Arrogance Needs to Be Earned


Philly fans are the reason their professional sports teams have not won a championship in 20+years

The one bad thing that comes with the Phillies winning the World Series is the entire country gets to see the pompous and arrogant Philadelphia fans. Around the country people complain Boston fans are obnoxious but they are relatively tame compared to Philly fans.

Yes Boston fans will hurl insults and expletives at Yankee fans. They will taunt and tease A-Rod, Eric Gagne, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the rest of Major League Baseball but it is done out of jocularity. Whether it is taunting J.D. Drew for not signing with the Phillies out of high school or hurling batteries and beer bottles at officials during an Eagles game, Philadelphia fans are just down right nasty.

Boston fans are the most knowledgeable sports fans in the country. We are passionate fans that go to the ballpark, stadium or arena and root for our teams not just against the opposing teams. Yes we want to see the Yankees, Rays, Colts, Lakers and Canadiens go down in a ball of flames but it does not stop Boston fans from rooting for their team. In Philly, it seems as if the fans are rooting more against their opponents than for their own teams.

It is general knowledge that if you walk into Fenway Park wearing Yankees garb you will get obscenities hurled your way and maybe even beer poured on you, but there is one thing Red Sox fans do not do. We do not go after the young children unlike some Eagles fans who thought it would be funny to pour beer over a five year old Patriots fan at Super Bowl XXXIX. Pretty classless if you ask me.

Phillies pitcher Brett Myers exemplifies Philadelphia in the perfect way. Everyone in Philly thinks he is funny by the practical joke he played on teammate Kyle Kendrick at the beginning of the season but Boston fans know him for what he really is: a coward. During the World Series, Myers made the remark if the Red Sox had made it to the World Series he would not pitch in Fenway Park.

His statement is from an incident that occurred two years ago after he was arrested by Boston police for domestic abuse but still started for the Phillies the next day. (I have a few things to say regarding that later.) There were at least two eye-witness accounts that said the Phillies pitcher “slapped [his wife] across the face” and “dragged her down by the street by the hair.” The next day, he was welcomed by the Fenway Faithful to a chorus of boos and chants of “wife-beater” just like the infamous Jason Kidd.

Two years later Myers retorts this by saying “he was trying to protect her.” Sorry Brett but punching your wife is not the definition of “protecting.” When two people can confirm you hit her and then dragged her by her hair, it kind of puts a hole on your side of the story. And on that note, he told USA Today he was “pelted by plastic beer bottles in the bullpen” while warming up? Fenway Park does not sell bottled beer. It is all draft and at an expensive $7.50 per cup. Another strike against the compulsive liar.

How can fans root for a team that does not punish a player for domestic abuse? The fact the Phillies organization and the fans turned a blind eye to it and allowed Myers to start the next day was disgusting. By allowing him to start was the organization’s way of saying winning means more to us than the health of a human being.

Do not think for one second, Philly fans, Sox fans would react the same way if it was one of their players because we would not. Remember former Red Sox second baseman/left fielder Wilfredo Cordero. He was arrested for domestic abuse and never heard the end of the wife beater chants from Red Sox Nation. The organization cast him out to sea the following year. Bob and Myra Kraft and the Patriots are the same way. They created the R.O.S.E. Fund (Re-gaining One’s Self-Esteem) to help combat domestic abuse.

Maybe the reason Philadelphia has not won a single a championship, until this year, in the last 26 years is because “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” The values of the owners shape the fans. If the owners are respectable and have a good moral high ground then, more likely than not, the team and their fans are going to be that way. The owners would never have it any other way. They toss any fans to the curb who are casting them and their organization in a negative light.

Behind a championship team there are great owners and it is also the underlying factor why Boston had three teams combine to win six World Championships in the last nine years. The Krafts, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino as well as Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca have created a positive environment conducive towards winning from the front office to the fans who, loyally, attend each game. On the contrary, the Phillies might be one of the only championship teams to not have champion quality owners.

Batting Stances

2008 Post Season Batting Stances

Red Sox VP Resigns

John Blake announced today that he is resigning from his three-year post as Red Sox Vice President of Media Relations to take a similar position with the Texas Rangers.

Blake is returning to Texas where he worked for 20 years (1984-2004). In his second stint with the Rangers, he will be the Executive Vice President of Media Relations and will oversee all of the ballclub’s communication efforts.

To many fans, this may not seem like much but athletic communications is a tough and daunting career field. Media Relations is responsible for putting together the media guides and the game-day press guides as well as sending out press releases pertaining to the Red Sox.

I think I can speak for Red Sox Nation here and when I say that we appreciate what Blake has brought to the Red Sox organization during his time in Boston. He really seemed to reach out and provide the public and the media with in-depth information when it came across his desk. We wish him well in Texas and thank him for all his hard work.

Before Texas and Boston, Blake made a stop in the Baltimore-Washington area where he served as the SID at Georgetown for two years before taking a job as a Public Relations Assistant with the Orioles.

What’s Cooking on the Hot Stove for 2009?

Positions in Much Need of Attention


When Akinori Iwamura stepped on second base to record the final out of the ALCS, eliminating the Red Sox from the playoffs, the Rays also ended Jason Varitek’s career in Boston. In previous years, the Sox turned a blind eye to the limited offensive production the longtime Sox catcher provided at the bottom of the order because of his excellent game calling ability. Since signing a four year $40 million contract following the 2004 season, Varitek hit .256 (433-1693) with 64 homeruns, 236 RBIs and 448 strike outs. His best year was back in 2005 where he was 132-for-470 (.281) with 22 homeruns and 70 strike outs but since then he has gone down hill quickly. Varitek finished last season with a .220 batting average, .313 on-base percentage, .359 slugging percentage and a .672 OPS, all well below his career average.

Just like the quarterback position in football, trying to find a catcher who is a good game caller and adds some spark at the plate is nearly impossible. They are hard to come by, which is why there are only three elite catchers in Major League Baseball today, Russell Martin in Los Angeles, Joe Mauer in Minnesota and Brian McCann in Atlanta. And these players are all home-grown talent. The Red Sox have a great farm system but do not have any catchers who are ready or close to being ready to fill in the big shoes left by Varitek.

Heading into the 2008 season, the top catching prospect is Matt Wieters in the Baltimore Orioles organization. There is no way the Orioles will part ways with their number one prospect so the Sox are going to have to look else were. One solution is making a deal with the Texas Rangers’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In the past the Red Sox had already expressed interest in the first year catcher and with Taylor Teagarden waiting in the wings, it makes Saltalamacchia expendable. After being acquired from the Braves for Mark Teixeira at the 2007 trading deadline, the Rangers used the rookie nearly as many times at first base as they did behind the plate (38 times at first, 47 at catcher). To make a deal for Saltalamacchia the Sox would have to part ways with either Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden, probably leaning more towards Bowden with the way Buchholz pitched this year.

In a perfect world the Sox would sign Varitek to a one year contract to mentor the 23-year-old catcher. But with Scott Boras as his agent I do not see that happening any time soon. The Red Sox are in a similar predicament the Patriots faced in the first week of the season. Go with a stop gap veteran or go with the inexperienced.

