Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home Field

The Red Sox clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, thanks to a Royals' victory over the Indians on Saturday night. The Indians might end up with the same record as the Sox this season (if the Sox lose today and the Indians win) but the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians, so they get that tiebreaker.

Boston chose the series with the extra off day, and I have no idea whether that was the right choice. I figure the team knew what they were going to do all along, so they chose this format, and that's fine.

I'll be here in L.A. for game one, but in Idaho, or perhaps on my way there, during game two. If I'm already in Idaho, I'll be staying at my aunt and uncle's house while waiting to surprise my grandmother at her 80th birthday party on Saturday. I don't know if Bob and Jorgena have wireless internet, or anything other than dial-up, for that matter. So, live blogging could be a problem. We'll see what happens, but I intend to live blog the first game, so maybe that will be enough for you. And, assuming I can get her a ticket without having to sell a kidney, my girlfriend will be at game three. So, you'll get some pictures of the Sox hopefully completing a three-game sweep of the Angels.

Anyway, Schilling won't start today, which is great. Tavarez will start instead, and he can do whatever the hell he wants. I can't speculate on the playoff roster. I have my wishes, which include putting Ellsbury on the list and banishing Gagne to Canada for the duration. But, I don't know how likely either of those are, particularly the latter.

So, when I know the playoff roster, you'll know the playoff roster. Meanwhile, enjoy the time off. I'm heading to Dodger Stadium for the last time until next April. Pictures later.





COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: JJ

DATE: 09/30/2007 04:58:24 PM

Boston has the strongest pitching of any team going into the playoffs (Gagne excluded). They look in good shape for the playoffs. 

If you have a laptop, you could take it along and look for either a Starbucks or a McDonald's with wireless access.  (Starbucks is free, McDonald's charges for access). Atlanta Bread and Panero's also have wireless access and so do some public libraries.  

What do you think the possibilities are for a Boston/New York AL Series matchup?
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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Interesting

Hope Solo will not start for the U.S. on Sunday against Norway.  In fact, she won't even be attending the game.  Scurry will be in goal for the second game in a row.

Does that seem rather petty to anyone else?  I mean, Solo called out her teammate, intentional or not, but she also apologized.  And, it shouldn't be ignored that she was actually right in everything she said.  She was the #1 keeper, and her job was taken from her for no reason.  So now she doesn't get to play at all because she questioned the decision to leave her off her own team? 

I don't know about this.  I said in my last post that she was wrong to rip Scurry, and I still think that, but I also don't think what she said was so terribly bad.  Like she said in her apology, Solo has to believe that she's the best out there, or why would she bother being a professional soccer player?  Yeah, she could have taken some more time to think about what she said, but the interview occurred right after the game, when all the players were leaving the stadium to head to the hotel.  There's something to be said for the heat of the moment, isn't there?
Ryan's inability to forgive Solo is a little bit surprising, but I guess we don't know what's going on behind the scenes.  Maybe all the players asked for Solo to be removed.  Who knows?  Ryan apparently made the decision after talking to "team leaders" and this quote from Kristine Lilly doesn't make it seem like she's really on Solo's side.
"The circumstance that happened and her going public has affected the whole group.  And having her with us would still be a distraction."

This is giving women's soccer more publicity than it would have had otherwise, but I don't like the reasons for the extra press.  Coach Ryan needs to look in the mirror and shoulder a lot of this blame himself, because, clearly, they wouldn't be in this position at all without his ridiculous "strategy" in the Brazil game.

Celebration

You can tell me that it doesn't really matter who wins the A.L. East, since both teams were already in the playoffs.  But if the Yankees had won it, they (and their fans) wouldn't have wanted to hear that line of reasoning.  The fans were still hoping they could come all the way back and down the Sox, but Boston was not about to let that happen.  And, apparently, the Orioles weren't really interested in seeing it either.

Last night was amazing.  There are no words.  I watched the Sox win, then went out to eat dinner while the Yankees were winning 9-6.  At the restaurant, when I saw the score at the bottom of the screen at ESPN, showing that they were in still in the bottom of the ninth in Baltimore, I had them change the channel to the Yanks/Orioles game (thank god I go to a place that has DirecTV Extra Innings).  I saw Rivera load the bases, and then I saw the triple that cleared the bases.  It took me a little while to be able to tell if the score was actually tied on that hit, because the YES broadcast was very slow to update the score.

When the Yankees loaded the bases in the top of the tenth, thanks to a ballsy move by the Orioles' manager, who intentionally walked Rodriguez and Matsui in succession, I was not pleased.  But Chad Bradford, a former member of the Boston Red Sox, got out of the jam in a big way, and the Sox A.L. East Championship hopes were still alive.

And then came the bottom of the tenth.  It seemed fitting that Millar came to the plate with the bases loaded (after Torre also walked two guys in a row), but he couldn't come through, and struck out looking (some Red Sox guys gave him crap for that after the game, as you'll see in the videos I'll link to a little later).  So it came down to Melvin Mora.  And I giggled like crazy when he laid down a perfect bunt, scoring whoever it was from third and winning the game.  I was ecstatic, but nobody else in the restaurant was paying attention, so I couldn't really scream the way I wanted.  All I wanted to do was see the celebration that I knew was going on at Fenway.  I knew fans would be waiting at the park and watching on the big screen, even though it had been more than an hour since the Sox won their game.  And I knew the guys would be going crazy.

Twelve years since the last division title.  A lead that was once 14.5 games over the Yankees, reduced to one with a little more than a week to play in the season.  There's been a lot of talk about the way the Yankees have played for the last few months, but, really, what choice did they have?  If they wanted to have a shot, they had to play well, so they did.  It shouldn't be all that surprising, considering what that team is capable of putting on the field everyday.

The Red Sox won big early, and let's not forget that they played pretty well since the All-Star break, too, okay?  It wasn't like they collapsed.  They were twenty games over .500 coming into the break, and they've played ten games over .500 since.  They've had a good season, and they've decided to start playing well again at exactly the right time.

Playoff preview?  I'll give you one soon.  For now I want to enjoy this fun time.  But you want to know the saddest thing?  I'll be in Idaho next week for my grandmother's 80th birthday.  The Red Sox are playing the Angels in the first round.  My girlfriend will be going to game three of the ALDS.  Not me.  I will miss it.  But I'll be here live blogging it for you if you'd like.

Texas Gal has videos up showing all the NESN coverage of last night's celebration.  If you want to see your 2007 A.L. East Champions having a great time, go over there and check it out.  I'm heading to the Red Sox online store to buy my 2007 A.L. East Championship gear.  Yes, I do like the way "2007 A.L. East Champions" sounds.  Thank you for asking.

Red Sox Clinch A.L. East

Perhaps what should have happened in 2003 will happen again this year.  I know Jack Cobra is with me in hoping for a Cubs/Red Sox World Series.  Right?

With a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins tonight, the Red Sox had done what they needed to get to their first A.L. East title since 1995.  But with the Yankees up 7-2 on the Orioles early in that game, it looked like the Sox would have to wait yet another day to clinch the title. 

