Wednesday, October 30, 2013

World Series Game 6 Live Chat

Welcome to the Maineiacs' Game 6 Live Chat!
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Series 2013-- Sox Win Two in St. Loo; Come Home Up 3-2

The Boston Red Sox followed the trail through St. Louis as suggested ( hoped for) here. They split Games Three and Four and let Jon Lester dominate the Cardinals in Game Five to take a three games to two lead home to Fenway Park.

The Red Sox in Games Four and Five won two similar ( but not identical) games,  4-2 in Game Four and 3-1 in Game Five.  Both games featured outstanding pitching by the Red Sox starters.  The difference was in Game Four it took THREE of the Red Sox starters, plus three relievers to seal the deal.  In Game Five Jon Lester blew down the Cards for 7 2/3 innings allowing only one run on a Matt Holliday home run ( the only run Jon Lester has ever allowed in three World Series starts) before handing the ball to Koji Uehara for the last four outs.

Each game also featured an offensive outburst to break a 1-1 tie.  Jonny Gomes slugged a three run home run in the sixth inning in Game Four ( following a two out nobody on single by Dustin Pedroia and a walk to David Ortiz).  In Game Five, the Sox scored two in the seventh on a Xander Bogaerts single, a tough walk drawn by Stephen Drew ( the only walk of the game allowed by Cards ace Adam Wainwright), then an eventual game winning ground rule double by David Ross, and with two outs Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Drew.

A few observations from the two wins in St. Louis.

* Clay Buchholz gave the Red Sox just enough to get down the road to victory.  As the press box and the twitterverse burned up with scathing commentary about Buch's lack of velocity, the pundits neglected the fact he was hitting all the spots he needed to and was keeping the Cards largely off the board.  After John Farrell elected to bat for Clay in the fifth, he was followed to the mound by another Sox starter, Felix Doubront, who had done the exact same thing the night before after Jake Peavy. Felix was dominant for 2 2/3 innings, and held down the Cards long enough for the Gomes blast to put Boston ahead( and made Doubront the winning pitcher.) After another discouraging short outing by Craig Breslow ( facing two batters who both reached) Junichi Tazawa came on to get Matt Holliday to end the seventh  and the threat.  John Lackey, Sox "starter" #3 pitched a shutout 8th inning.

* In both Games Four and Five Koji Uehara continued his mastery of big league hitters.  Koji pitched in all three games in St. Louis but he is so economical with his pitches, he is not truly overworked.  I read a comparison today with Koji's 2013 postseason vs. Keith Foulke's tremendous 2004.  Foulke threw 14 1/ 3innings but hurled 256 pitches.  So far this year in 12 2/3 innings, Uehara has thrown 156 pitches...exactly 100 fewer than Foulke.

* Stephen Drew continues to struggle at the plate ( although the rally helping walk and a near miss of a two run home run in Game Five may finally show some light at the end of the tunnel), he has not taken his woes into the field and has been superb at shortstop.  His leaping spear of a liner in Game Five was just one recent example. He will be at shortstop for the rest of this World Series.

* The Red Sox pitchers were as a group all ready having a strong post season, but having David Ross behind the dish makes them even more invincible. It was a joy to see Ross on the post game podium last night as he relished openly the fact he was there in his first World Series.

* David Ortiz so far in this World Series due to strong St. Louis pitching and managerial wisdom has been held to only a .733 batting average.  He is locked in and hitting everything( including the couple of outs he has made) on the screws.  If Mike Matheny continues to have his hurlers pitch to Ortiz, he will keep leading the Red Sox to victory.

* Incredibly enough with Papi hitting over .700 he is not the only possible World Series MVP candidate for Boston.  He is the favorite likely, but one could make a damned good case for Jon Lester as WS MVP.  Two key starts: Games One and the pivotal Game Five, both 7 2/ 3 innings, one run allowed in total and he won both games.  And all of Red Sox Nation hopes the Sox can win it all in six, but if it goes to Game Seven, do not be surprised if Jon Lester ends up on the mound at some point in that game as well.

Now a few random thoughts as we approach Game Six.

* Being back at Fenway Park means so much for this team in so many ways. Just to rattle off a few: the return of the DH and Mike Napoli to the middle of the Sox order.  The raucous support this gritty team will feed off from the Fenway Faithful, wanting to see the Red Sox win the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.  The Red Sox who had the best home record in the AL, except for one pesky series in September with those damned Orioles, have not lost back to back games at Fenway since mid-May.  And if nothing else, Boston will have last ups.  There is nothing more heart stopping than having to play a late inning or extra inning game on the road in this time of year.

* Despite the fact St. Louis sends rookie phenom, Michael Wacha and his post season ERA of 1.00 to the hill, I like the pitching matchup for the Sox.  Veteran John Lackey will go to post for Boston, and he brings a number of positives with him. First, Lackey is a veteran and even though Wacha has been awesome, he has never pitched a game meaning so much for his team.  Lackey has.  In the 2002 World Series Lackey was the starting and winning pitcher in Game Seven.  Lackey also has an outstanding record at Fenway this year.  He is 6-3 with an ERA of 2.47 and has allowed only 6 home runs in 91 innings. ( Lackey on the road in '13: 4-10, 4.48 ERA and allowed 18 HRs in 98 IP).  And the fact Lackey pitched an inning in Game Four could also help, it allowed him to keep in the flow of the series.

* The Boston bullpen is fairly rested.  As mentioned before, Koji has appeared in each game in St. Louis, but didn't throw many pitches.  Brandon Workman will have had three days off by Wed. night. Neither Tazawa or Breslow have been overused ( although it is problematic if Breslow gets into another game, which is stunning considering how great he was in the ALDS and ALCS.)  Clay Buchholz has also declared he would be ready to help out in the pen for Games Six or Seven. If Lackey can get through six or more innings, John Farrell will have some options.  Felix Doubront also is likely available. ( although will he be held back, if possible, for a- if necessary-Game Seven start??)

* My pre Series pick for MVP, Xander Bogaerts has been overshadowed by Papi and Lester, but he is tied for second on the team with Pedroia with 5 hits. Do not be surprised if Xander is once again in the middle of an important rally.  Maybe, even popping his first World Series home run into the Monster seats?!

* My other prediction for this series was the Sox in Six.  So here we sit with the opportunity to hit that pick right on the money.  And I will not waver from it.  I feel the Red Sox will win the World Series in Game Six.  It may not be easy, St. Louis is a worthy opponent and a strong team.  But this is the moment this tough, never say die team has waited for since February.  They believed in themselves when all of the rest of the world did not.  I know that has become a popular cliche for sports teams from high school on up, but this time it is true.

* One last prediction within a prediction.  This team has had a bushel of walk off wins this year, and I have had a nagging feeling ever since the middle of the ALCS, this team would win a championship with a walk off win.  It was not needed in the ALCS, and even though I am not sure my central nervous system can take it, I think Game Six will end in a walk off fashion ( maybe even with a home run!).

One more time! Go Sox


Monday, October 28, 2013

World Series Game 5 Live Chat

Welcome to another Red Sox Maineiacs live chat for game 5 of the World Series!
 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

World Series Game 4 Live Chat

Welcome to the Maineiacs' Game Four Live Chat!
 