Center field

If Jacoby Ellsbury really is the center fielder of the future, then this is the off-season to trade away Coco Crisp. His trade value will not get any higher so if the Sox are really looking into trading Crisp, now is the time to do it. Many expected Crisp to be traded before the end of the season but when the rookie struggled in the post-season was right there to step in and produce. In the post-season, Crisp was the Sox’s best hitter with a .417 batting average,a .517 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage and a 1.017 ops in seven games played. On the season the veteran outfielder, had his best season in a Sox uniform, with a line of .283/.344/.407/.751 at least ten points higher than his previous high in Boston (.268/.330/.382/.712 in 2007).

In his first full season in the big leagues, Ellsbury has not impressed the fans like he did in the 2007 post-season. Although he led the league in stolen bases with 50, the rookie hit .280 with nine homeruns, 47 RBIs as well as had an OBP of .336 and an OPS of .730. Not mention his 0-for-20 streak in the ALCS where he was replaced by Crisp in Game Five.


Biggest question here, is Jed Lowrie ready to be the starting shortstop for a full year? In half of season with the big club, Lowrie was just 67-for-260 (.258) with two homeruns, 46 RBIs, 35 walks and 60 strike outs. The first full year in the majors is always tough on young players as we saw with Ellsbury this past year so we do not know how Lowrie will respond with his first full season on a major league roster. After going through four shortstops in the last four years, the Red Sox need to take a different approach at the position. The Red Sox will most likely keep Julio Lugo on the roster and use him as an emergency plan should Lowrie look like he can not keep up with the physical demands of playing a full season in the majors, as what happened with Ellsbury.

#4 Hitter

Kevin Youkilis did an outstanding job as a clean-up hitter for the last two months of the regular season and playoffs but the Sox first baseman is not your typical #4 hitter. The Red Sox should make a concerted effort to sign Mark Teixeira to be their 2009 clean-up hitter. With Scott Boras as Teixeira’s agent, it will be difficult to sign the All-Star free agent but Theo Epstein has a good history with Boras and found ways of making the Super-Agent look foolish (i.e. Daisuke Matsuzaka).

If the Sox acquire Teixeira then the team has so many options. They can move Youkilis back across the diamond, because you do not know what Mike Lowell is going to be like following off-season hip surgery. Or if Lowell is healthy, they might entertain the option of using Youkilis’s low salary as trade bait for pitching. If the Sox do not acquire Teixeira, then all things are status-quo and they will go into the 2009 season with a .289/.385/.472/.857 hitter in Youkilis in the fourth slot in the order.

From Worst to First


From worst to first, the Tampa Bay Rays go to their first World Series after 10 losing seasons

(October 20, 2008) – With their first ALCS series loss since 2003, the Red Sox sent dozens of college seniors flocking to the library to get a head start on their 30-page Senior Seminar paper that is due at the end of the semester. Why? Because the Sox taught them that procrastination can be costly and for the first time in four years the Sox were unable to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

“We battled a lot of adversity the whole year,” B.J Upton told Craig Sager after the game. “But we stuck together as a team.”

Congratulations to the new American League Champion, Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays as well as ALCS MVP Matt Garza. Garza pitched an incredible 13 innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits while walking four and striking out 14 Sox batters in the Championship series. Minnesota and New York are kicking themselves for trading away the pitcher the best pitcher in the series, Garza, and the pitcher gave the Rays home field advantage in the All-Star Game, Scott Kazmir.

You could almost feel it. 2008 was the year of turn-a-rounds and there was this aura in the air that the Rays were going to pull out the victory. And, although, they have been a pain in Boston’s rear-end all year you have to tip your cap to them. They played like a team all year and have a similar story line to another 2008 championship team.

In April 2007, the Celtics the only thing they and their fans were thinking about were ping-pong balls. After a 24-58 record that season and the fifth pick in the NBA Draft, the Celtics had no shot at acquiring Greg Oden or Kevin Durant and it looked like another sub-.500 year and another wasted year for Paul Pierce. But thanks to a draft day move by Danny Ainge, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and then later that summer they brought the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett, into town. The trio of Pierce, Garnett and Allen turned around the second worst team the previous year and turned them into the best team in the league with a 66-16 record and bring Championship number 17 back to Boston.

The Red Sox were in the driver’s seat heading into Game Seven and they had their best pitcher of the year on the hill for the biggest game of the series in Jon Lester. The Sox Southpaw was trying redeem himself from a horrible performance in Game Three, where he allowed five runs – four earned – on eight hits in 5.2 innings of work.

Before Lester stepped on the mound in Game Seven, he already had a 1-0 lead thanks to “The Little Pony” Dustin Pedroia. After getting Coco Crisp to hit a week chopper back to the mound, Garza gave up line drive homerun that just barely made it over the left field wall to the Sox second baseman. But that was the only run the Red Sox would get against the Rays right hander. Garza settled down and retired the next six Boston batters before hitting Pedroia on the right elbow in the top of the third.

For the first three innings Lester was unhittable, retiring the first nine batters of the inning before relinquishing his first hit to Akinori Iwamura to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. The Rays took advantage of their first base runner against Lester. After Upton struck out to for the first out of inning, Carlos Pena hit a weak grounder to Pedroia. As slow as the ball was rolling everyone at The Trop thought he was going to go to first with the out but he turned and got the lead runner, Iwamura at second. Nice heads up play by the Sox gritty little second baseman. In those instances you could really tell Pedroia reverted back to his Little League roots by already determining where he was going to go with the ball should the ball be hit to him. A lesson to all the second and third graders out there playing after-school ragball: think about where you are going with the ball if it is hit to you.

Lester was close to getting out of the inning unscathed but Evan Longoria would come through once again with two outs. The rookie third baseman laced a ball doubled down the first baseline and scored the hustling Pena from first base to tie up the score in the bottom of the fourth.

The next inning Tampa Bay would get to Lester again as designated hitter Willy Aybar led off the top of the fifth with scorching line drive double that just barely missed being a homerun. Catcher Dioner Navarro hit a slower roller to Alex Cora at shortstop who bobbled the ball and had no play at either second or first. With no outs, the pride of Woonsocket, RI, Rocco Baldelli, gave the Rays their first lead of the game with a base hit to left scoring Aybar from second. It was the second time this season that the former Sox fan broke the hearts of current Red Sox fans.

Since giving up the homerun to Pedroia in the first, Garza settled down and at one point retired eight consecutive Sox hitters between the top of the third and sixth innings. Throughout the Championship Series, Garza was the Rays top pitcher and was nothing less than spectacular in Game Seven. He went seven strong innings and took the mound for the eighth before he was taken out after Cora reached on bouncing ball to shortstop that ate up Jason Bartlett. In seven innings, Garza allowed just one run on two hits while walking three and striking out nine before turning the game over to Dan Wheeler in the bullpen.