But the Orioles weren't going down without a fight.  They scored three off Rivera in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, then won it in the tenth on a bases loaded squeeze bunt (awesome).  And with that, the Red Sox are your 2007 A.L. East Champions.

Great, great stuff.  Good for the Sox for holding on while the Yankees tried to break down the door.  If you can't already tell, I'm extremely excited, and therefore unable to fully express how great this is.  What it really means is I can get stuff done this weekend without having to worry about this stuff.  I'll just get ready to watch the playoffs next week.

Who's ready for October baseball?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Women's Soccer Drama

UPDATE:  Hope Solo has offered a pretty sincere apology on her MySpace page.

The backlash continues in the Solo/Scurry drama, and we still don't know who will start the third place game on Sunday.

I wrote yesterday that I agreed with what Solo said when she told the press that Ryan made the wrong decision. But today I read a different quote, which I guess I missed yesterday, and I'm just not so sure
I can completely back Solo on this one.  She should not have gone off the way she did.  Calling out a coach is one thing, but attacking another player, your teammate, is quite another. Here's what Solo said:
"There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore.  It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody didin an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago."
A little harsh, no?  I mean, sure, Solo is right.  Ryan shouldn't have based his decision on twelve games that Scurry played against Brazil in the past.  As many have pointed out, this switch is not like bringing in a southpaw pitcher to face a lefty batter.  Scurry was facing a different Brazilian team than she ever had before, and putting her in goal based on her past success made no sense whatsoever.

That said, you can't blame Scurry for the coach's ridiculous decision.  And Solo claiming that she would have made those saves, true or not, is just not fair to Scurry.  Scurry is a legend in U.S. soccer and Solo is essentially just starting her own career.  Obviously I don't think that means Scurry should have been playing in this big game so late in her career, but I also think she deserves a little bit of respect, at least in a public forum.  She didn't have her best game, and I know I implied that she didn't try as hard as she could have, but it seems the real problem is that she tried exactly as hard as she could have, but it just wasn't enough, because she's not the player she once was.

This is a young team overall, and they're used to Solo behind them in the goal.  I don't think that can be stressed enough.  Solo was about 17 when Scurry made the big save in the 1999 World Cup Final against China.  Maybe there isn't a real sense of loyalty toward the veteran, due to the fact that the team hasn't really played with her as their keeper.  But Solo, even if she knows, as we all do, that she is the
better goalkeeper for this team at this point, should not have spoken out
against her own teammate in such a way.

Julie Foudy agrees, and is pretty harsh in her criticism of Solo.

**ORIGINAL VIDEO MISSING**


Solo has not done herself any favors with this statement to the press. Everyone was already on her side before, during, and after the game, including Foudy and other soccer pundits.  Solo didn't need to tell the
press that she could have made those saves.  We knew that.  But when Solo herself comes out and says it, that tends to make her look childish.  The most telling statement about this whole mess is the last
sentence of Foudy's video.
"And if I'm a player, I don't think I want Hope in goal behind me."
Yikes.  Stay tuned.  I assume we'll hear from Ryan sometime soon about who will be in goal against Norway on Sunday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

U.S. Disappointment

So, it turns out most of us were right when we thought it was a little insane for coach Greg Ryan to change horses in midstream.  If we learned anything from Wag the Dog, it was that you don't do that, right?

Here's the thing about the game today--the Brazilians are good.  In the past, I've sort of viewed them as the Harlem Globetrotters of their sport: they're great players with a lot of individual skill, but put them up against a disciplined team, and it's hard for them to get a win (maybe it's not the best analogy, but you get my drift).  But Brazil came to play today, and they played as a team.  Frankly, even before the own goal by Leslie Osborne, the Brazilians looked like they were running circles around the Americans.  That's not to say that the Brazilians would have won the game no matter what, but they sure looked better early on, and that didn't change once the U.S. team lost any mental edge when Brazil started scoring.

The first goal, which came in the 20th minute, was just brutal.  And I really think it could have been avoided if the woman in goal hadn't spent the last three months riding the bench.  On a corner kick, the Brazilian sent it in to the near post, where Scurry was standing waiting for it.  But Osborne lunged in front, diving toward the goal (never a good idea, I assume) and deflected the ball into the net off her head.  An own goal.  Just about the worst thing for a player to do.  Scurry could have called Osborne off the ball, but she didn't.  She stood there.  It even looked like she might be able to at least reach out and try to stop the ball from going in the net.  Maybe not, but Scurry didn't try.  She stood there. 

Remember the Briana Scurry from the last few international tournaments?  The one who would yell and scream and light fires under her teammates' asses? 

She was nowhere to be found Thursday, and the U.S. suffered as a result.

Still, though, a one goal deficit was not insurmountable.  But, really, the U.S. didn't get a whole lot of opportunities.  They weren't creating offensively, and at times it looked kind of like watching a high school team play a bunch of five-year olds. 

And then came the second goal.  In the 27th minute, Marta broke free hit a ball toward the net from outside the penalty box area.  Scurry dived and missed as the ball went between her outstretched arms and the post.  No question about it--Solo gets to that ball.  Hell, the Scurry of four years ago gets to that ball.  But not the 36-year old, rusty Scurry of today.  So much for those reflexes, huh Mr. Ryan?

The Brazilians would add two more goals.  I saw the third, but not the fourth, because I had already shut the damn thing off and gone back to bed.  But one other thing happened in the game that is important to note.  Early on, Shannon Boxx received a yellow card.  I missed it, but I didn't miss it when she was called for the second one.  Two yellows in a game = a red card.  Boxx was ejected, and the U.S. played with ten women the rest of the game.

The thing is, watch the replay (I would link to it here if I could find it).  Boxx is the one fouled on the play, and it's pretty damn obvious.  The commentators in the ESPN studio were calling it the worst call they've ever seen, and I think it's pretty close.  Boxx is running, a Brazilian comes up behind her and trips, clipping Boxx, and they both go down.  The ref runs in and immediately gives Boxx a yellow card while the Brazilian player cheers.

So down two goals, the U.S. loses a key player.  That was enough to do them in completely.  And now Boxx isn't available for the third place match on Sunday, either.  Really, really bad call from the ref.

In about the 35th minute, the ESPN feed cut to a shot of Solo on the bench.  I think the people in the crowd were seeing, on the big screen at the stadium, the same shots the television audience was.  Solo was sitting there, and dropped her head, obviously thinking about how she should have been in the game.  Another player, Natasha Kai, was sitting next to Solo.  Kai looked up, presumably in the direction of the screen, and then elbowed Solo, probably to say something like "never let 'em see you sweat."  Solo lifted her head and looked at Kai, and the shot changed back to the game.  It was a very quick interchange, but I think it spoke volumes. 

And now, as Bruce Paine mentioned, Solo has lashed out about this whole mess.  She told the press that it was the wrong decision to switch goalkeepers.  Of course, we all agree with that.  What's worse is that Solo didn't even know it was a possibility until the day it was released to the press.  Not exactly sound coaching there, Ryan, and it certainly doesn't do much for team morale or cohesion, does it?  I don't know if Solo was wrong to vent to the press today, but I'm finding it hard to be upset with her for it.  She's right, after all.  And this was her team.  She went 300 minutes without allowing a goal in this World Cup.  She's the number one goalkeeper, and this was her game to win or lose.