2013 World Series- Game Four Tonight

By now everyone knows the Red Sox drive to the World Championship was obstructed last night and now the Cardinals are up 2 games to 1.  All year long this Red Sox team has had an incredible ability to put yesterday behind and focus on the next task at hand.  Game Four will be the ultimate test of this focus.  The Sox must move on from Game Three and so will we.  Here are some thoughts about Game Four:

* This Red Sox team largely because of the focusing on today attitude have not lost three in a row since mid August, over two months ago.  With losses in Game Two and Three of the series they will need to win tonight to prevent losing three games in a row.  Every time this season a sign of a crack in the armor has begun, this team rallies.  I expect nothing less in Game Four.

* Going into St. Louis I had posted I thought the path to the title for the Red Sox was to split Games Three and Four, and then have Jon Lester dominate and win Game Five.  That path would have been much easier with a Game Three win, but that path is still available to Boston.

* Clay Buchholz.  The season may rest on the shoulder ( neck?) of the early season ace of this staff.  It seems iffy that he can pitch at all.  But since Felix Doubront was used in relief for Game Three, Clay better have at least five good innings in him.  Even though, Buchholz has not been what was wanted or needed in the postseason, he has pitched very well, allowing only no or one runs through five innings.  The sixth has been the problem.  If Clay can give them the five good innings, the bullpen is relatively rested to help from there on.  Breslow pitched only to two batters last night, and in hindsight, he was incredibly unlucky. He induced a ground ball to short (which was not converted into an out) and he threw what was likely a strike to Carlos Beltran( until Carlos stuck his elbow into the strike zone for a HBP).  Brandon Workman could likely go anther inning, and Koji should be fine to go. If the bullpen is spent tonight, it will be more imperative than ever that Jon Lester handle most if not all of Game Five on his own.

* There is another way to win this Game Four, even of Buchholz doesn't give them the five innings or more ( or if God forbid, he cannot go at all).  That way is for the offense to step and win another game, similarly to Game One.  There were two good signs obscured by the gruesome loss in Game Three.  Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts at the plate.  Nava had two key RBI after finally getting into the lineup rather than Jonny Gomes,  And Xander Bogaerts scored the first run after tripling and drove in the tying run in the eighth.  These are at least two guys, along with David Ortiz, who do not look lost at the plate. ( Maybe throw Ellsbury and Pedroia in the okay at the plate group, too.)  Lance Lynn is the Game Four starter for the Cards, and the Sox must get to him for a bunch of early runs.  Offense is needed more than ever in Game Four and it is time for John Farrell to make lineup moves.  First is a offensive and defensive move by having David Ross catch. Ross is the best defensive catcher the Sox have ( and both of the losses are tied to Salty miscues behind the dish-- not being able to throw out Kozma on the double steal in Game Two and of course the throw leading to the end of Game Three), but Ross is hitting very well in the post season and Salty is in a terrible slump.  Next it is time to put Bogaerts at shortstop and sit Setphen Drew, who continues to be unable to even put a ball in play.

* That brings us to third base.  If you are going to bench Drew (who can certainly come in for defense if the Red Sox get their desired early lead) the only remaining conventional third sacker is Will Middlebrooks.  But if John Farrell wants to shoot for the  moon, and God knows a manager who lets Brandon Workman bat in the ninth of a tie game is willing to think outside the box, the starting third baseman should be Mike Napoli.  Before Game Three, Napoli was taking ground balls at third, and working hard with Brian Butterfield and John MacDonald.  He put in a Gold Glove quality season at first, he should be able to catch a ground ball on the other corner.  And after years as a catcher he can certainly throw.  I say if you are looking for offense, go all in and try Nap at the hot corner.

* St. Louis bullpen.  If the end of anyone's bullpen is gassed for Game Four it is the Cards.  Both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal threw twenty or more pitches last night and they both also worked Game Two.  You have to wonder if either is available tonight, and if they are ( it is the World Series, after all)  will either be totally effective.  Neither looked as unhittable last night as the previous game.

* A couple of Xander Bogaerts notes.  When Bogaerts tripled in Game Three during our Red Sox Maineiacs live chat, I was going to speculate that he may be the youngest player to ever triple in the World Series.  Before I could throw it out in the chat, I read that two other younger players had tripled in the WS.  A couple of guys named Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle.  Also when Xander drove in the tying run in the 8th, he became the youngest player ever to drive in a tying run in any World Series game in the 8th inning or later.  No matter what happens this week, we are witnessing the start of the Xander Bogaerts era in Boston.

* All hands on deck in Game Four, as near to a must win as you can get for the Red Sox.  Go Sox!


Saturday, October 26, 2013

World Series Game 3 Live Chat

Welcome to our World Series game 3 live chat!
 

Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 World Series- Even Up After Two Games

The first Fenway Park portion of the '13 World Series has concluded with the Red Sox and Cardinals tied at one game apiece.  The Red Sox blew out St. Louis in the opener 8-1 and the Cards fought back to win Game Two 4-2.  Each team's win was largely aided by the poor fielding of the opponent.

The World Series moves to St. Louis with night games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  First some observations on Games One:

* Jon Lester. The debate is over.  Jon Lester is an ace.  Not only only did the 29 year old hurl 7 2/3  shutout innings at the Cards to gain the Game One victory, but he added to his place in postseason history.  Of all the pitchers to make a minimum of 10 postseason starts ( Lester now has 10 plus two relief appearances.) Jon has the 3rd lowest starter's ERA of all time.  The two guys ahead of him are Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt.  Lester's ERA for his starts is 2.07 ( 2.22 overall).  Additionally, he has now pitched two World Series games, and he has won both, pitching 13 1/3 innings and allowing no runs.  He will be ready for game Five.

* Adam Wainwright, the veteran Cardinal ace, was battered by the Bosox early and often( although he was not helped by the shoddy defense of his teammates and himself).  Wainwright lasted only five innings.  Many pundits began postulating after the second inning, that St. Louis manager, Mike Matheny, should have pulled Wainwright after that inning with his pitch count at 50, so he could come back on short rest in Game Four.  Instead he threw 95 pitches in his five innings.  There is still some speculation Wainwright could pitch Game Four on short rest if the Cardinals lose Game Three.  I do not believe Matheny will try this, and the reason I think this is also a reason Wainwright may not be effective in this World Series. After Game One's five innings, Wainwright is up to a fraction shy of 270 innings pitched this year ( regular and post seasons).  After watching him in Game One I think there is a real chance he is gassed or damned close to it.

* It was encouraging to see the Sox offense put 8 on the board, including 5 early on.  Mike Napoli's bases clearing double and a Papi home run for two more were the big hits.  And Ortiz came one ribs bruising grab by Carlos Beltran from hitting two home runs( the Beltran robbery prevented what also would have Papi's second grand slam of this post season).  On the downside some of the slumping Red Sox , mainly SS Stephen Drew, are still not hitting.