Once Garza left the game it took for Tampa Bay four pitchers to get three outs in the top of the eighth inning. Wheeler came on and gave up a base hit to right field off the bat of Crisp and then retired Pedroia on a fly ball to left field before handing the ball over to the left hander J.P. Howell to face Sox slugger David Ortiz. Known for his notorious clutch play, Sox fans were praying Big Papi would come through once again but Howell got the clutchest player in MLB history to ground into a fielder’s choice, second to shortstop. Maddon went out with the hook once again and elected to bring in the submariner Chad Bradford to face the right handed Youkilis and would walk the Sox third baseman to load the bases. In a tough situation, Maddon elected to go to the rookie left hander, David Price, to get the final four outs of the ALCS. In dramatic fashion, Price caught Game Five’s hero, J.D. Drew trying to check his swing for the final out of the inning and stranding three inherited runners.

Lester pitched a remarkable game but unfortunately, Garza just pitched better even after giving up a first inning homerun to Pedroia. Once again, Lester was a work-horse for the Red Sox by pitching seven strong innings allowing three runs on six hits while striking out eight – yes Teddy eight – Tampa Bay batters. This young left hander has his whole career in front of him, something he can say this year as opposed to two years ago, and he will only get better. The next Mark Mulder when he was with the Oakland Athletics in 2003.


WIN: Matt Garza (2-0)

LOSS: Jon Lester (0-2)

SAVE: David Price


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Matt Garza, TAMPA BAY --- 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
  1. Willy Aybar, TAMPA BAY --- 2-3, HR, RBI, Run-scored
  1. Jon Lester, BOSTON --- 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Onto Game Seven


Jason Varitek’s first hit of the post-season keeps Sox World Series hopes alive for another day
Jon Lester takes the hill in do-or-die Game 7

(October 18, 2008) – It is Rivalry Weekend.

With Boston College hosting their former Big East and current ACC rival the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Eagles found themselves down 10-0 early, it made Superfans question whether they should have stayed home and watched Game Six. But if there were at home they would have been just as angry at TBS as they were at quarterback Chris Crane in the first quarter.

Due to a power-outage in Atlanta, TBS sent all of Red Sox Nation into a frenzy. Living room phones were ringing off the hook as everyone was in disbelief about what was happening. But as soon as the lights came on, so did the Red Sox bats against Big Game James Shields. After B.J. Upton, gave the Rays the early 1-0 lead but Kevin Youkilis would get that run back for Josh Beckett with solo-blast to left to lead-off the top of the second.

Just as Crane was bringing the High Flyin’ Eagles of Chestnut Hill back from a 10-0 hole, Youkilis was bringing the Sox back from the brink of the elimination. In the top of the third, Dustin Pedroia drew a four pitch walk from Shields before David Ortiz drove a line drive just out of the reach of Carlos Pena at first for a double, sending Pedroia to second. Youkilis came through once again by putting the bat on the ball and grounding out to Jason Bartlett at shortstop to drive home Pedroia from third.

The Rays would eventually came back to tie up the game in the fifth inning on Bartlett’s first RBI of the post-season when he lifted a homerun solo-homerun to left center to tie the game at two a piece. The light hitting but sure handed shortstop had just one round-tripper on the season but he came through for Tampa Bay when they needed it most. But the lead would be short lived as another unexpected hero came through in the clutch – this time wearing the visiting greys.

Coming into Game Six, Jason Varitek was 0-for-12 in the ALCS against the Rays and in his previous two at-bats were nothing to write home about but it was his third plate appearance of the night that brought Sox fans to their feet. After which Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura made tremendous play jumping up and robbing Mark Kotsay of a base hit and then Shields catching Jed Lowrie staring blindly at strike three, a collective groan from Sox fans world wide could be heard with Varitek stepping to the dish.

Good things happen when you always seem to least expect them. How many fans can honestly say they expected Varitek to take Shields deep to give the Sox the lead once again and ultimately win the game? If you said you did then you are lying. Varitek’s barely made it over the right center field fence but it does not matter if it was 502 feet or lands in the first row of the seats (a la Varitek’s), it all counts for the same thing.

Although Beckett did not have his best stuff he was much more effective than his first start, in Game Two, against Tampa Bay. After giving up eight runs on nine hits in his first start, the Sox fireball right hander cut his earned runs by three-quarters while allowing four hits, walking three and striking out three. In the other dugout, Shields was something other than Big Game James, where the Rays Ace went 5.2 innings allowing three earned runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out three.

When the bullpen was the weakest link for the Sox in the first four games and for the Rays in Game Five, it turned out to be the strongest in last night. Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon combined to keep the Rays batters off balances while allowing just one walk and three strike outs. The Rays bullepn was just as strong as they kept Sox batters guessing by allowing one hit (against J.P. Howell) while walking three and striking out one.

For the second consecutive year, the Sox force a Game Seven in the ALCS after being down 3-1 to begin the series. They will send Jon Lester, who hopes to rebound after his worst outing of, realistically, the year when he went 5.2 innings allowing five runs – four earned – on eight hits while walking two and striking out seven last Monday. The Rays will send Matt Garza to the hill in hopes that he can match his Game Three performance, where he went six innings allowing just one run while scattering six hits, walking three and striking out five.

But do not count the Rays out. When their backs are against the wall they have come through in the clutch themselves. In September, with the division on the line in Fenway Park, the Rays took two of three from the Sox.


WIN: Josh Beckett

LOSS: James Shields

SAVE: Jonathan Papelbon


Top 3 Stars of the Game:

1. Jason Varitek, BOSTON --- 1-4 HR, RBI
2. Coco Crisp, BOSTON --- 3-4 Run-scored
B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY --- 1-4 HR, RBI

Drew Comes Through, Again!


J.D. Drew prolongs Red Sox season with Game-Winning base hit to right to cap off an 8-7 win

(October 16, 2008) – Remember when your teachers would tell you even if you forget your homework one day just turn it in the next because it is “better late than never.” Well that is apparently the philosophy the Red Sox live by in the ALCS.

J.D. Drew is quickly become a Red Sox folk hero. After coming through with a two-run homerun earlier in the game to bring the Sox within one in the bottom of the eighth, Drew drove in Kevin Youkilis with a line drive base hit over Gabe Gross’s head to prolong the Sox season. Before Drew’s at-bat, Youkilis singled to third and advanced to second on Evan Longoria’s throwing error. The Rays would intentionally walk Jason Bay for the lefty-lefty match-up between Drew and J.P Howell, a decision that Tampa Bay would later regret.

When Joe Maddon pushed Big Game James Shields back a day and gave the ball to the Southpaw Scott Kazmir, the Tampa Bay manager also gave Sox fans an early Christmas present. All season the Red Sox have killed Kazmir pitching so it was almost assured the series would be going back to St. Petersburg with the Rays leading the series 3-2.

But the man who once dominated the Red Sox return to his old form and shut out the Sox for six innings on 110 pitches. In those six innings, he scattered two hits while walking three and striking out seven Boston hitters and it looked like the Tampa Bay was on the road to their first World Series appearance in franchise history. But what was so dependable for the Rays during the season and in the playoffs, the bullpen coughed up the lead like the Patriots defense did in the Super Bowl.