I think with Solo in goal, this is a much, much tighter game.  And I for one am hoping for some amazing, brilliant saves on Sunday versus Norway.  And I hope after every one, she turns and gives Greg Ryan the finger.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/27/2007 08:07:38 PM

The fourth goal is going into the Marta highlight reel, with her at 21 its going to be a hell of a reel.  She faked out the defender going inside out, put her back to the goal to screen the ball, heel kicked it on the outside, ran around on the inside, and blasted it right by Scurry, who looked like she just watched a school bus get hit by a freight train.  Brazil spent the entire game in front of the net and Solo hasn't let anybody do that since Korea flooded a zone on her in game one.  Women's sports are by far a better yardstick for where the US stands in the global sports world, and we should be dominating soccer, and didn't.  ugh
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/27/2007 08:24:12 PM

Yeah, I finally saw a highlight of the fourth goal.  Watching it lends credence to my Harlem Globetrotters theory.  Marta is ridiculously good with the ball.

I read a piece about the U.S. team and its lack of domination.  We have probably the most funding of any team, and we should be the best (and came into this ranked #1), but we just never looked like the top team in the world, in this game or any other.  The guy who wrote the piece also ranked, on a 1-10 scale, each of the players in today's game.

If you haven't read that column, go to this URL
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/27/2007 11:38:08 PM

Somehow, in the long run this is going to make me pay more attention to U.S. Women's Soccer

I think the coach gets canned.

I'd like to read some Julie Foudy quotes from this game. Apparently she was fairly 'upset'/pissed in the booth
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/27/2007 11:59:44 PM

Foudy kept saying what a bad idea it was not to have Solo on the field.  She was saying that this team was not the team that played in 04 and that they had been playing for too long with Solo behind them to have her yanked and then replaced.  I don't think it was all Scurry's fault, but I didn't fall in love with that blonde Amazon over the course of two weeks to have her sit when it matters.  She shouldn't have bashed her coach, but she wasn't wrong.  I get tired of hearing pro players that are male and make 100 times the money she does bitch in week 3, but I will listen to her bitch about sitting for the most important game of her life.    
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/28/2007 12:53:07 AM

Foudy had made it clear before the game that she thought it was a bad move.  And that's especially interesting because Scurry was the goalie for some of the biggest moments in Foudy's career.  Not that I would have expected her to play favorites, but I think she was trying to be as objective as she could, considering she was talking about a former teammate.

She definitely noted that the Scurry of old would have gotten to that second goal.

I think the chemistry issue is the biggest factor here.  Soccer teams obviously rely heavily on their goalie, and a lot of these players had played only a few games with Scurry behind them, so that had to have impacted them.  And that's not even thinking about the questions they've all had to answer in the press for the last two days.

I hope the coach does get fired, frankly.  This is exactly the type of move that shows his complete lack of ability to coach effectively in big game situations.
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Magic Number = Two

With a Sox win tonight, coupled with a Yankees' loss, the Red Sox will win the A.L. East for the first time in more than a decade.

That, my friends, is a nice sentence to write.

Four games to go, and a three-game differential in the standings.  It's a nice feeling, but it's not quite sealed up yet.  The bottom line is, both teams will be making it to the playoffs, and each of them will be facing a tough opponent in the first round.  If things stay the way they are today, the Yankees will have to face Cleveland, and the Indians are the hottest team right now, with arguably the best 1-2 punch in their starting rotation (Sabathia and Carmona).  The Red Sox will face the Angels, who never look that good to me, but they always seem to win, so I don't know what to make of them.

The most important thing for me is the way the Red Sox have been playing in the last week.  The playoffs have been pretty likely for a while now, but no one in Red Sox Nation wanted to hear about it if the Yankees came back from a 14.5-game deficit.  Instead, the Red Sox played very well early this season, and then played well, but also fought hard to hold off a team that was playing the best for a while there.  If you want to give credit to the Yankees for storming back, I think a little credit needs to go to Boston for keeping New York at arm's length.

In the last few games, the Red Sox have looked a lot more like the team they were earlier this season.  They beat up Tampa Bay last Friday, 8-1, then had a comeback win on Saturday, before losing by one run on Sunday.  In the two-game set against Oakland, the Red Sox won both games pretty easily.  Manny has been back in the lineup for two days, and he has gone 4-5, with two walks, three runs scored and one RBI.  Not bad.  With him missing from the lineup, this team is very different.  Part of the struggles in the month of September for the Sox can be attributed to the lack of Ramirez in the offense.  But, the team held on, and Manny is looking primed for the playoffs.

Youkilis also returned to the lineup, pinch-hitting on Tuesday and starting on Wednesday.  Youk had missed ten days with a right wrist contusion.  Say what you want about contusion just being a fancy word for "bruise."  The guy was hurting, mostly due to the fact that the bruise was apparently right on a tendon in his wrist.  Watching him bat the last two nights, he definitely looks like he is still in some pain when he swings.  He's gone 1-5 with a walk in the last two games, and if he is still hurting, there is no harm in sitting him.  Four or five days off leading up to the playoffs can only help the injury heal.

Mike Lowell has been the big story for the Sox this year, and I don't think there's any question that he's the MVP of this team.  Wednesday night he drove in five runs, pushing his total on the season to 116.  That gave him the RBI lead (perhaps temporarily) over Papi this season, and also set the Sox record for RBI by a third baseman.  Lowell has been great all year, and he'll be a free agent soon.  Assuming the Sox aren't going to bother with A-Rod, Lowell is a big priority.  He needs to be in a Red Sox uniform next year.

So, now we have four games against Minnesota.  The Sox will face Bonser, Slowey, Silva and Garza, all of whom are beatable.  Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Schilling are the scheduled Sox starters, but I feel like that might have to change.  Why start Schilling on the last day of the season?  If the Sox have the A.L. East title on Sunday, I don't care who you put on the mound that day.  J.D. Drew can pitch for all I care.  We all know Beckett will go first, and if Schilling is second, which seems likely, I see nothing wrong with giving him as much rest as possible before the start.

I'll be back later with a post about the disappointing Women's World Cup game played early this morning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Those Dodgers

The Dodgers lost again, this time getting shut out by the Rockies, at home, with Derek Lowe on the mound.  Lowe was good, only allowing two runs, but that was two too many.  The Rockies kept their playoff hopes alive, and kept the NL playoff picture very complicated.

I read a rumor that next year will be Vin Scully's last in the booth.  I don't think I have to tell you how much Vin Scully means to the Dodgers, and what he has given baseball in general.  Perhaps the worst part of not having Vin anymore is we won't be able to hears lines like this, heard in last night's game after a Delwyn Young double:


"I should say, dead alligator or no, he can really hit!"


It's more fun if I don't explain the context of that quote.


Better Late Than Never

Okay. A while back I promised to watch the Women's World Cup (the U.S. games, anyway) and write about them. So far, I have lived up to half that promise, but today that changes. Bruce Paine mentioned Hope Solo in a comment, and that made me realize I was being lax in my coverage (i.e. I haven't mentioned the games once).