* The Cardinals dropped double play turns ( Pete Kozma), pop ups to the mound ( Wainwright), showed no range on hits through the hole ( David Freese).  The postmortem by the national media wondered why such a strong defensive team, that was near the top of the National League in fielding percentage could have played so poorly.  Well here is a big part of the answer.  The Cardinals ARE NOT A GOOD DEFENSIVE TEAM!!  Fielding percentage is an antiquated way to judge defense.  It does not account for range, for example.  As matter of fact it can be detrimental to a player with good to great range penalizing for errors made on balls other players cannot reach.  Other than Kozma               ( although you could not tell in Game One) and Yadi Molina St. Louis has no good defensive players and no range anywhere except shortstop.  Try this defensive measurement instead of fielding %.  Defensive Efficiency.  This is a percentage of balls put in play that are turned into outs.  St. Louis was 12th in the NL and 18th in MLB in this category.   They are not a good defensive team, and this will bite them again ( and again?) in this World Series.

And now Game Two:

* Michael Wacha came as advertised ( if not a little better).  Going forward he is the St. Louis starter to worry about more than Wainwright.  However as impressive as Wacha was, he was only able to complete six innings after reaching 102 pitches.  In other words, the Red Sox were able to work him and drive his count, as they are wont to do.  And when Wacha left the mound for the last time in this game, he trailed 2-1 due to another David Ortiz two run home run, his 17th career postseason blast. If and when Game Six rolls around, Wacha will be tough but not unbeatable.

* John Lackey pitched a fabulous game and as in so many instances in 2013, he deserved to win. If Lackey gets matched up with Michael Wacha again, I would feel perfectly comfortable with that.  A World Series clinching win in Game Six would complete the rehabilitation of John Lackey in the eyes of Red Sox Nation.

* The St. Louis bullpen is not the Detroit or Tampa Bay pens.  On this night Carlos Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal did the job with Rosenthal striking out the side in the ninth.  This bullpen will be a challenge for the Sox, getting to the seventh inning or so with a lead may be crucial.  Koji Uehara got an inning of work, and I still think St. Louis will struggle just as much with the Boston pen as the Sox did in Game Two versus the Cards.

* By now all of the fans know the Red Sox likely gave away the game in the seventh inning with a number of poor defensive plays, all sort of intertwined.  Without beating it to death here are four things that should have or could have happened, any of which keep the Sox 2-1 lead or at worst a 2-2 tie.

1. Saltalamacchia, on a great pitch to throw on, fires to third to nail Kozma stealing  third on the front end of a double steal instead of not be able to find the ball in his glove and not throw at all.

2. When Matt Carpenter hits an one out bases loaded fly out to Jonny Gomes in relatively shallow left, Gomes throws a strike to the plate to nail Kozma and protecting the 2-1 lead.  Instead his throw is up the first base side leading to:

3. Salty reaching for the errant throw instead moving to be sure to catch the ball leading to:

4. Craig Breslow backing up Salty perfectly but taking the ball ( which does not get to him if Salty catches it or Gomes throws it better) and attempting to get the runner at third and promptly air mails in to the seats.  Breslow needed to either eat the ball or throw a strike to third for the third out.

So a frustrating play and result that could have easily been a 2-1 Sox win and a 2-0 games lead.

Now some thoughts about the games in St. Louis:

* Lack of the DH could really hurt the Red Sox.  David Ortiz is locked in and must be in the lineup at first base.  This will take Mike Napoli out of the lineup, removing our second biggest power threat and diminishing the defense at first.  But the Sox are 4-0 with Ortiz at first in World Series play in the past, and were 4-2 with Papi starting at first in 2013.  Also without the DH, Stephen Drew  ( and Salty, too) have to hit.  If Drew continues at his 4 for 42 pace and the pitcher is batting, too, that is two black holes in the lineup.  If Drew should go o-fer in Game Three,  and the Sox lose, Farrell may have to go to Bogaerts at short and Will Middlebrooks at third to try to get some offense.

* Fully expect to see Daniel Nava in left for Gomes, again in an attempt to boost the offense.

* There is every indication Games Three and Four could be high scoring affairs.  With St. Louis starting Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, even with no DH the Red Sox need to and should rake.  And Jake Peavy, the Red Sox Game Three starter must repeat his ALDS Game Four sterling performance.  If instead, Peavy gives another start like his ALCS effort the Cards offense will feast.  And as for the Red Sox Game Four starter, is it Clay Buchholz, as expected(??) or Felix Doubront?  Well take these numbers out for a test drive:

* In the 2013 season, St. Louis batters put up the following numbers against right handed pitchers:

Runs Scored 597 ( second in MLB to Boston's 603)

Batting Ave. .280 ( third in MLB to Detroit and Boston)

On Base %   .343 ( third in MLB to Boston and Detroit)

Now the Cardinals stats versus left handed pitching:

Runs Scored  186 ( 12th in MLB)

Batting Ave.  .238 ( 27th in MLB leading only Marlins, Cubs, and Mariners)

On Base %     .301 ( 26th in MLB leading only Jays, Mariners, and both Chicago teams)


Based on these numbers Felix Doubront has to be the Game Four starter.  Based on these numbers, and Buchholz' lackluster October and his seeming reticence to pitch it has to be Prince Felix.  If Doubront is not the starter than he needs to be ready to come right in behind Clay at the first sign of trouble.  I have a sneaky suspicion that Doubront starts.

* And after hopefully a strong Game Four by Felix, the ace lefty Jon Lester goes back to the hill, to really give the Cards a taste of left handed pitching that they so struggle against.  At this point, I feel the blueprint for Red Sox success is to do all they can to split ( at minimum) games Three and Four.  This would get them to Lester for Game Five with his strong post season record and left handedness big Sox plusses.  Then the Red Sox could return to Fenway with two chances to wrap up the World Championship at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.

* I still like my opening World Series prediction of Sox in six.

Go Sox


Thursday, October 24, 2013

World Series Game 2 Live Chat

Come chat live with the Maineiacs during game 2 of the World Series!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

World Series Game 1 Live Chat

It's time!  The Red Sox are in the Fall Classic for the first time in six years.  Come chat live with the Maineiacs during game 1 tonight in Boston.
 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 World Series Preview Red Sox- Cardinals

The Red Sox will try to take this improbable season all the way home and try to bring the World Series trophy to Boston for the third time in ten years.  Here are a some ramblings on the upcoming series and a prediction or two as well.

* Will the youthful Cardinals, especially all of their hard throwing young rookie pitchers wake up and realize they are in the World Series? And if so will that diminish their performances?  Even if the Cards hurlers continue to fire away, the Red Sox have many good fast ball hitters and may be a match for the Cards kids.Trevor Rosenthal may throw a blazing fastball as closer, but I like Boston's chances against him more than I like St. Louis' versus Koji Uehara.

* The St. Louis rotation starts off strong with veteran Adam Wainwright and rookie Michael Wacha.  But the next two in line, in some order, is Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. Wainwright is very, very good but he is no Justin Verlander and Wacha despite his sizzling postseason is at best even with Max Scherzer and probably a notch or two below the presumptive 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner.  Then the aforementioned Lynn and Kelly are not even in the same area code as Tigers' third and fourth men, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister.  In other words, the Cardinals have a strong front of the rotation, but have nowhere near the rotation that the Sox just beat in six games.