Facing elimination for the second time in two years in the ALCS, the Red Sox had the man they wanted taking the hill against the Tampa Bay Rays. Ironically in the 2008 ALCS, Daisuke Matsuzaka was the only Sox starter that had success against the raging Rays. In Game One Matsuzaka took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up shutting out the AL East Champions to put Boston up in series 1-0. Now, three games later, Matsuzaka was called upon to keep the Red Sox season alive for another day.

It took Tampa Bay six innings to get their first hit off of Matsuzaka in Game One but in Game Five it took Akinori Iwamura just six pitches before he lined a single into right field. Sox fans were out in full force, hoping for another magical come-from behind series victory but with one swing of the bat B.J. Upton, once again, let the air out of crowd with a two run on a 1-1 fastball giving the Rays the early 2-0 lead.

A one-out single up the middle in the top of the third inning by Upton put the “P” in MVP of the ALCS to bring the Rays first baseman, Carlos Pena, to the dish with a man on base. Against Matsuzaka, the Northeastern Alum hit a towering fly ball over Pesky’s Pole and when it came down Tampa Bay had a four-run advantage. The Rays continued their power surge when Evan Longoria went back-to-back with Pena, by depositing a 3-2 offering into the second row of the Monster seats and the collective growns of Red Sox Nation “oh here we go again” could be heard in Framingham.

Matsuzaka retired the next five Ray batters before walking Iwamura in the top of the fifth and turning the ball over to fellow country-man Hideki Okajima. Between the two Japanese pitchers, they retired eight out of 10 Tampa Bay batters since Longoria’s long ball back in the third inning.

Manny Delcarmen came in to begin the seventh inning but did not last long. He was quickly was pulled after walking both Jason Bartlett and Iwamura, back-to-back, in favor of the fire-ball closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon was rudely welcomed into the game when Upton rocketed a double off the corner of the scoreboard in left to drive in Bartlett from second and Iwamura from first to give the Rays the 7-0 advantage.

After a long seventh inning, Maddon opted to go to his bullpen after Kazmir already threw 110 pitches. Tampa Bay had one of the best bullpens in the league this season so it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would continue to dominant by getting the last nine outs of the game to cruise into the World Series. But these are the never say die Red Sox and a double into right by shortstop Jed Lowrie reignited the Fenway Faithful.

Coco Crisp kept the inning alive with a two-out single into center field to bring Dustin Pedroia to the plate and “The Little Pony” came through with a base hit to right field to drive in Lowrie and send Crisp to second. David Ortiz struggled all through the post-season but when the game is on the line and there are runners on-base in the late innings, Ortiz is the man you want up at the plate. And once again he proved it as he launched a shot to the same exact area where Pena’s homerun came down four innings prior.

Papelbon was able to retire the side in order in the top of the eighth to get the Sox offense back to the plate. Since coming on in relief of Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler walked Jason Bay to lead off the inning and there is one thing in baseball that is worse than a hit for a pitcher and it is a walk. J.D. Drew had already been a post-season hero once, last year against the Indians, and he came through again this year, bringing the Sox within a run with homerun just right of the Rays bullpen. Wheeler would get Lowrie to fly out to left and strike out Sean Casey, who pinch-hit for Varitek before Mark Kotsay doubled over Upton’s head in center. He came around to score on a base hit to right by Crisp after fouling off numerous pitches from Wheeler until he got the one he wanted, to send the game the game into extra innings.

The Sox send Josh Beckett to the hill in Game Six where he will be opposed by Big Game James Shields. Beckett is coming off one of his worst performances in the playoffs where he gave up the lead three times during Game Two while Shields pitched a tremendous Game One but was outdone by Matsuzaka.


WIN: Justin Masterson

LOSS: J.P. Howell


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. J.D. Drew, BOSTON ---- 2-4 Homerun, Double, 3 RBIs
  1. Coco Crisp, BOSTON --- 2-4 RBI
  1. B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY ---- 3-4 Homerun, Double, 4 RBIs

Are the Rays counting their chickens?

Remember when the Fenway Park grounds crew got a little head of themselves and painted the 2003 World Series logo behind home plate before the start of Game 7 of the ALCS? Well a Florida grocery store chain is selling a baseball with the 2008 World Series logo on one side and the Rays logo on the other side. The last time a team forecasted their participation in the World Series was in 2003 and it did not work out to well. Will history repeat itself? Will Publix's marketing ploy come back to haunt them? (from the Tampa Tribune)

Here's a picture of the evidence:

Calling Out Boston Sports Fans

Sports are like a rollercoaster. Many ups, many downs. Now thanks to Sir Isaac Newton and the Law of Gravity, whatever goes up must come down.

Last year Boston was on top of the national sports rollercoaster. The Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics dominated their respective leagues and Boston College won their second Division I NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship this decade. Sports in Boston could not have been better. There was no reason to whine or complain about Terry Francona, Bill Belichick or Doc Rivers. Fans, who were once described as the “most miserable fans” were finally happy. 2007 was the Boston Bull market.

2008…is the Boston Bear market.

Trying to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the Patriots suffered one of their most crushing defeats at the hands of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII to end their season at 18-1. Then in their search for redemption, the Pats lost their franchise player, Tom Brady, for the year just seven minutes into the 2008 season with a torn ACL and MCL. Matt Cassel is no Brady but he is still a respectable NFL quarterback that could have started at any Division I college, if he chose, after Matt Leinart won the starting job, at USC, but many fans still turned their back. (I.E. leaving in the middle of the fourth quarter against the Dolphins down 38-13.)

The Red Sox finished the 2008 campaign just one game worse than they finished last year but you would never think that if you listened to some of the calls into WEEI. If you compare the 2007 season to driving along I-75 in Florida without a cloud in the sky, then the 2008 season was similar to driving around the streets of Boston in a 20-year-old Ford with no suspension.

The road to the post-season was tumultuous. Two of the key players that led the Sox to the World Series victory a year ago suffered injuries that affected their play on the field (Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell). Then there was the whole Manny-Saga in the middle of the season, but the Sox were still good enough to get to the ALCS. And who could forget Jon Lester’s spectacular no-hit performance against the Kansas City Royals back in May. Yet for some fans that is not good enough.

Boston fans have become so accustomed to winning many fans almost expect to win and when they do not it is a complete shock. Last year at the Celtics parade, I saw a child holding a sign reading “Nine Years Old, Six Parades,” and it really made me think, fans really have started to become complacent. Since when is a 95-67 season a bad season? Or 10-6 a bad season?

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots have given us three Super Bowl Championships in four years from 2001-2004 but there was a time, not two long ago, when they were the worst team in the league. Terry Francona and the Red Sox have brought us two World Series Championships in the last five years but there was that 86-year-time span when the Sox did not win a single championship.