There is news today that the U.S. will go back to Briana Scurry as their goalkeeper for tomorrow's early morning (5 a.m. on the west coast) game against Brazil. The winner of that game gets to play Germany in the World Cup final, so obviously this is a big game.

Hope Solo, the woman who has been the goalie for a while now, has played all the games thus far in the World Cup. She has given up two goals, both against North Korea in the first game of the tournament. We all know about Scurry's heroics. The woman has ice water in her veins, and she's certainly proven herself time and again. The coach, Greg Ryan, claims this decision is based on Scurry's quicker reflexes, which will help her deal better with the particular style of play employed by the Brazilians.

Scurry is 36 and Solo is 25. Scurry has three times as many international appearances as Solo, which is good for experience. But it also means that Scurry has played for a lot longer. It's no secret that athletes slow down with age, but Scurry claims to be in great shape still, and I guess Ryan believes her and thinks her reflexes are still very much intact.

But Julie Foudy, formerly a member of the U.S. team and now an analyst for ESPN, doesn't like the move, and I tend to agree with her. It's strange, and perhaps a little too distracting, given the importance of this game. Sources say Ryan will go back to Solo if the U.S. is able to beat Brazil. That offers up more questions, mostly dealing with how Solo will react after having her job taken away for one game. Can't be good for the confidence, you know? Solo was surprised when she learned of the change, and didn't exactly try to act pleased when speaking with the press.
"The moment I got tapped on the shoulder saying I need to meet with you, I had a pit in my stomach and I knew what it was. I was very taken back, but that's the nature of sports and it happens. He has his reasons."

That doesn't sound like a player who's happy about making a sacrifice for the team, and it's hard to blame her for that. Scurry and Solo are both good goalies, and I think the U.S. will probably be fine with either choice, which makes it seem even stranger that the coach would bother with the change. But, what do I know? This is now all anyone is talking about with regards to this game, though, and that can't be good for the U.S. team. You have to wonder what will happen if Scurry gives up an early goal. Will Ryan change back to Solo?

The controversy aside, the U.S. women have been playing well so far. I've seen two games, the first against Sweden and the next against England. Between Sweden and England, the Americans seemed to make the necessary changes. Against Sweden, they came out a little flat-footed and didn't look like they were in the game until 20 minutes in. That wasn't true against England, although it took until the second half before they were able to break through and score. Once they scored the first one, though, they just kept going, scoring three goals in twelve minutes to win the game 3-0.

Brazil is tough, and I'm using no statistical analysis to come to that conclusion. They're just...Brazil. If you have even casually followed soccer, you know Brazilians just don't fuck around when it comes to the sport. The women are certainly no different from the men in this regard, so the U.S. women will definitely need to come out and be aggressive to start the game.

Should the U.S. go on to play Germany in the final, they face another incredibly talented opponent. But I won't worry about that bridge until we get to it. So, for now, the focus is on Brazil. I'll be up at 5 a.m. to see the game, and I'm sure I'll hear plenty more about the goalkeeper controversy. Look for a write-up tomorrow afternoon.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/26/2007 11:09:23 PM

I have to admit, I wrote that comment for motivational purposes.  I have watched all of the USA's games (I have acute insomnia) and was really into Hope Solo, not only because of her name and looks, but because she is a rangy and aggressive player who was clearly playing in a zone of sorts.  In the Korea game she wasn't entirely at fault, the USA was flatfooted and wasn't dominating the middle of the field defensively like they have in all the games since.  I think it is a raw deal.  Here is a gal in her prime physically and she is hitting a dominant stride.  The pull is ridiculous.  If England had played more aggressive she would have been able to showcase herself a little better.  The manager of my softball team is looking to pull me from the 2nd base spot that I have rightly won over the course of the last two seasons to make a spot for a younger guy.  I wonder if Solo getting pulled hit a nerve with me?  Probably.  
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/27/2007 08:11:22 AM

Brazil plays with tremendous pressure.

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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/27/2007 09:36:30 AM

In the 73rd minute it is Brazil 3 and USA nil and i am fit to be tied. 
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/27/2007 10:54:19 AM

and it's over. Stick with the hot hand coach, stick with the hot hand...
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/27/2007 03:24:11 PM

No shit, she blew up after the game and I can't really support that, but if you saw her during the game, particularly after the second goal, it was like watching a pot boil.  I am not going to say that Solo is the best out there, there are probably better goalies, but Scurry looked slow laterally and the midfielders and defensewomen looked totally uninterested in defending for her.  Marta and Chritiana ran unchecked around the front of the goal, and scurry could not keep up.  What a bonehead move.  Not only that, but Solo excels the closer the other team plays to the net, she uses her height and ranginess so well, look at how she dominated englands zone.  So with a fast team coming in a with two great dribblers and shooters that like to play right in fing front of the net we put in Dave Winfield.  COME ON!   
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/27/2007 04:00:59 PM

I'm all for players speaking their minds when it's justified....If the coach isn't putting the team in a position to succeed someone has to say something otherwise it keeps happening...unless the coach just ignores it, which in that case....he'd be fired.
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Is That All There Is?

I'm going to tonight's Dodger game, and I'll be there on Thursday, too.  At this point, I'm somewhat inclined to root for the Rockies.  The Dodgers are out of the playoffs no matter what, and they will finish behind Colorado for the first time ever no matter what, so what difference does it make what the final record is?  If Colorado can get in, it means the Padres won't be playing in October, and I very much like the sound of that.  If it's blasphemy to root against the Dodgers, I'm sorry.  But it's not like they're making some big effort to prove they're fighting for even a little bit of dignity in the last week of the season.

I won't actively cheer the Rockies' players.  I will wear my Dodgers' hat, and I will cheer when we score.  But in the back of my mind, I won't be bothered too much when Matt Holliday hits another home run against the Dodgers to win the game.

Every player on the Dodgers seems to be phoning it in, waiting until next season, so why shouldn't I?  At 80-77, there's a good chance the Dodgers might finish under .500 this season, which just really be the icing on the cake.  One more win would ensure the .500 record, but I have no idea if the Dodgers can win one against the Rockies, or even against the Giants in the final weekend.

I will be at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, the final game of the 2007 season.  I'm willing to root for the Rockies, but of course the Giants/Dodgers games have no bearing on any playoff race, and you can bet I won't be cheering for Barry Bonds to hit a home run in his final game as a Giant (or perhaps his final game ever).  So, maybe the Dodgers can lose the next two to the Rockies, then sweep the Giants.  They'll finish the season, the one that began with so much promise, at 82-79.  Could be worse, I guess.

Coming up sometime soon, a final Pierre-o-meter and my pick for the Dodgers 2007 MVP (I don't know who I'll choose yet, but I've got some ideas, and I think I might just surprise you).  Maybe a final breakdown on the season, too, but I feel like I've said all that can be said, so we'll see.  For now, I'll be mourning the fact that I picked the Dodgers to go to the World Series this year.  Oh well.  At least I still have the Red Sox.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 09/26/2007 02:58:35 PM

Is it just me, or does Hope Solo have the world's coolest name for a gal?  Not only that but she is gut wrenchingly attractive and said she likes fishing :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Six to Go

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last few days.  My parents came to town and they've kept me busy, but I'm back and ready to deal with the remaining six games of the season.