* The Red Sox have outpaced all of baseball this year in stolen bases.  Not only in number of bases, but in being successful around 93% of the time.  St. Louis just may have the antedote to slow down or stop this part of Boston's game in All Star catcher Yadi Molina, who throws out a high percentage of would be stealers with his strong arm.  But Jacoby Ellsbury for one, should have the speed to take a base or two even against Yadier.  But even if the Sox do not steal bags, their aggressiveness on the bases can still be a weapon.  A strong arm behind the dish still does not stop Red Sox runners from going first to third or scoring from second.  I feel the Sox on the base paths will still be a factor in the series.

* St. Louis is much less experienced at the World Series than you think.  Even though the Cards won it all two years ago in 2011, only seven players remain from that series. ( Wainwright was out all of 2011 with an injury).  And their roster for the post season has contained ten rookies ( that will go down to 9, with Allen Craig back for the WS).

* How will the Red Sox cope with no DH in Games Three through Five in St. Louis?  It has to be a disadvantage because the only defensive position DH David Ortiz can play is first base.  And even though first baseman Mike Napoli was a catcher until this year, his potential hip condition and the fact he has not caught in a year, means he can only play first as well. And since these two gentlemen are the 4-5 hitters in the lineup, you must go without one of them each game for three in a row. To me the best way to counteract this loss is for the top of the order to wreak havoc like they did versus the Rays in the ALDS.  Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia can have some runs on the board before they get to the 4-5 spots.

*Another interesting question is who will bat fifth in St. Louis?  This may depend entirely on who performs with distinction in the first two games.  The candidates are Jonny Gomes ( or Daniel Nava if he plays over Gomes, I do not think he will), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew ( very unlikely unless is goes 8 for 9 in Games One and Two), or Xander Bogaerts.  I think it is likely Gomes, but Bogaerts could push himself into contention with a hot World Series start.  And by the way in Game Five, Lester will pitch and likely David Ross will catch meaning the fifth hole certainly will go to Gomes or Bogaerts.

* In both the ALDS and ALCS, first year Sox skipper John Farrell was reputed to be at a disadvantage over the more experienced and playoff savvy managers Joe Maddon and Jim Leyland.  That did not necessarily turn out to be true, but it will not be a factor in the World Series.  John Farrell with three years of big league managing on his resume is one year ahead of Cards skipper Mike Matheny, who had never managed at any level until taking over the Cards in 2012.  This will be the first World Series as a manager for either.  Matheny is in his second postseason as manager as he led his team to the NLCS in 2012 as well. ( where they blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Giants)  Any advantage there may be for Matheny is more than offset by John Farrell's experience at Terry Francona's side in the 2007 World Series as Sox pitching coach.

* Prediction time.  I did not bathe myself in glory by picking Stephen Drew as ALCS MVP before the series began.  But in my defense I would like to point out so far I have predicted the Sox in 4 over Tampa Bay and Sox in six over Detroit.  Bingo. ( and let's be real, picking the post season can be a real crapshoot)  So I confess I may be blinded by the shiny new toy, but I will take Xander Bogaerts as
World Series MVP.  His approach versus the Tigers pitching in 11 plate appearances was outstanding and he came close to hitting a couple of home runs( which were both doubles).  I think he will feast on the fireballing Cardinals.

The Sox will split the first two at Fenway and take two of three when they get to St. Louis ( and the soft underbelly of the Cards rotation.)  Then the Red Sox come home to clinch the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918( thought you were done with that phrase, didn't you).

Sox in Six

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ALCS Game 6- Red Sox Win the American League Pennant!

The Boston Red Sox won the 12th American League pennant in team history, and the third in the last ten years, riding a Shane Victorino seventh inning grand slam, to a 5-2 victory.  Here some thoughts from the afterglow.

* I know I have said this before here, but Shane Victorino is the toughest son of a bitch to ever play for the Red Sox.  He has been injured nearly everywhere you can hurt practically all year and just keeps playing and at a championship level.  In the field, on the bases, and at the plate Vic has excelled.  And to think nearly everyone ( including myself) thought Ben Cherington  severely overpaid for the outfielder ( some felt Ben was just plain nuts).

* Before the Victorino slam, it was beginning to feel it was not Boston's night.  From the blast back in the third from Dustin Pedroia that missed the left field foul pole by about the width of the baseball turning the seemingly three run homer into a foul ball.  In the same inning as Victorino's blast, Jonny Gomes shot a rocket that missed going into the monster seats for a tie by the same width of the baseball.  But this group always seems to find a way.

* Clay Buchholz did not pitch the ace like game to single handedly push to the Sox to the World Series.  But he pitched a good enough game to get to the bullpen with a lead.  At this point in time, it looks like Buchholz can only be counted on for a five inning start in the World Series.  But if those five innings only allow only a run or less, is not that perfectly acceptable?

* I may be the only person besides John Farrell who thought it was okay to bring in Franklin Morales to face Prince Fielder with two on and none out.  It is always a crapshoot with Morales, he either blows hitters away or cannot throw a strike.  Tonight was cannot throw a strike, even to the recently inept Fielder.  After walking him I realize Farrell's preference was to keep the lefty in the game to make Victor Martinez hit righty instead of left handed where he is much more effective.  But after seeing how badly Morales looked versus Prince, you gotta go get someone else right then.  Brandon Workman, who got out of that inning without allowing anymore runs should have pitched to Martinez.

* Workman did get out of that inning with only the two runs let in by Morales,  credit goes to Brandon for inducing a huge ground ball, but in reality Pedroia was able to cash in that grounder for a double play only due to stupid Tiger base running times two.   Thank you to Martinez for running into Pedroia' tag and a big thank you to Prince Fielder for whatever to hell he was thinking in getting trapped between third and home.

* Xander Bogaerts.  Jesus, what can you say.  He has 11 post season plate appearances.  He is 3 for 6 with 5 walks.  All three hits are doubles, two of which just missed being home runs ( including the Game Six double which was still rising as it crashed into the monster in deep left center.)  The only question about Xander's World Series playing time is how high in the batting order should John Farrell place him in.

*  Poor Daniel Nava.  After putting up one of the best offensive seasons of any AL outfielder this year, he seems destined to spend most if not all of the World Series on the bench.  John Farrell seems determined to ride Jonny Gomes in the post season.  The Sox are 6-0 with Gomes in the postseason starting lineup.  Is that just a coincidence?  Maybe...maybe not.  But I bet Farrell keeps trying it.

* After a few quiet games early in the ALCS,  Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be heating up again, driving in Bogaerts with the first run in Game Six.  We could be ( likely are)  entering the last few games of Ellsbury's Boston tenure, and not only can Ellsbury help bring the second world title in his time here, but he can earn many more millions as a free agent this winter with a big World Series.

*If the Tigers had a shortstop as good defensively as Stephen Drew they might have won this ALCS.

* The ALCS MVP was Koji Uehara.  An excellent choice as Koji shut down the Tigers in the same manner as he had opponents all year.  Nearly every pitch a strike and with next to no drama.  The three days off before the World Series should be very beneficial in keeping Koji rested and effective.