Boston sports is not the same as it was five years ago. Five years ago, when Aaron Boone’s homerun landed in Yankee Stadium’s second deck in left, the feeling was different. Sure it was like some one just punched you in the gut but the Sox were not expected to win. In 2003, the Yankees were still the favorites. Now three games down to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox expected to pull out a third dramatic three-consecutive-win comeback like they did in 2004 and last year.

Now do not get me wrong, I want the Sox to win more than anyone but I am not expecting anything. Do I think the Sox bats have it in them to win Game Five against Scott Kazmir? Yes. But expecting them to make a comeback is not giving due respect to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays worked just as hard as the Sox from February to October to be in position they are in.

What the Red Sox have done four years ago and last year, does not have any effect on the here and now. It is like saying, I got an ‘A’ on a paper last week, I am going to get an ‘A’ again this week. It is wishful thinking and you are hoping for it but it does not mean it is going to happen.

The post-season is supposed to be a reward for preparing and playing well from February to September. You do not automatically get there by throwing your hat onto the field saying “we’re the defending champs” because there are 29 other teams out there looking to knock you off. And every step of the way in the post-season is a bigger reward with the biggest reward being the last one standing, holding the World Series trophy.

In Boston we have hit the peek of the “Yankee Cannonball” with six championships from three sports in nine years, we must be ready and capable “to take the good, with the bad.” And I want to leave you with one last quote:

“What comes easily, goes just as easily.”

Boston Massacre Part III


Tampa Bay bats blast out on a Indian Summer Night in Boston against the Defending Champs Just need Daisuke Being Beckett in Game Five on Thursday

(October 14, 2008) – Word of the Day for Game Four of the 2008 ALCS U-G-L-Y.

Game Four of the ALCS was Major League Baseball’s equivalent to Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals. Just as Paul Pierce was pouring the Gatorade over Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Lakers were sitting on the other bench with their jaws on the floor, looking stunned. Well that is exactly what the Sox looked like as the Rays kept piling on to, at one point, an 11-run advantage for a 3-1 series lead.

Yes the Sox have come back from the 3-1 hole twice before so you can not count the home-town team out. But these are not the Yankees in 2004. They are not the Indians from last year. Those teams were older and made up of veteran players. These Rays are young and naïve, having a striking resemblence to the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics,

The Red Sox offense looks dead. Nothing seems to get them going not even a homerun from the most unexpected player on the team, Kevin Cash.

When Cash took an Andy Sonnanstine 2-1 pitch and gave fans in the first row of the Monster seats a souvenir, one would think it would get the Sox offense going. But it did not. David Ortiz is still in a horrific 0-for-10 slump. Jacoby Ellsbury has the big goose egg in the hit column and starting to resemble Donnie Sadler more than Nomar Garciaparra. And Jed Lowrie looks like the rookie he is in the ALCS.

This is Lowrie’s first year in the big leagues and every situation he encounters is new so it is not really fair to jump all over him but the others are fair game. Athough he is still considered a rookie by Major League Baseball, Ellsbury is no longer the inexperienced kid he was last year and needs to be held accountable for his lack of production at the plate. B.J . Upton looks more like a seasoned post-season veteran than Ellsbury does.

When hitters are going up against the knuckleballer most hitting coaches will tell hitters “if it’s high let it fly, if it’s low let it go.” The Tampa Bay Rays game plan for Tim Wakefield was they were not going to be passive against the knuckleball. In the first inning, the knuckleball was not quite working for him and the Rays jumped on.

Nothing was working for Wakefield as he walked Upton on four straight pitches right after striking out Akinori Iwamura on four pitches. Between Upton and Carl Crawford, the Rays were aggressive on the basepaths with two uncontested steals and a steal of third in Wakefield’s two and two thirds innings of work. Once Upton got on base there was no doubt about it, he was going to steal and was not waiting around, taking second on the first pitch to Carlos Pena without a throw from Cash.

Upton was not at second base for too long as Pena took an outside, 1-1 knuckleballer to the opposite field and landed in the second row of the Monster seats, giving the Rays the 2-0 advantage. Rookie Evan Longoria was not too impressed by Wakefield’s knuckleball tonight as he went back to back with the Old Time Baseball Game Alumni.

After an easy eight pitch second, things began to go back down hill when his diving effort on Crawford’s swinging bunt went for naught as the speedy left fielder was safe at first, prolonging the inning. Crawford stole his second base of the night before Willy Aybar hit his second homerun off Wakefield in 2008, to put the Rays up by five and it spelled the end for Wakefield. He went into the clubhouse with whip-lash after just 2.2 innings allowing five runs of six hits while walking and striking out two.

Justin Masterson came on in relief of Wakefield and caught Fernando Perez looking at strike three to end the terrifying third. The Sox were able to get one run back in their own half and it came from an unexpected hero. Making the start because Wakefield was on mound, Cash cashed in with a 2-1 shot over the the 37-inch high wall to close the gap to four runs and reigniting Red Sox Nation. But Andy Sonnanstine would once again turn Fenway into a funeral parlor by retiring the next 12 Sox batters. Sonnanstine kept the Sox off balance for 7.1 innings allowing four earned runs on six hits while walking one and striking out two.

The Rays offense would send the Fenway Faithful running to the exits like the ballpark was on fire in the seventh they scored five runs in the sixth against three Red Sox relievers. Manny Delcarmen started the sixth inning explosion by giving up a one out triple into right center by shortstop Jason Bartlett. Following an Iwamura walk, Upton lined a single into centerfield before walking Pena and Longoria to load the bases and end the night for Delcarmen.

Delcarmen turned the ball over to Javier Lopez, who gave up a base hits to Crawford and Aybar, scoring both Pena and Longoria. Dioner Navarro drove in the final run of the inning with a ground out to Kevin Youkilis at third before Perez ended the inning with a ground out to Dustin Pedroia at second to end the sixth inning monstrosity.

But even down 10 runs, the Red Sox were not going to give up even if maybe half their fans left the game in the sixth. Ortiz finally broke out of his slump with a lead-off rocket line drive down the first baseline. With Fernando Perez misplaying the ball in right field, it allowd Ortiz to slide into third with the triple. The first time the Sox had the lead off hitter on base all game. Youkilis would drive him in with a ground ball to shortstop for the second run of the game. Jason Bay followed Youkilis ground out with single into right field and when Coco Crisp worked a two-out walk, it appeared as if the Sox were putting something together. But Cash struck out stranding Bay and Cash on first and second, respectively. The Sox look like they are starting to come out of their offensive funk and might

Once again there was a little light at the long tunnel’s end as Pedroia and Youkilis appeared to putting some good swings together in the bottom of the eighth inning. Lowrie led to fthe inning with a base hit to center before advancing to second on J.D. Drew’s ground ball back to Sonnanstine. Pedroia drove in the Stanford alum, with a base hit up the middle while Youkilis lined a double off the Green Monster with two outs plating Pedroia from second.