After winning the first two games of the series against the Devil Rays, the Red Sox found themselves having problems (again) against Edwin Jackson.  Wakefield was on the mound against Tampa Bay, which should have worked to Boston's advantage, since Wake had only lost twice in his career against those Rays.  But, he picked up loss #3 on Sunday, as the Red Sox mounted a comeback against the Rays' bullpen, but fell one run short in a 5-4 loss.

So, the bad news is that we are right back where we started on Friday, with a 1.5-game lead over the Yankees.  The good news?  Well, for one, the Red Sox clinched a playoff berth, so we won't be missing the playoffs this year.  Also, we played three more games over the weekend, and there are only six to go.  The Yankees play today and the Sox do not, so the lead will either be one game or two going into the home stretch.

The Yankees finish on the road against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.  The Red Sox finish at home, but against arguably tougher opponents in Oakland and Minnesota (two with Oakland, four with Minnesota).  Neither team is playing for anything at all, which makes them even more dangerous.  And they're freaking me out right now.  Santana pitches on Tuesday, which sets him up to pitch the final game of the regular season against the Sox on Sunday.  Let's hope the division doesn't come down to that game, because I'll be ready to puke if it does (and I won't be able to watch it, either, since I'll be at the final Dodgers' game of the season).

Today's game between the Yanks and Blue Jays is important.  A one-game lead with six to go makes me want to pull out my hair and cry into my pillow, while a two-game lead with six to go is merely nausea inducing.  I was feeling confident a few minutes ago, until I learned that A.J. Burnett was scratched from the start.  I don't know why, but it does suck because Burnett has been doing well.  Litsch is starting in his place, and he's okay, but now I'm a little bit more worried.  We'll see what happens.


UPDATE:  The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, so I can go back to constantly being on the verge of vomiting, as opposed to succumbing to

full-blown panic attacks.  Now that's how I spell relief!


COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Artist

DATE: 09/24/2007 05:17:19 PM

Erin,

I've no specific comments on this post but just learned about this blog via a link at Dodger Thoughts.  I just had to give you big ups for doing a combined Red Sox / Dodgers blog. Didn't know anybody besides me had this same passion on the NL and AL sides.

Keep up the good work!
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AUTHOR: JJ

DATE: 09/24/2007 07:46:32 PM

The Sox have what is arguably the deepest pitching staff in the league.  No worries!  I'm not a Sox fan, but I sure wouldn't bet against them.  Even if the Yankees do catch them, they are still in the playoffs. I envy them.  
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AUTHOR: Brian

DATE: 09/26/2007 01:45:41 AM

Congrats Erin. Francona should be able to rest up the pen and set everything up for the playoffs now.
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/26/2007 12:08:58 PM

Artist, thanks for stopping by.  I like when I learn other people are just as crazy as I am.

JJ, the pitching staff is deep, but they need to play like they did at the beginning of the season (particularly the bullpen).

Brian, thanks, though it's not quite sealed up yet.  We all know anything can happen between now and Sunday.  But it is nice that the Sox can at least try to rest up a bit before the playoffs.

Dodgers Eliminated

Technically, the Dodgers could still win the Wild Card.  I'm not quite sure of the math, but it looks the Dodgers would have to win the remaining six games on their schedule, and then pray that San Diego loses all six, Philadelphia loses five of six, Colorado loses four of six and Atlanta loses three of six.  Because those four teams are all above the Dodgers in the Wild Card hunt.

It seems like just a little bit ago that the Dodgers were 1.5 games out of contention and could have conceivably made a run at the Wild Card this season.  But that was before a pathetic, painful seven-game losing streak that basically left the Dodgers for dead.  Meanwhile, Colorado has been playing exactly the way the Dodgers needed to.  The Rockies swept the Dodgers in a four-game set, then went on to sweep the D-Backs this weekend in a three-game set.  Suddenly, they find themselves 1.5 games out of the Wild Card lead, behind a suddenly struggling Padres' team.  I'd much rather see the Rockies get to the playoffs.  It's a better story, and the Padres are boring.

The Dodgers have never finished behind the Rockies in the standings, but it looks like this will be a year where "there's a first time for everything" rings true.  It's a shame, really, because this season started with a lot of potential.  But, in a Dodger organization that was so intent on holding onto its youthful prospects, those same prospects were faced with a lack of playing time early on, despite their production.  Why did it take so long to bench Nomar?  He was obviously not the same Nomar he had been in the past, and Loney was just ready to go, waiting in the wings.  Same goes for Ethier and Kemp.  Once those guys were alllowed to play, they performed to (and above) expectations.  But either Grady Little or Ned Colletti felt some sort of loyalty to guys like Gonzalez and Garciaparra, and so the young guys didn't play or were put in the lineup at seventh or eighth, inexplicably.  Don't want to offend the veterans, after all.

I don't know what the solution is.  I'm not a Grady Little fan.  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him go.  Look at the box score for Sunday's game and you'll see almost an "if only" look at the 2007 season.  All four infielders were the young guys, and they all drove in a run in the 7-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.  I'm not saying that we would have seen that production in every game all year, but don't you think it would have been fun to find out?

The Dodgers have six games remaining on the schedule.  I'll be attending three of them (Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday).  Of course I'll enjoy watching them play, but I know I'll already be looking forward to next year, when the young kids will (hopefully) be there from the beginning, and we'll all get to watch what they can do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

High Hopes

I don't know what I'm supposed to say about the Red Sox. Yes, their offense is struggling. Yes, the bullpen is struggling. The starting pitching is still doing well, so maybe that's a silver lining here. And now all the quotes coming from Red Sox personnel are about how now it's time for the team to show you "who's who" and what they're made of, and all of that.

I guess my only question then is, why now? Why did it take this long? I don't care that they had a 14.5-game lead in June or whatever. That doesn't matter now, and everyone knew the Yankees would start playing better eventually. They did, and all the Sox had to do was not fall apart. But they're doing exactly that.

I won't lie and say that I don't want the division this year, but winning the division doesn't mean you'll win the World Series. Just ask the 2001-2006 Yankees. The division title gives teams this year an extra day's rest in the first two rounds, and home field advantage would be nice. But, several of the last few world champions have not had home field advantage. Hell, many of them have limped in just like the Sox appear to be doing. So, the Wild Card would not be such a bad thing, I guess.

Still, though. The Wild Card is not assured. The Sox have to win three of their final nine games to clinch a playoff spot. The way they have been playing lately, it's hard to see when those three wins will come. Losing games happens, and teams go into slumps. Boston is picking one hell of a time to go into a slump like this, but it can be overcome. What I'm seeing, though, is not encouraging. I do not see a team that wants to win. A team like this year's Red Sox, after losing a series to the Yankees, should be able to come into Toronto and beat a sub-.500 team on the force of sheer will alone. The Red Sox should be crushing mediocre teams, demanding wins, holding the teams underwater, and not letting go until the opponent agrees to just give up already. But none of that is visible on the field.