* Sort of lost in the shuffle was another outstanding bullpen effort.  This one by Craig Breslow.  After Victorino turned the game and series around with his 7th inning slam into the Monster seats, Breslow came in and did EXACTLY what was needed: a shutdown 1-2-3 inning with no opportunity to breath any life back into the Tiger carcass.  The only worry Sox fans admitted to and discussed endlessly going into October was the bullpen before Uehara.  Their ERA (including Koji) in this series was 0.43.
Going into the World Series it is not a weakness it is a strength.

* Last winter Ben Cherington talked about building the"next great Red Sox team".  Ben by his own recent admission was talking about a team down the road a bit anchored by Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and their raft of young pitching on the way. But that group may end up being the next,next great Bosox team because the 2013 version is certainly great in their own Boston Strong way.

* Looking forward to the fourth all time Series meeting with St. Louis.  This year's team has at times been compared to the Impossible Dream 1967 Sox and at other times to the Idiots of 2004.  Ironically, both of teams played St; Louis in the World Series.  A loss in '67 and the curse busting sweep in '04.  What will the Band of Bearded warriors bring to the table??


Friday, October 18, 2013

ALCS- Red Sox and Tigers Split Games 4 & 5...Sox Lead 3 Games to 2

(The Motown portion of this year's ALCS is over, with the Sox and Tigers splitting Games 4 & 5.  The Red Sox end up taking 2 of 3 in Detroit, and head back to Boston leading the ALCS 3 to 2, needing one more win to clinch the 12th American League pennant in team history.

First some musings about Game 4 and its aftermath:

* Jake Peavy did not bring his A game to the mound and had uncharacteristic command problems leading to 3 walks in the second inning.  It was by far the worst performance by a Sox starter in this postseason.  During the regular season, Peavy had averaged about one walk per four innings, which is made this outing so unexpected.  As often happens in baseball a bushel of walks in one inning led to disaster in the form:

*  An even more unexpected event of Dustin Pedroia booting a routine inning ending double play ball. Peavy had allowed one run and had two more on base, when he coaxed the ground ball from Jose Iglesias which would have ended the Tiger second with one run.  The " error" ( Dustin got the force at second, but not at first, so it is not officially an error) allowed the second run to score.  Then Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera drove in 3 more.  One run becomes five and the Red Sox never recovered.

* Maybe with Peavy's rough outing, the Red Sox may not have won anyway.  But the bullpen followed Peavy with 5 shutout innings from Workman, Doubront, Dempster, and Morales.  In addition by games end the Red Sox outhit the Tigers 12 to 9.

It was the aftermath of Game Four which caught my attention however.  

* The national media ( and the Boston media, too)  spent the 24 hours or so following Game Four washing Jim Leyland's balls over his genius in shaking up his lineup.  The two moves lauded the most were moving Austin Jackson from leadoff to 8th in the batting order.  Then everyone else 8th to second moved up one spot, which led Miguel Cabrera to bat second. The sabermetric world went orgasmic, due to their more recent proclamations claiming your best hitter should always bat second.( instead of the old time baseball tradition of best hitter goes in the three hole).  Yes Leyland's "new" lineup won Game Four, but moving your leadoff hitter( who is putrid at that job anyway) down to 8 and then keeping the next seven hitters in the exact same sequence is NOT a major lineup change.  That would be like waking up some fine Saturday morning and deciding you would like to rearrange the books on your beautiful mahogany bookcase.  You take the book on the far left and move it over seven spaces and leave all the other books IN THE EXACT SAME ORDER.  For chrissakes that is not a major rearrangement and neither was Leyland's lineup.  If the Tiger skipper wanted to make a ballsy lineup change, he should have put Prince Fielder down to the 7th spot, or benched him entirely.

* The other media driven frenzy on Thursday that fried my scrotum was the contention the Red Sox were "lucky" that they had not all ready been swept out of the ALCS by Detroit.  " a compelling case could be made for Tigers sweep" wrote Dan Shaugnessey.  The Red Sox were "lucky" to be 2-2 and not all ready out wrote Jackie MacMullan and others.  The crux of their logic(?) was the Red Sox got a fluky grand slam to win Game Two and were lucky to be able to beat the chosen one, Justin Verlander , 1-0.

Shaugnessey's compelling case was basically take away Papi's blast and lose to Verlander ( like they should have, I guess) and the series would be over.  In reality, you have two teams which swapped 1- 0 wins and the Tigers have outscored the Sox 12-9 in the other two, how is that not a even series after 4 games?

This may not be a "compelling" case but it is a damned realistic one.  Try this: Game One ninth inning, Xander Bogaerts with a runner at second, two out, hits the ball square and drives a game winning home run( instead of hitting a monumental popup to end the game because he missed squaring the ball by a fraction of a fraction of an inch).  Games Two and Three end just the way they did.  Going into Game Four, the Sox, leading 3-0, bail Jake Peavy out of the second inning, with Pedroia and Drew turning a routine double play off the bat of Jose Iglesias.  Farrell pulls Peavy early due to his lack of command, and gets shutout innings the rest of the way from his pen.  The offense awakens with 12 hits and wins Game Four and sweeps the series.  Why is that any less realistic??

One last question why is it luckier to come from a 5-1 8th inning deficit behind a grand slam ( and if the Tigers were so dominant, the slam only tied the game, why did not the Tigers win later anyway?), then it is to have the other team hand you the opportunity to score four more on walks and a miscue?


Onto some comments on a much happier Game Five

* First it was much harder than it needed to be for Boston.  Four early runs and then several squanders to add more lead to nail biting victory.  But a victory it was in a crucial game for Boston.

* Ever since Mike Napoli's seventh inning game winning homer off Verlander in Game Three, he has been on a tear. Two more hits in Game Four and three more including a mammoth 460 foot (or so)home run to dead center off Anibal Sanchez in Game Five. Napoli has a history of being streaky and also a history of coming up big in October.  Both of these events seem to be occurring.  Let's hope they continue for another week and a half or so.

* Jon Lester may not have been exactly ace like, but he out pitched Sanchez and was good enough.  He did not make it out of the sixth, but that had as much to do with John Farrell's quick hook as any deficit in Lester's game.

* Farrell finally made a move to get Xander Bogaerts into the lineup.  After Bogaerts doubled to deep right ( just missing a home run) off Tiger closer Joaquin Benoit in Game Four, replacing the slumping (once again) Will Middlebrooks with Xander was a no brainer.  Bogaerts immediately paid dividends by chipping in with a double down the left field line to contribute to a three run second inning.  Later in the game Bogaerts started a sharp 5-4-3 double play an walked to lead off the ninth.  Do not expect to see Bogarts removed from the starting lineup until around 2030 ( allowing for a day of rest once in a while, some year in the future).  But do not plan on seeing Xander start at shortstop in this post season.  Despite not hitting at all, Stephen Drew's defense is too important right now at shortstop.