Hopefully the Sox can continue to swing the bats as well as they did in the latter innings of Game Four, when they send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound in a re-match of Game One against James Shields. Matsuzaka has been the only effective pitcher for the Sox in the ALCS and he needs to come on and stop the bleeding in Game Five to prolong the Red Sox season. Matsuzaka is coming of a a Game One start where he pitched six no-hit innings and finished the game scattering four hits in seven strong innings while walking four and striking out nine. Shields pitched equally well in Game One pitching 7.1 innings allowing two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out six.


WIN: Andy Sonnanstine

LOSS: Tim Wakefield


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Carl Crawford, TAMPA BAY ---- 5-5 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 3 Runs-scored, 2SB
  1. Willy Aybar, TAMPA BAY ---- 4-5 5 RBIs, Run-Scored
  1. Evan Longoria, TAMPA BAY --- 1-4 HR, 2 RBIs

Only in Haverhill and Woonsocket are they smiling


Local Boy, Rocco Baldelli puts the nail in the coffin as Rays take 2-1 series lead

(October 13, 2008) – Growing up a Red Sox fan in Woonsockett, RI during the 90s, Rocco Baldelli had dreams of hitting a homerun in the playoffs over the Green Monster at Fenway. Back when he was his brother, Dante’s, age (10) that is all they were but 17 years later those fantasies turned into reality with a three-run homerun that took the air out of the 38,031 fans that flocked to the Back Bay to witness Game 3.

The Red Sox appeared to have been mounting another late inning comeback with a lead-off walk by Jason Varitek in the bottom of the seventh followed by a base hit down the first base line by Alex Cora, sending Varitek to third with no-outs. Jacoby Ellsbury lifted a sacrifice fly to deep right field to score the Sox captain for the first Sox run of the game.

Baldelli was compared at one-time to Joe DiMaggio but after suffering numerous injuries that landed him on the disabled list many times in his four year career, then being diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder, he never thought he would be play baseball again. But here he was, defying all the odds, on the Fenway Park field and in the playoffs and hitting the homerun that deflated the rejuvenated the Fenway crowd.

“It was real special to me,” Baldelli told Craig Sager after the game with the expression of shock still written all over his face. It is something that he will remember for the rest of his career.

With help from the top of the Rays line up, Jon Lester cruised through the first inning without breaking a sweat. A polar opposite of Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was already sweating profusely when he stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the frame. The Sox southpaw only needed four pitches to retire the Rays in the first. Lester got Akinori Iwamura to ground out to second on two pitches before getting Saturday night’s hero, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena to ground out and fly out, respectively, on first pitches.

One thing about Lester is that as the game progresses, he grows stronger so when he retired the first three batters of the game, Lester looked as if he brought his A-game to the table. But the Rays made adjustments against the Sox left hander, starting in the second inning.

Most of Lester’s 2008 post-season dominance came from his ability to not let the lead-off batter of the inning to reach. It is actually the most important thing a pitcher can do in a game. But in Game Three of the ALCS, Lester’s streak of 15 innings without the lead-off batter reaching came to an end in the top of the second inning.

Evan Longoria battled his way back from a 0-2 deficit to work a seven pitch walk against the Sox lefthander. Lester was able to catch Carl Crawford staring at strike three but not before another seven pitch at-bat. Before the game, Joe Maddon replaced Cliff Floyd in the line up with Willy Aybar, who is 2-for-6 against Lester, and the utility infielder made Maddon look like a genius with a base hit up the middle. Longoria and Aybar advanced on to second and third, respectively, on a first pitch fastball to Dioner Navarro that crossed up Varitek and went as passed ball. Navarro hit a slow ground ball to second to drive in Longoria with the first run of the game.

Lester faced more trouble in the third when shortstop Jason Bartlett lined a 0-2 pitch into left field to lead-off inning for the second consecutive inning. Jason Bay did his best Carl Yastrzemski impersonation trying to hold Iwamura to a single on rocket line drive off the Green Monster. But Bartlett had none of Bay’s decoy and advanced to third on the double. With Lester clearly not at the top of his game, Upton added insult to injury as he deposited a 2-1 pitch into the second row of the Monster seats for a three-run homerun to put the Rays up 4-0. After Pena struck out Pena, Longoria put the Rays up with his fourth homerun of the post-season. So far in the playoffs, Upton and Longoria have combined to hit nine homeruns.

After getting hit around hard in the first three innings, Lester settled down throughout the next 2.2 innings by minimizing the damage and keeping the Rays from crossing the plate. He was also aided by superb defense from Youkilis and some mental mistakes from Upton, possibly changing the momentum of the game.

But not quite. Matt Garza proved to be too much for the Sox offense. The Tampa Bay starter allowed just one run while scattering six hits, walking three and striking out five in six-plus innings of work.

"My job was to get their hitters out," Garza told Sager when asked about being matched up against Lester. "My guys were to get to Lester and they got to Lester."

In the top of the fifth, Upton led-off the inning with base hit, literally, off Lester. Pena beat the over-shift with a bunt down third base but the always alert, Youkilis caught Upton wandering too far past the second base bag and threw to Cora for the first out of the inning. Good play on Youkilis’s part. Bad on the part of Upton. Lester went on to finish the fifth and get the first two outs of the sixth before being replaced by Paul Byrd after allowing five runs – four earned – on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.

With Tampa Bay taking the 2-1 series advantage, the Sox will look to perform some more of their October magic fans have been accustomed to seeing in the playoffs, as the Rays Daddy, Tim Wakefield takes the mound tomorrow night, trying to even up the series. In his career against the Rays, Wakefield is 19-5 with a 3.52 ERA and 145 strike outs in 31 starts. He will be opposed by right hander Andy Sonnanstine, who was 13-9 this year with a 4.38 ERA and 124 strike outs. Against the Sox this year, Sonnanstine was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA.


WIN: Matt Garza

LOSS: Jon Lester


The 3 Stars of the Game:

1. B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY --- 2-5 HR, 3 RBIs, Run-Scored

2. Rocco Baldelli, TAMPA BAY --- 1-3 HR, 3 RBIs

3. Mark Kotsay, BOSTON – 2-4

Up-Town Boy


B.J. Upton ties ALCS at 1-1 with sacrifice fly to right
Jon Lester goes to the Hill in Game Three opposing Rays Matt Garza

(October 11, 2008) – Earlier in the game, B.J. Upton hit towering fly ball on a Josh Beckett fastball to tie the game at three. That was at 9:00 when the kids were still awake. Four hours later when all the little kids were sound a sleep, Upton was the hero once again when he lifted a sacrifice fly to shallow right field, driving in pinch-runner Fernando Perez from third.

“I was looking for a good pitch to hit,” Upton told TBS’s Craig Sager after the game. “The main thing was not to strike out.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro and pinch-hitter for Gabe Gross, Ben Zobrist, led off the inning with back-to-back walks off the only pitcher left in the Sox bullpen, Mike Timlin. The Rays sent in the speedy, Perez to pinch run for Navarro. After shortstop Jason Bartlett grounded out to third, the Sox intentionally walked Akinori Iwamura to hopefully get the inning ending double play.