They've been striking out a lot. They haven't been scoring runs. And the bullpen has been suffering. And every single time one of those things happens, it's almost as if the player involved just shrugs and says, "Ah, well, I'll get 'em next time." The "next times" are running out, though, my friends. And yes, I realize that they get paid whether they win or lose, so maybe it actually doesn't matter to them what happens. In that case, it's time to start remembering who pays the salaries around here. And that's me. And what I want is to see a team with a little fire in its eyes. I want some profanity-laced diatribes when a game doesn't go their way. I want screams on the field and hard slides and diving catches. And I want all of that right now.

I expect a great deal of this activity from Josh Beckett on Friday. He doesn't like to lose, and he's probably the most passionate member of the team. The problem is, he has to hope his team will man up against Tampa Bay and start hitting the crap out of the ball. Otherwise, the nine shutout innings he's bound to put up won't matter when the Devil Rays win the game on a grand slam off Gagne in the bottom of the tenth.

I fully expect the Yankees to sweep Toronto. Toronto wasn't playing spectacularly well. They just benefited from running into a team that has suddenly stopped caring. The Yankees still care, and you can bet Toronto will feel New York's will this weekend. Now it's just a matter of seeing if the Red Sox have any drive of their own.

I will, as always, remain optimistic. That's what we do as fans, right? Without optimism, we'd all find ourselves hitching a ride on whatever bandwagon comes along, and before you know it, everyone would be Patriots' and Yankees' fans. And no one wants to see that happen.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: JJ

DATE: 09/21/2007 09:33:00 PM

Another win tonight should seal the deal for Beckett to win the Cy Young.  I hated Beckett when he was a Marlin, but I will admit he's earned it. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

News

Dice-K and Schilling will both get extra rest as the Red Sox will essentially have a six-man rotation this week, much like the Yankees are apparently doing right now.  Clay Buchholz will make the start against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.  Is it too much to ask for another no-hitter?

Dice-K pitched well against the Yankees on Friday on with an extra day of rest, so we'll see how it goes in his next start, which won't be until Saturday against the Devil Rays.  Schilling has pitched well in his last few starts, so I guess the extra rest can only help.  He won't make his next start until a week from tonight, against Oakland, after the last off day of the season for the team.




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: JJ

DATE: 09/19/2007 05:45:49 PM

Buckholz has been impressive so far in his rookie debut. 

Here's a question for you.. Dice-K has improved his control and is winning, but do you think he has pitched to the level of his salary? 


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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/20/2007 05:19:05 PM

I like Buchholz, and it's a shame he was saddled with the loss last night.  He gave up two runs, and would have only given up one if not for his poor play defensively.

As for Dice-K, the guy is an enigma.  I don't like the $50 million the Red Sox had to pay just to talk to him.  But, if you ignore that, his salary this year is "only" $6,333,333.  I suppose I don't find that such a terrible number. 

I think we'll really know what he's worth next year.  He's had some good performances in his first season, but he loses his stuff very quickly and things unravel for him in an instant in games.  It's his first season in the United States, which could account for some of that.  Maybe it can be compared to a pitcher switching leagues within MLB (like Josh Beckett), and in that case, Dice-K might need more time to acclimate.

Or, he might never get used to the better hitting on this side of the Pacific, and things will only get worse next year. 

The problem with the "wait and see" approach I'm advocating is that he'll likely be pitching in the playoffs.  So, he'll either make adjustments by October or he'll continue to struggle and Sox fans won't be too happy about waiting until next year to see if the money was worth it.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Despicable, Part Deux

don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that, with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, Todd Helton just ended the Dodgers' season.

It has all been for nothing: all the wins and near-wins, all the comebacks and blowouts.  They amount to nothing because the Dodgers decided to start sucking, and they picked August as the month to do so.  All the potential with which the Dodgers began this season has gone down the drain, thanks in large part to a whole lot of nothing done by the management to make this team better when injuries began to plague it, and to a few really boneheaded moves by Grady Little (including consistently choosing to play failing veterans over promising young players).  The list of things that went wrong this season goes on and on, but the Dodgers' playoff chances are no longer.

Through all of this turmoil, a glimmer of hope has still existed in the fans' minds, who thought that Arizona and San Diego might falter, and the Dodgers might play just well enough to get in.  I'd wager right now that the flame has officially been extinguished for everyone.  Those still holding onto the tattered shreds of a chance are, frankly, insane.  This one is over.

It ended tonight in a pretty improbable way.  In a back-and-forth affair that saw the Dodgers on top 8-5 in the eighth, the Rockies answered with a two-run homer off Jonathan Broxton to make it 8-7, Dodgers.  Saito came in to pitch the ninth, gave up a single to Holliday, and then a home run to Helton.  Is it appropriate or merely heartbreaking that our two best pitchers delivered the final nails in this coffin?  I'll go with the latter.

9-8, Rockies.  The Dodgers lost both games of the doubleheader.  Quite different from what happened a year ago tonight, huh?  The Padres and Diamondbacks are winning as I write this, so with this Dodgers' loss, the Diamondbacks can go back to worrying only about the Padres, and the Padres can concentrate on the Phillies, who are nipping at their heels.

It's been a fun season, and I'll still be watching the last eleven games.  But, barring a miracle, when I stand up to applaud the team after the last out at Dodger Stadium for the 2007 season, it will be a "what might have been" sort of applause, as opposed to the best kind, which falls under the category of "I can't wait to see what happens next."


Pierre Watch:   3-5, 2 runs scored



Player of the Game:  Tony Abreu (2-5,  3 RBI, 1 run scored)


Record:  79-72

Despicable

UPDATE:  I object to the headline on ESPN for this game.  Gagne, BoSox cave vs. Jays.  Wrong.  The Sox didn't cave.  Gagne did.  As much as we like to make this a team sport, one man can lose a game on his own, and that is exactly what Gagne did tonight.  The bullpen didn't cave, the Red Sox didn't cave.  Gagne caved.

There are just...I have no words.  I'm still sitting here in disbelief, refusing to accept what I know I just saw.  The Red Sox fought to get a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jays, and they went into the eighth inning nursing that lead.  And then Terry Francona decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to see if Eric Gagne remembers how to pitch.  Sure, it's a one-run game.  The Yankees were in the late innings against Baltimore, winning 12-0.  If Gagne blew it, the Yankees would be within 2.5 games of the Red Sox.  This was obviously the perfect time to go to Gagne.  Why?  Let's look at what he's done to prove himself so far.  It's a little boring, but I think you need to see just exactly what has gone on around here.

Gagne pitched his first game for the Sox on August 2, 2007.  He gave up a run in that game, but the lead was big enough it didn't matter.  Same goes for August 4, 2007.  August 8, 2007, he gave up a hit and a walk, but no runs.  Then came August 10, 2007, against the Orioles.

Gagne came in to relieve Matsuzaka in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox up 5-1.  Here's what he did: double, single (run scored), walk, groundout, double (two runs score).  5-4, Red Sox.  Okajima let Gagne's inherited runner score to tie the game, and then gave up a sac fly in the ninth to give the Orioles the win, 6-5.  Okajima got the loss, but it actually belonged to Gagne.