* The bullpen.  My God, the bullpen.  Before the post season began there was concern it may be " My God the bullpen" said in anguish.  Instead it has been in reverence.  And by now the world knows how nearly unhittable Koji Uehara is, and thank goodness the Red Sox have such weapon.  But it is not just Koji.  The late game bridge has been Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, and both have also been brilliant( well, we all ready knew that Breslow was brilliant).  The big three at the end of games have pitched 18 2/3 innings in the entire post season and have allowed two runs( one of those the fluky Jose Lobaton home run).  The entire bullpen has pitched 17 innings versus Detroit and have allowed one run.    In Game Two Brandon Workman and Felix Doubront combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings to keep Boston in the game to set up David Ortiz's grand slam.  And what may have been the first step in winning Game Five, Workman and Doubront along with Ryan Dempster and Franklin Morales saved the big three's arms by finishing game Four with five shut out innings ( as mentioned above.)

A quick thought or two about going home to end the series.

* Clay Buchholz needs to be the man in Game Six and bring the pennant home.  But if Clay staggers at all, Farrell needs to go to the bullpen early ( and often if need be) because of the bullpen performance outlined above.  The Red Sox need to throw the kitchen sink at Detroit in Game Six and avoid any chance of Justin Verlander spinning more deciding game magic.  But the Sox are not the Oakland As and if need be the Sox will go seven to win.

* One last note about the Sox offense which is hitting only .206 versus the Tigers.  They have shown some signs of life in Games Four and Five.  But this is another encouraging nugget. In five road postseason games this year the Sox have scored 15 runs...3 per game ( and not more than 4 in any one game.)  But in four home playoff games, the Red Sox have plated 25 runs ...6.25 per game....more than twice as much as road games.  In case you think the home games have somehow been easier the four opposing starting pitchers in those four home games were Matt Moore ( 17-4), David Price ( '12 Cy winner), Anibal Sanchez ( '13 AL ERA champ), and Max Scherzer ( presumptive '13 Cy winner).  And in only one of those games has Boston scored less than six runs.

* Not only should the offense produce more at Fenway, but the crowd has the opportunity to rally the troops and intimidate the Tigers. The  Fenway Faithful needs to be the tenth man.

* One win from the Pennant.  GO Sox!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ALCS Game Three- Red Sox 1 Tigers 0

For the second time in three games of this ALCS the game ended 1-0.  However, this time the good guys came out on top.  The Angels Alumni Association paced the Red Sox. The only run was provided by a Mike Napoli long home run to left.  This was all the run support John Lackey and his bullpen would need, with Lackey pitching 6 2/3 shutout innings and out dueling Justin Verlander.

A few observations:

* This was the post season John Lackey we remember from the Angels.  The way Lackey has pitched and competed  all year, it just seemed a given he would spin at least one game like this in the post season.  Hopefully his next start will be in the World Series.

* Every fan and pundit spent all of September and early October worrying about the bridge to Uehara.  Who can pitch the seventh and eighth??  Granted there is a ways to go to the promised land, but so far the entire bullpen has been outstanding, and that bridge has been Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa.  Any doubts about Taz doing the job melted away when he K'd Miguel Cabrera in the 8th with runners on first and third.  And then Koji began his 4 out save by striking out Prince Fielder leaving those runners on first and third.  And again in Game Two, Brandon Workman and Felix Doubront combined for 2 1/3 scoreless to help the Sox win.

* Mike Napoli, no doubt, strikes out a lot and has in this series ( who hasn't).  But he has the tremendous power, is fearless, and has a strong postseason resume.

* The Tigers have a lot of big names: Miggy, Prince, Verlander, Max Scherzer, and to some degree Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez.  But this is not a deep team at all, in the bullpen, on the bench, and in the lower part of their order ( they do not have a leadoff hitter, either).  If you needed any proof of their weak bench,  Jim Leyland used JOSE IGLESIAS as a PINCH HITTER!!  In the 8th inning of a game they trailed by one.  Maybe the Tigers rotation will pull this series out, but the Red Sox are the better team, and should win this in less than seven.

* Is Victor Martinez hurt?  On his leadoff hit in the ninth he appeared to injure his knee or upper leg. Since is only the DH, he can likely go, but if he is out the Tigers lineup gets much thinner.

* As I mentioned after Game Two, I love the Red Sox rotation going forward.  If Jake Peavy can pitch anywhere near the level of Game Four of the ALDS, the Red Sox will be very hard to beat.  Doug Fister, the Tigers Game Four starter, is a tough customer, but is not a strikeout artist, so the Sox can finally hope to put a bunch of balls in play.  And hopefully get their first hit before the fifth inning for the first time in the series.  And if the Sox do pull off Game Four, I love the idea of Jon Lester ready to clinch in the fifth game, when the Sox  get another shot at Sanchez.

* Was flipping John Lackey and Clay Buchholz in their Game Two/Three roles from the ALDS a brilliant calculation by John Farrell and the Red Sox brain trust or just dumb luck?  Now looking back in hindsight could the Sox have won both Games Two and Three if the order had not been reversed?
If both Lackey and Buchholz pitched exactly the way each did in their start, Lackey would have won Game Two, but would Clay's effort have bested Verlander?? I think not, and this move is one large reason the Red Sox lead 2-1 in games, and not trail by 2-1 .

* I will still hold on to my Sox in six prediction, but I would sure love to see Jake and Jon end it in Motown.

Go Sox!





Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 ALCS- Red Sox and Tigers Split Two at Fenway

That may be the most understated post title of all time.  But yes the Red Sox came back from a 5-0 deficit to pull out Game Two 6-5 after dropping the opener to the Tigers 1-0.  A few thoughts on some of what's transpired and a look ahead.

* Look, not getting your only hit until the ninth inning in Game One and being no-hit again into the sixth the next night does not look good on the resume.  But I think you have to tip your cap to the Tigers' starters, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.  After all, they are the AL ERA king and soon to be Cy Young Award winner for 2013, respectively.  It is not as if the 4th and 5th starters for the Astros were blanking your team on consecutive nights.  And after the mountain of K's, the Sox go to Detroit even in the series.

* As good as the Detroit starters are, their bullpen is just as suspect.  First, in Game One the Sox got into that pen by the seventh, and it has to be considered a missed opportunity not to have beaten that bullpen when two runs would have done it.  In Game Two, the Red Sox jumped on the Tigers relievers as soon as they came into the game, and their so called ace, Joaquin Benoit served up the grand slam to David Ortiz to tie the game, and perhaps turn the entire series around.  How can any of the relief corps for the Tigers have any confidence going forward.

* Lost somewhat in the dominant Detroit starting pitching in both games, was the equally dominant Game One start of Jon Lester.  Lester pitched well and pitched deep into the game.  About the only pitch he got up, was hit for the RBI single by Jhonny Peralta.  For the first five innings of Game Two, Clay Buchholz looked like he was going to match Lester.  A rocky sixth where Clay gave up 4 runs including bombs to Miguel Cabrera and the mediocre Alex Avila put the Sox season at risk.  But there was hopeful signs in Clay's first five innings that he can dial it up again for Game Six and go deeper with better results.  If not, John Farrell, who seemed slow on the switch to pull Buchholz will need to be more prompt.