As J.D. Drew came in to make the catch on Upton’s shallow pop fly, the Sox right fielder’s momentum would propel him to make a strong throw to the plate would put the Rays chances of winning in jeopardy. But Perez defied those chances and used his speed to equal the series before heading north to Fenway Park for three games.

The game started at 8:08 on the nose with Beckett opposing Scott Kazmir. S-C-O-T-T K-A-Z-M-I-R used to spell doom for the Red Sox in previous years but in 2008 they have figured out the Tampa Bay 24-year-old Southpaw.

The Sox jumped on the board in the first with clutch two out hitting. Kazmir cruised through the first two batters, fanning Jacoby Ellsbury on six pitches and getting Dustin Pedroia to fly out to B.J. Upton in center, but walked David Ortiz to begin his downward spiral. Kevin Youkilis followed Ortiz’s walk pulling two-strike fastball and sent it into left field for the base hit.

Jason Bay stepped to the dish with two-outs. He has been clutch for the Sox all post-season and has done a good job at making fans forget about the scatter-brained left fielder that previously patrolled the Fenway Park left field. Bay did it once again turning on a 3-2 fastball from Kazmir for a rocket line drive double down the third baseline, scoring Ortiz and Youkilis.

Before Beckett even stepped on the mound he had a 2-0 lead to work with. But Beckett would quickly give those two runs right back. Beckett’s first inning nearly mirror imaged the man who broke his Texas high school strike-out record. He just needed two pitches to retire Rays second baseman Iwamura on a foul pop up to Youkilis and caught Upton staring at a strike three that just barely caught the inner portion of home plate. But the Rays were not going to go down quietly.

In game one, the Rays offense suffered because of their failure to keep an inning alive. The Haverhill-native made sure to change things when he was at the plate. Rays first baseman Carlos Pena lined a double into left-center for Tampa Bay’s first hit of the game and putting the tying run at the dish in the hands of rookie phenom Evan Longoria. Beckett fell behind Longoria 3-1 and the former Cal State 49er made him pay as he turned on a Beckett fastball that came down somewhere on I-75, to tie the game at two a piece.

Kazmir and Beckett appeared to settle down in the second inning. As the left hander retired the Sox side in order in the top of the second, Beckett struck out the side with a base hit to Navarro mixed in between. But things are not always as they appear to be.

Game Two quickly turned into a zero-sum, game of chicken where neither team really wanted the led. Beckett gave the lead back to the Rays. Kazmir kept giving it back to the Sox.

In the top of the third, B.J. Upton took a 2-0 pitch from Beckett to tie up the game at three. After Pena popped foul to Mark Kotsay, Longoria lined a double to the base of the wall in left just feet from his second homerun of the game. The Rays third baseman would come around to score the Rays fourth run on a base hit to right-center off the bat of left fielder, Carl Crawford, for Tampa Bay’s first lead of the game. But Crawford got a little too cocky and was caught off guard by possible, game-changing pick-off, throw from Beckett to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, former Red Sox outfielder Cliff Floyd added an insurance run with a home run to the restaurant in the center field, giving the Rays a two run lead. But once again Kazmir could not hold the Tampa Bay lead.

Facing his arch-nemesis to lead off the top of the fifth inning, Kazmir gave up his second homerun of the game to the little man with the big swing. If you are Scott Kazmir, you have to be thinking how can I get this little guy out? Pedroia’s second homerun of the game, made him 16-for-28 (.571) with three homeruns and five RBIs against the Rays Southpaw. After getting Ortiz to fly out to right field, Youkilis tied up the game with the sixth homerun of the game and chased Kazmir from the game. He finished the game after allowing five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three in 4.1 innings of work.

In relief of Kazmir, Grant Balfour did not fair much better against the potent Sox line up. Bay turned an inside fastball and pulled it down the third base line. When the ball landed, the Red Sox had the one-run lead and tied an ALCS record with seven homeruns in a championship series game. But the game was just in the fifth inning. There was plenty of baseball to be played and plenty of time to set a new record.

After 26-minute wait, Beckett took the mound once again with the lead but the cat-and-mouse game continued. Iwamura became Beckett’s fifth strike-out victim of the night and it looked as if the Sox fireballer was going to start to settle into a grove. But a walk to Upton gave the Rays speed on the base paths with the heart of the line up. An Upton steal of second appeared to have rattled Becket as Pena lined a base hit past the dive of Pedroia in the over-drawn shift and scored the speedy Upton from second. That is what speed can do to you. Speed kills.

The Rays were not done yet. Longoria, who was all ready 2-2 with a double and homerun, turned on a Beckett inside fastball and lined a double down the left field line scoring Pena from first. Longoria advanced to third base on Jed Lowrie’s throw to the plate. Terry Francona decided he had seen enough and went to the left handed Javier Lopez to face the left handed Crawford. Facing the left hander, Crawford drove in his second RBI of the game lining a base hit to right and scoring Longoria from third, giving the Rays the two-run advantage.

The Sox are relentless and started to chip away at the Rays lead. They got half of it back in the top of the sixth when Pedroia walked with one out to set the table for the power hitters behind him. After Ortiz was caught looking at strike three, Youkilis singled up the middle, advancing Pedroia to second and sending Bay to the plate. Bay came through once again with a base hit into center field. Just like the little engine that could, Pedroia’s little legs motored around third and slid into home with Boston’s seventh run of the game.

Two innings later, Pedroia led off the eighth with a mean, slap single into right field. Ortiz walked for the third time against the left handed Trever Miller. So with no-outs the Red Sox had two men on base and Sox fans could smell blood especially with Youkilis stepping up the plate. Although Youkilis ended up grounding into the 6-4-3 double play, he did advance Pedroia up to third base, thus putting the tying run just 90-feet from home and that was the key. In relief of Miller, Dan Wheeler uncorked a wild pitch that went to the back stop and thanks to a poor throw from Navarro, Pedroia scored with ease to tie the game.

After Dustin Pedroia tied up the score in the top of the eighth inning, the bullpen shut down the Rays offense from the six inning forward to give the Sox offense an opportunity to win the game. The combination of Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon retired 17 of 19, including five consecutive, Ray batters. You have to tip your cap to the middle relief of the Red Sox pitching staff because in the heat of all the excitement of the ALCS and the post-season those five guys between the starter and closer get over looked. But they are an important piece to the puzzle for a championship team.

Jon Lester will get the nod when the series heads north to Fenway for three games. Lester has dominated the Rays with a 3-0, an ERA under one (0.90) and 19 strike outs. He will be opposed by the 11-9 right hander Matt Garza. In 2008 Garza is 1-1 against the Red Sox with a 4.50 ERA and 10 strike outs in four starts.