Cut to two days later.  August 12, 2007.  Gagne came in, again in the eight inning, with a runner on first and the Sox up 3-1.  He gave up a home run to Tejada, which tied the game at three.  Snyder gave up a winning home run in the ninth to Millar, but, again, this was Gagne's loss.

On August 14, Gagne came in to the top of the 9th inning with the Red Sox losing 1-0.  He managed to only give up a deep double, and kept the Devil Rays down so that Lowell could get the winning home run in the bottom of the ninth.  For this, he gets his first (and only) win in a Red Sox uniform.

August 17, 2007.  The Red Sox scored four runs in the eighth off Francisco Rodriguez to take a 5-4 lead.  Gagne came in to pitch the ninth.  He got a fly out, then walked Kotchman and gave up a single to Figgins.  Cabrera hit a single, scoring one, and Guerrero doubled to score two more.  7-4, Angels.  Finally, Gagne got an official loss.

He pitched on August 22 against Tampa Bay and somehow managed to not give up a run.  He then pitched on August 24 and August 26.  In both of those games, the Red Sox had at least six-run leads.  On September 11, Gagne came in to the ninth with the Red Sox holding a 16-10 lead.  He gave up two singles to score a run before getting out of the inning.  Then came two appearances against the Yankees in which, miraculously, he did not give up a run, and only gave up one hit.

And then came tonight.  Burnett was dealing all night, and Lester managed to be equally effective after a shaky first inning.  Lester gave up one run in that first inning, and Burnett gave up a run on a Lowell single and Varitek double in the fourth, then another run in the fifth when Pedroia singled and Ortiz doubled him home.  Lester shut the Blue Jays down, and gave the ball to Delcarmen to get the final out of the seventh inning.

Gagne came in to pitch the eighth, and I really couldn't believe it.  He and Hinske combined to make a nice play to get Reed Johnson when he attempted to bunt for a hit.  Then Rios lined out to shortstop.  Gagne was looking like he might do okay, and then it just fell apart.  He walked Frank Thomas, which, in a one-run game, I didn't mind so much.  Then he gave up a single to Aaron Hill.  And then he walked Matt Stairs.  So, bases loaded.  Two outs.  He just needed one out, and Papelbon could pitch the bottom of the ninth.  One damn out.

Instead, he walked Gregg Zaun, and the tying run scored.  Then Russ Adams came in to pinch hit, and lined a double to right field.  Drew got there as fast as he could, but the ball was hit hard and went over his head.  Two runs scored, and the Blue Jays were up 4-2.

Lugo managed a home run off Burnett in the ninth to cut the lead to 4-3, but then Scott Downs came in and got Ellsbury to strike out looking to end the game.

There is nothing to justify putting Gagne in this game.  There is barely justification for putting him in a game with a six-run lead, but a one-run lead is just plain unacceptable.  Gagne should not ever, and I mean ever, pitch in a Red Sox uniform again.  He has shown zero room for improvement, and a complete inability to handle himself in close games.  He makes me sick.


Player of the Game:  David Ortiz (1-4, go-ahead RBI in the fifth)


Record:  90-62 (I count four games they would have won had it not been for Gagne. Think about how comfortable the A.L. East race would be if the Red Sox were 94-58 right now.)


Magic Number:   9

Dodgers @ Rockies, 9/18/07

I've been neglectful in my Dodger coverage the last few days, so here's what you need to know.  The Dodgers won two of three against the Diamondbacks this past weekend, but they still sit four back of Arizona in the West, and three back of San Diego in the Wild Card.

The Dodgers play two today against the Rockies to start a four-game set, then head to Arizona, then back to play the Rockies again at home..  Obviously, we're getting to the point where every game is a must-win.  But even winning every game might not be enough.  The Diamondbacks and Padres need to lose a few to help our  cause.

Today is the one-year anniversary of probably the best regular season game in Dodgers' history.  On this day last year, the Dodgers went into the ninth inning down 9-5 against San Diego.  What followed was beyond improbable, as the Dodgers hit four home runs in a row to tie the game, then lost the lead in the top of the tenth, only to hit another home run to win it in the bottom of the ninth.  It was a strange night for me, as there was a car chase on my peaceful West Hollywood street.  The chase ended when the perp crashed into my friend's car on the street.  There was a police helicopter outside broadcasting from a loudspeaker, telling the criminal they could see him in the bushes and he needed to come out with his hands up.  So, of course my girlfriend and I went outside to see what was going on.  When we went back in the house, the game was tied.  Pretty chaotic evening, to say the least.  Let's hope that the good karma from that game carries over today, on its anniversary.  The Dodgers need all the help they can get.


Chad Billingsley (11-4, 3.14 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (15-8, 4.35 ERA)