* In Game One the Red Sox seemed to be on the verge on stealing the opener in the ninth.  With Daniel Nava's one out single and the insertion of pinch runner Quentin Berry, the table seemed set.  But inexplicably, Berry stayed at first during Stephen Drew's AB, and denied a chance to single Berry in, Drew flied out to deep right.  Xander Bogaerts was up with two outs and Berry did steal second, giving the kid a chance to tie or win the game.  Against closer Benoit, Bogaerts worked the count full and then came within a fraction of an inch of the winning two run home run.  That may sound melodramatic, but when Xander popped out to Jose Iglesias, but the ball took forever to come down because it went about 400 feet in the air.  Any big league hitter will tell you when you "square up" the baseball it will go a long ways.  But when you hit it a fraction of an inch off square, towering popups result.  THAT close, to the first great chapter in the Xander Bogaerts Story.

* Of course, we did get the NEXT chapter of the David Ortiz Story, one of the longer running Boston success stories of all time.  Was there any doubt Big Papi was going to do damage with the bases loaded versus Benoit.  As a typical nervous Red Sox fan who "enjoys" a grinding stomach for the entire postseason, I watched Ortiz come to plate and an odd thing happened:  I was completely and totally calm.  Now maybe if the count had gone to 1-2 or so, the nerves would have returned, but by smashing the first pitch into the Sox bullpen all was good.

* A typical Koji Uehara quick 1-2-3 top of the ninth, gave the Sox a chance to end it and they quickly did that behind singles by Gomes and Salty with an Iglesias throwing error and wild pitch in between the singles.  This game turned on two things this Red Sox team has had bushels of : grand slams and walk off wins.

* Two unsung heroes in Game Two were Brandon Workman and Felix Doubront.  Combined they pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings with only a harmless walk allowed by each.  They kept the Tigers at 5 runs from Buchholz to Koji.  The Red Sox do not win this game, if either or both of these guys melt down.

* Now the series swings to Motown and we may learn right off the bat how much if any the momentum has swung.  Justin Verlander awaits the Red Sox and he has been red hot allowing no runs in his last four starts ( two each in the regular and post seasons).  However, this nugget was thrown out by Lou Merloni this weekend.  In those four games that Verlander has allowed no runs the Tigers are 1-3! The only win being the Game Five decision over Oakland.  So even if Verlander is on again( and after four scoreless efforts isn't he due for some regression??) the Tigers can be beaten.

 * I like all three of the scheduled starters  in Detroit for the Red Sox.  John Lackey in Game Three is a long time big game post season veteran.  Jake Peavy pitched a tremendous game to help clinch the Rays series.  Jon Lester will attempt to recreate his Game One excellence.  I predict by series end, the Sox starters have a lower ERA than the Tigers.

* I will stick with two of my predictions from before the start of the series.  I will take Stephen Drew as ALCS MVP ( although, Big Papi has a big lead on him currently, and will be happy to be wrong if one of Drew's teammates win.)  Secondly, I took the Sox in six, and I still see that being the final outcome.  The Red Sox take two of three in Detroit ( taking the series within the series, the Sox won more series than any other MLB team in 2013.)  Then the Sox will return to Fenway Park to win the pennant if front of the home crowd.  Even if the Sox cannot crack Verlander in Game Three,  I still think they get two of three on the road.

* Can't wait for Game Three on Tuesday at 4 pm from Comerica Park.  Go Red Sox!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

ALCS Game 2 Live Chat

Come join in as the Maineiacs chat live during game 2 of the ALCS
 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Red Sox Wrap Up Rays in Four

In Game Four the Red Sox used another method to win a game, in close low scoring affair, the Rays were eliminated by a score of 3-1and by 3-1 in games.  The Red Sox move on to their fifth ALCS in the last eleven years to meet either Oakland or Detroit, who will meet Thursday night in a Game Five in Oakland.  Here are some thoughts about Game Four and the upcoming ALCS.

* Jake Peavy showed the world why the Red Sox wanted his arm at the trade deadline ( and also his will and determination).  Peavy pitched a strong 5 2/3 allowing only one run on only 74 pitches.  He certainly had enough to go another inning or two, but his relief in Craig Breslow was equally outstanding.  Breslow mowed down a succession of right handed hitters with stuff down and away. With Peavy as a fourth starter, the Red Sox rotation is as deep if not more than any other remaining team.

* Jeremy Hellickson, the Tampa Bay starter, on the other hand was gone before retiring a hitter in the second.  Now this had as much to do with Joe Maddon's lightning fast hook than Hellickson's troubles, but it illustrated an important point for Boston.  Twice in the ALDS, the opposing starter was out before 5 innings were complete, and the Sox won both games.  For the regular season the Red Sox had a better winning % than any other MLB team when the opposing pitcher leaves the game before finishing 5 innings.  The Sox were 38-3, an illustration of not only their patient, potent offense, but how well their own pitchers hold an early lead.  If they can do this versus some of the tough pitching ahead, it bodes well for success.

* Xander Bogaerts showed another, more subtle reason why he is going to be a superstar.  He is one cool, cool customer.  He comes into the game in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter with one out and his team down 1-0, and draws a walk off tough reliever, Jake McGeee, after being down 1-2.  He of course advances to third on an Ellsbury hit, and scores the tying run on a wild pitch.  Then he leads off the ninth with another base on balls, and scores the insurance run.  It is still questionable, if Bogaerts will see more time or start a game.  Neither Oakland or Detroit features any lefty starters.  However, it is not out of  the question, if Middlebrooks struggles at all, that Xander could get a start at third.

* Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino have both been phenomenal at the top of the order.  Both getting on base a ton, stealing bases, and running the bases aggressively.  If both guys can continue on this pace throughout October, the Sox will win it all.  And Jacoby will make himself tens of millions of extra free agent cash this winter.

* Detroit or Oakland??  I have changed my mind about every hour since the regular season wound down on who I would rather see Boston play in the ALCS.  As I write this the deciding Game Five in Oakland is about 1 1/2 hours away, and I am still not sure.  I lean mostly to wanting Oakland because of Detroit's big name front four rotation and of course Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  But the Tigers seemingly have been sleepwalking ever since the Red Sox waxed then 20-4 in early September at Fenway.  And if Cabrera's abdominal injury is as bad as it seems, he is somewhat neutralized.

Of course, the fact these two teams have to play on Thursday is a big advantage for Boston, especially if both clubs go through some pitching tonight.  At worst, if it is Detroit, Verlander cannot go until Game Three.  Bartolo Colon would be ready for Game One for the A's, but despite past Sox troubles with the fat right hander, I think he is beatable.  Just the fact the winner has to fly cross country again, should give the Sox some extra help in Games One and Two.

Maybe, the reason I and many other Sox fans cannot seem to decide who is preferred is it just does not matter.  In fact, I think I will make my prediction right now for the ALCS:

Red Sox in 6 games, winning the pennant at Fenway Park over whoever.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Playoff Chat

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

ALDS Game Three - Rays 5 Red Sox 4

The Red Sox let the nearly expired Rays off that mat in the fifth inning and again with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lose 5-4, and extend the series to Game Four tomorrow tonight at 8:30.