WIN: David Price

LOSS: Mike Timlin


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY ----- 1-4 HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs-scored, Game Winning RBI
  1. Evan Longoria, TAMPA BAY ---- 3-5 2 2B, HR, 3RBI, 3 Runs-scored
  1. Dustin Pedroia, BOSTON ---- 3-5 2 HR, 2RBI

No surprise Lightning strikes Tampa Bay Area

RED SOX DROP RAYS 2-0; SOX LEAD SERIES 1-0No surprise Lightning strikes Tampa Bay Area
Matsuzaka retires 16 of 17 Ray batters as clock nears midnight for Cinderella Rays

(October 11, 2008) – A Daisuke Matsuzaka outing can give even the healthiest person a heart attack but he is effective. In sports, it does not matter how you get the job done but just that you get the job done and Matsuzaka did just that in Game One of the ALCS against the Rays.

When he finally took to the hill in the bottom of the first, he tested the patience of everyone in the stadium right from the start. After walking fellow countryman Akinori Iwamura on five pitches, he got Upton to get under a hanging change up and fly out to left field for the first out of the inning. Sox fans inside the trop could breathe a slight sigh of relief, Matsuzaka got at least one out. He put Terry Francona’s patience to the test once again walking clean-up hitter and Haverhill-native, Carlos Pena but told everyone to “calm down,” quoting former Patriots line backer Rosevelt Colvin, as he caught rookie Evan Longoria starring at strike three. The Sox right hander then got Cliff Floyd to ground out Pedroia on two pitches to get out of the first inning jam.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Kevin Youkilis told Craig Sager after the game. “He gets out of jams better than any one I ever seen.”

After a rocky first inning, Matsuzaka settled down was un-hittable. The Sox right hander carried a no-hitter through the first six innings before Carl Crawford led of the seventh with rocket line drive into right field. If it were not for a Pena six pitch walk in the third inning, Matsuzaka would have retired 17 Ray hitters in row between the first and sixth innings.

“He just missed on a few pitches,” catcher Jason Varitek commented on Matsuzaka’s first inning, to Sager after the final pitch of the game. “He just settled in. We worked off his fastball and mixed in his change, cutter slider. Kept [them] off balance.”

Floyd followed Crawford’s single by dropping a gapper between Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay. The speed-demon, Crawford, kicked it into another gear around second and easily cruised into third with no outs. It was the first opportunity since back in the first inning the Rays had a chance to get on the board. But once again in Matsuzaka-fashion, he weaseled his way out of two-on, no-out jam, getting Dioner Navarro to fly out to left, not deep enough for the speedy Crawford to score. He, then, struck out Gabe Gross for the second time on the night and got Bartlett to ground into a fielder’s choice, Jed Lowrie to Pedroia to end the threat.

Big Game James Shields got the pre-game jitters out of his system when he struck out Ellsbury on four pitches in the first inning but ended up walking the “Little Pony.” After David Ortiz flew out to B.J. Upton, the first pitch Youkilis swung at he lined a frozen rope down the first base line that bounced up into the stands for the ground rule double, forcing the hustling Pedroia to stop at third base. The Sox third baseman watched five pitches from Shields cross the plate before he decided to pull the trigger and rocket a double down the line.

With runners in scoring position in the first inning, the Sox were poised to get on the board early as J.D. Drew stepped to the plate. In the ALDS, Drew was 4-for-14 (.286) with a double, a homerun and three RBIS and the Sox were looking for him to come through once again. But Shields had the last word making Drew his second strike out victim of the night. The strike out really pumped up the Rays ace as he retired the next eight Red Sox batters before Youkilis lined a one out single to left in the fourth.

The Sox got on the board first in the top of the fifth when Shields gave up a six pitch walk to left fielder Bay. First baseman Mark Kotsay blooped a double down the left field line sending Bay to third and sending the ALDS Game Four hero, Lowrie, to the dish with no outs. After falling in the count 0-2, Lowrie lifted a fly ball to right fielder, Gross at the base of the warning track for the second out of the inning. But it was deep enough that Bay easily cruised home with the first run of the game, for either side, giving the Sox the 1-0 lead.

Manager Joe Maddon pulled the infield for a play at to plate to keep the deficit at one but thanks to Iwamura’s dazzling web gem at second on Jason Varitek’s ground out, the drawn in infield was not necessary. Shields got Ellsbury to pop out to shortstop Jason Bartlett to end the threat.

After giving up a one-out base hit into center off the bat of “The Little Pony” in the top of the eight inning, Maddon elected to go with the lefthanded J.P. Howell to pitch to the ever dangerous Ortiz. In relief of Big Game James, Howell walked Ortiz before Youkilis lined a sinking line drive that dropped just in front of the glove of Crawford, scoring Pedroia and sending Ortiz to third while chasing Howell from the game.

Just like that the book was closed on Shields. The Tampa Bay starter pitched 7.1 strong innings with the only run he allowed was on the sacrifice fly by Lowrie in the third inning while scattering six hits, walking one and striking out six on 100 pitches. And also Maddon had seen enough of his left hander, going to the bullpen once again to get Grant Balfour.

Now a pitcher with the name Balfour is the irony of irony. But in 2008, Balfour has been one of the Rays best pitchers and proved in relief of Howell and Shields. He did not get off to a good start as he hit Drew in the shoulder to load the bases but then got Bay to strike out swinging and Kotsay to pop out to Longoria at third to keep the Rays in the game.

Matsuzaka trotted out for his eighth inning of work with at 107 pitch count and gave up a lead-off base hit to Iwamura on a 3-1 count. The Rays second baseman would advance to second Varitek’s passed ball that went to the back stop. Looking for his first hit in the game, Upton lined a shot down the third base line that Youkilis did a nice job keeping in front of him but was unable to get the speedy Upton at first.

Allowing the lead runners to reach base in the eighth signaled the end of the game for Matsuzaka and on came his fellow country Hideki Okajima to face the left handed Pena. Okajima fell behind in the count to Pena but was fortunate the Rays first baseman swung at a 3-0 pitch and lined out to Drew, who made a shoe string catch, for the first out of the inning.

Okajima did his job but not without suspense and recorded the out on Pena. Francona made another trip to the mound and elected to go with the rookie right hander, Justin Masterson to face the probable Rookie of the Year in Longoria.

The total age of these two players adds up to the number on the back of Ellsbury’s jersey but they have both proved they are capable Major Leaguers. Masterson fell behind Longoria 2-1 but was able to get the Rays third baseman to ground out into the 6-4-3 Twin-Killing to end the inning. Once again Tampa Bay squandered an opportunity to either tie up the score or take the lead and they would not have an opportunity to do so in the top of the inning facing one of the best closers in baseball, Jonathan Papelbon.

The Sox will send Josh Beckett to hill tomorrow to face the other #19 in former Red Sox killer, left hander Scott Kazmir. Kazmir will try to even up the series for Tampa Bay before the series ships back to Boston.


WIN: Daisuke Matsuzaka

LOSS: James Shields

SAVE: Jonathan Papelbon


Game Notes:

What is Craig Sager wearing today?

For Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Craig Sager has broken out a lavender sports jacket with a light purple, pinstriped shirt and bold tie.

The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Kevin Youkilis, BOSTON --- 3-4 2 Doubles, RBI
  1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOSTON --- 7IP, 4H, 0ER, 4BB, 9K
  1. Carl Crawford, TAMPA BAY --- 1-3 Single in the seventh