight has done that already. Nowadays, the word smear just makes him hungrier.
Upon hearing of the pink slip handed to Brad Penny this morning, one can't help but think of the infamous hefty-lefty. However, Brad Penny is apparently taking this news like a man amongst men - to which Red Sox fans should tip their hats.
Now, his performance this season has been virtually inexcusable, and there is an imminent temptation to scream something along the lines of "don't let the door hit you in your engorged ass on the way out," but his comments on BostonHerald.com were something to be admired.
"I enjoyed playing with all of the guys," he said. "I played for a great manager on a great team. I had a great time. I enjoyed it. I wish things had worked out better, but that happens."
"I had some bad breaks and made some bad pitches," he said. "But I'm healthy, and that's what I'm happy about. This isn't last year, when I was hurt (with the Dodgers). If that had been the case, I'd be upset."
"All in all I had a great time here. My shoulder is healthy, and I'm glad I came here. It was a blessing."
WOW! BRAVO GOOD SIR!
It's almost enough to wash the taste of that 5.61 ERA out of your mouth, and even perhaps respect the guy. But seriously... get the hell out of here.