* One of my Maineiac cohorts tweeted after the Longoria game tying 3 run home run in the fifth that it was too early to pitch around Longoria.  Before Longoria came to the plate, while his game tying three run homer was landing, and after I felt and I still do that not only should Buchholz pitched around him, I think they should have intentionally walked him.  I do know the baseball " rules" say do not put the lead run at the plate, which a walk to Longoria does.  But Wil Myers who has looked completely lost at least since the Cleveland wild card game was next.  So Longoria is the only guy in the lineup you could reasonably expect to hit  a three run jack( I know some one else could but Longoria is the guy you do not let beat you) and I am more than willing to take my chance right now with Myers.

* Beyond the fifth the Red Sox unlike the first two games never got a clutch hit to take advantage of a break or two ( like Quentin Berry being called safe on what looked like an unsuccessful steal attempt).

* Beyond the obvious sudden death loss, it was discouraging to see Uehara give up the game ending homer, it would have been nice to see him roll as deeply as possible into the postseason unscored upon. Especially disheartening to see the Rays back up catcher take him out after he had dispatched of the first two in his usual fashion ( including Longoria).

* Really need the veteran Jake Peavy to step up in his first playoff appearance in a number of years.

* Do not want too see this series come back to Fenway, Good Luck in Game Four, Red Sox.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

ALDS Game Two--The Price is Not Right- Red Sox 7 Rays 4

Behind an offense that continues to be relentless, the Red Sox scored in 4 of the first 5 innings against Rays ace David Price.  Despite post game whining by Price and to some degree Rays skipper, Joe Maddon, about bloops, bleeders, and "305 foot fly balls", the Sox offense was bookended by first and eighth inning solo home runs by David Ortiz, both off Price.  The Red Sox now lead the best of five series 2-0 going to Tampa Bay.  Some thoughts on tonight's game:

* The Red Sox in Game One had every batter get a hit and score a run ( which had been done only two times before in MLB post season history, the last time by the 1936 Yankees in Joe DiMaggio's rookie year.)  Also every batter except Pedroia and Ortiz had Game One RBI.  So in Game Two, of course, the Red Sox scored two first inning runs and they were driven in by Pedroia and Ortiz.  In Game Two, every batter except Napoli had at least one hit.  The offense, in addition to Papi's two blasts, was paced by Jacoby Ellsbury who had two singles, a double( one of the bloops Price whined about...it hit on the infield dirt) and he scored three runs.

* The refrain during the year was the Red Sox cannot beat good pitching.  I am not sure I bought that anyway ( I need to check the stats sometime), but they have begun this series by raking 17-4 Matt Moore and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Price.  Price, by the way, in what was overlooked in his build up in this series, still has never won a post season game.  Of course, if the Sox move beyond this series, lots of other great pitchers are lurking ahead.  Especially if they get the Tigers and then the Dodgers.

* John Lackey with the extended rest did not come to the mound with the performance I expected.  But he battled into the sixth, and may be debatable if he out pitched David Price as I predicted, but Lackey sure as hell has the W behind his name and Price the L behind his.

* The first foray into the Red Sox bullpen in 2013's post season went well ( thanks to a pair of sweet double plays turned by Pedey and Stephen Drew.  Breslow for 1 2/3, Tazawa got through the 8th and of course, Koji Uehara did the ninth with 11 pitches, all strikes.

* In the post game, Joe Maddon said he thought Wil Myers was lost at the plate ( in so many words), and seemed to imply the Red Sox crowd taunting Myers had a big part in it.  I would love to credit the Fenway crowd, but Wil Myers looked terrible at the plate in Cleveland for the Wild Card game, striking out weakly three times.  Whatever the reason, let's hope it continues.  Subtracting even one batter from this all ready mediocre offense can only help the Sox end this series.

* Now the Rays need to win three in a row.  In recent years, the Rays have gone down hard, and the Red Sox need to go into Game Three with the same focus as the first two.  But here is a tidbit about the three in a row the Rays need.  In a bad 12 day stretch from May 3-14, the Red Sox had three losing streaks of three. ( Of course, the Red Sox had NO losing streaks of four or more all year). Setting aside the 11 games played in that 12 day stretch, in the other 151 games played by Boston they had only TWO other three games losing streaks.  And neither at the hands of one team.  The Rays are not dead but they are on life support.

* Adding to the Rays dilemma, they are going home but awaiting them is maybe the Red Sox best pitcher, Clay Buchholz.  He of the 12-1 W-L record to go along with a 1.74 ERA.  If Clay is on his A game, the Rays have no chance.  With the way the Sox are hitting, base running, and playing defense, only a 80% effort from Buchholz would likely suffice.

Good luck to the Red Sox in their efforts to end this series in Game Three!


Friday, October 4, 2013

ALDS Game One- Red Sox Crush Rays 12-2

The Red Sox took care of business in Game One of the ALDS versus Tampa Bay, winning 12-2.  Jonny Gomes tied the game 2-2 with a two run double in the fourth and the Sox offense and lack of Rays defense took over from there.  A few notes and observations:

* Jon Lester pitched like an ace should in the opening game.  He gave the Red Sox the length they hope to get throughout the postseason from their starters going 7 2/3 strong innings.  He struck out the side in the first and got Evan Longoria on strikes to start the second.  His only blemishes were solo home runs by Sean Rodriquez and Ben Zobrist.  The most outstanding and encouraging part of his start, however, was the fact he pitched two consecutive shutdown innings.  After the Red Sox scored 5 in the fourth, Lester retired the Rays in order on 11 pitches in the fifth. When the Sox batted around for a second straight inning, Lester came out in the top of the sixth and retired the Rays on 8 pitches.

* Even though the Red Sox were shutout and no-hit by Rays starter, Matt Moore for the first three innings, the Sox made Moore throw 53 pitches.  This was a definite factor in getting to Moore in the next two frames.

* Whenever the Rays misplayed a ball in the field , the Sox took advantage by being aggressive on the base paths and at the plate.  When Wil Myers completely missed an Ortiz deep fly ball turning it into a ground rule double, Jonny Gomes hit the aforementioned game  tying double.  Gomes also illustrated the base running daring-do by repeating his Opening Day feat of scoring from second base on an infield single.

* The offensive balance displayed by Boston could not have been any more pronounced.  All nine batters had at least one hit and all nine scored at least one run. Seven players drove in at least a run, ironically the only two without an RBI were the three and four hitters, Pedroia and Ortiz.  The Red Sox lead all of MLB in run differential with a plus 197. And a game like this shows how this was accomplished: both strong pitching and relentless at bats.

* Even with David Price taking the hill for the Rays on Saturday, the pressure is all on the Rays.  They do not want to go home trailing 0-2 with both of their ace lefties used for now.  Certainly Game Two is a chance for the Red Sox to put the hammer down and go up 2-0.  The Red Sox need to drive up Price's pitch count as they did Moore's.  Price is pitching on his normal 4 days rest, but coming off a somewhat stressful complete game over Texas, Price may not go to the hill with a full tank.  Do not be surprised if John Lackey, with extra rest, outpitches Price.

* Despite the if it ain't broke don't fix it approach to lineups, despite today's dozen put up by Boston, expect at least one line up change Saturday.  David Ross, in what granted is a small sample size, is 2 for 5 lifetime versus Price and both hits are home runs.  Ross should be at catcher, and I think there may be a 10-20% chance Xander Bogaerts is at shortstop to get one more righty bat in there.

Good luck to the Red Sox in Game Two!