Here we go...
  • Furcal swings at the first pitch and pops it up.  That's the kind of lead-off magic we've been getting all season.  Pierre gets a full count and then walks, which makes Furcal look like an idiot for not even trying to work the count.
  • Kemp flies out to right on a 2-0 pitch.  I think he still should have been taking, since Francis was really distracted by Pierre over at first.
  • Pierre steals his 59th base of the season quite easily.
  • After a pitch-out, they decide to walk Kent to get to Loney.  Loney has been murdering the ball lately, so I really hope this comes back to haunt the Rockies.
  • It doesn't.  Loney pops out to shallow center. 
  • Furcal makes a nice jumping catch to record the first out in the bottom of the first.
  • Pierre struggles with a fly ball to center, but Pierre makes the catch in the end.
  • Billingsley strikes out Holliday on a sort of questionable pitch on the outside corner, but I'll take it.  It's been important this season to watch Billingsley's pitch count (though he's done well in his last few starts), so I'll tell you that the first inning took fourteen pitches.
  • Martin leads off with a little bloop single to center.  Turns out LaRoche is in the starting lineup today, which I like to see, so we'll assume Nomar will start the second game tonight.
  • LaRoche strikes out, which he seems to do pretty frequently.  He's young, so I'd like to believe he's working on cutting those Ks down.
  • Ethier flies out to left.  Two outs, runner still on first, and the pitcher at the plate.
  • Billingsley strikes out swinging.  Through two, Francis has thrown 31 pitches.
  • Helton grounds out to second, then Atkins grounds out to short.  Brad Hawpe strikes out.  Two innings, 32 pitches for Billingsley.
  • Sometimes Furcal really does not look like a major league player.  He swings and hits a ridiculously weak grounder that barely makes it back to Francis.  He's out, and speaking of guys who I'm not sure should be in the majors, here comes Pierre.
  • I'll admit it, Pierre had a pretty good at-bat there, and it ended with a single through the hole on the left.  One on, one out, Matt Kemp at the plate.
  • Kemp hits it up the middle, and the Dodgers have a little something going here.  Runner at first and second, Jeff Kent coming up.  Kent is 8-16 against in his career against Francis (explains the walk earlier).
  • Kent hits a ground ball and just barely beats the throw at first.  Kemp is out at second, so now it's runners at first and third, two outs, and Loney batting.
  • Loney strikes out swinging on a nice curve ball.  Three innings for Francis, 55 pitches.
  • Torrealba leads off the third with a single to center.
  • Nice double play turned on a ground ball off Quintanilla's bat.  Billingsley almost ruined it by reaching out for the ball, but he missed it and the ball went right to Furcal.
  • The pitcher works a full count but grounds out to Furcal.  Three innings for Billingsley, 45 pitches.
  • Martin walks to lead-off the inning.  He doesn't need to spend all day at first, so let's see if the next batters can at least move him over, if not get him across the plate.
  • LaRoche might need to have a sit-down with Bill Mueller, the pitching coach.  LaRoche strikes out looking and here comes Ethier.
  • Ethier strikes out looking on three pitches, though the third one looked a little outside.  Billingsley is up, so the Dodgers are probably going to leave another runner on base.
  • Wow.  Billingsley hits a 3-1 pitch to right field for a single.  Color me surprised.  But, Furcal is up next.  He needs to get a ball out of the infield right here.
  • Furcal hits a ground ball, and the pitcher slows it down before it gets to the shortstop, who steps on second for the out.  Don't know if the ball would have gotten through without the pitcher touching it, but I doubt it.  The Dodgers have now left seven men on base through four innings.  Francis has thrown 76 pitches.
  • Sullivan hits a double to lead off the bottom of the fourth, then Tulowitzki lines out to Loney at first. 
  • Holliday hits a single up the middle to score Sullivan.  1-0, Rockies.
  • Helton strikes out swinging.  Two outs in the fourth, runner still on first.
  • The last batter (I'll figure out his name in a minute) strikes out swinging.  Nice job by Billingsley.  That lead-off double was a broken bat flare that barely landed fair, so that was some tough luck.  Four innings for Billingsley, 67 pitches.
  • Holliday makes a nice sliding catch on a ball hit down the left field line of Pierre's bat.
  • Kemp strikes out swinging.  Francis has six strikeouts on the day.  He's a pretty good pitcher, but the Dodgers have had some chances and just haven't taken advantage.  His top fastball is only 88 mph, so you'd think the Dodgers would be hitting him better, but I guess baseball is just like real estate--location, location, location.
  • Kent strikes out swinging for Francis' seventh strikeout of the game.  88 pitches for Francis, so maybe the good news is that we'll be into the Rockies' bullpen soon.  I don't know anything about the bullpen, but odds are they aren't as good as Francis.
  • Billingsley allows his first walk of the game to Brad Hawpe.  Time for another double play.
  • Wow.  The ball three call was a really nice pitch with a lot of movement.  Sure looked a strike, but maybe it confused the umpire.
  • Just what the doctor ordered.  Torrealba swings and misses at strike three, and Hawpe is thrown out trying to get to second.  Two out, nobody on.
  • Billingsley is struggling with his control against Quintanilla.  3-1 count, and none of the balls have been close.
  • And ball four was nowhere near the plate.  Quintanilla gets a walk.  The pitcher is up, which is a good thing in the sense that it's an easier out, but a bad thing because it means the top of the order will be up in the sixth.
  • Of course, Billingsley has gone to 3-1 on Francis...but he gets to 3-2 and then strikes him out looking.  Six strikeouts for Billingsley.  Five innings, 90 pitches.  I think we'll see him in the sixth, since the bullpen shouldn't come in unless necessary on a doubleheader day, but I hope he can get his control a little better when he comes back.
  • Let's see the Dodgers make Francis throw a few pitches in this inning.  The pitch count is getting up there.
  • Two pitches and Loney grounds out weakly to first.  One out.
  • Martin rips a double just inside third base, and now LaRoche is coming up again.  We're one batter away from Billingsley here, so I guess, barring a two-run shot from LaRoche, or a three-run bomb from Ethier, Billingsley will be coming out of the game.  Vin is telling me someone is warming up in the bullpen.
  • I don't know what to tell you about LaRoche.  He swings at misses at both fastballs and off-speed stuff.  I don't think he's made contact (even a foul ball) yet.
  • Oops.  Spoke too soon.  LaRoche just fouled a pitch behind the plate...and then he swings and misses.  Three strikeouts.  You're killing me, LaRoche.  Now it's up to Ethier.
  • Ethier swings on a curve ball that was way outside, and I do my best not to yell at the screen.  Guess Billingsley will remain in the game, and they'll get a pinch hitter to lead off the seventh.  It would be kinda dumb to take him out here, but this is Grady Little we're dealing with, so anything goes.
  • Billingsley is still in the game, and Sullivan hits a nice pitch down the right field line for a double.  Not a good start for Billingsley if he wants to keep pitching.  Mark Hendrickson and Rudy Seanez are warming in the bullpen.
  • Kemp makes a great play on a sinking ball to right field.  Sullivan advances to third, maybe mostly because Kemp tripped as he was getting up after making the play.
  • They decide to walk Holliday to get to Helton, who is the lesser of the two evils, I guess.  This could prove to be trouble.  Grady is pulling Billingsley.  I hate to see that after an intentional walk, I really do.  Why do you let the starting pitcher walk the last batter he faces?  Can't you give that stat to the next guy, since you obviously knew you were pulling the starter?  It just doesn't seem right, but Grady does it a lot.  Anyway, here comes Hendrickson, a lefty, to face Helton.
  • It was a double switch, so Abreu is in at third base, and he'll bat ninth, meaning he'll lead off the next inning.
  • Helton gets a hit to right field, and I really think Kemp should have caught that.  He was playing deep, as outfielders do at Coors Field, but Kemp hesitated.  He just made a diving catch earlier, and we know he has speed, but he slowed up on the ball and it dropped just in front of him.  2-0, Rockies.
  • Billingsley's final line:  5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks.  He could have used some run support.
  • Atkins grounds into a 5-3 double play to end the inning, but the damage has been done.  How about some runs, Dodgers?  You know you can't really afford to lose this game, right?  You can't split this series.  You need to win it.  So let's get it started right now.
  • Jeff Francis is still in the game.  For no reason that anyone would be able to explain, Grady has Olmedo Saenz on deck to pinch-hit for Furcal.  Saenz had a few big hits early in the game, but he's been worthless lately, since everyone knows the only thing he can hit is a fastball.  This is September.  There are many, many people on the bench.  You could use Hillenbrand, then move Abreu to short and put Hillenbrand at third.  Or you could use Sweeney.  Where is Saenz going to play?  It's a two-run game, and you're worried about getting Furcal out to rest?  I know he was struggling to hit the ball, but how about defense?  It's a two-run game!
  • Ugh.  Abreu grounds out to second base.
  • Jesus.  Am I supposed to take back everything I just said?  Saenz takes a change-up, of all pitches, and launches a high homer to left field.  I didn't think it would get out, since it was so high, but it did.  Unbelievable.  Maybe all it took was my diatribe against him.  2-1, Rockies.
  • You can't expect Pierre to keep a rally going, and he lives up to the expectations, striking Pierre out looking.
  • Kemp is coming up, and Francis will leave the game in favor of Latroy Hawkins.  Great performance for Francis today.  Hawkins is 2-5 with a 3.40 ERA, and has given up two earned runs in his 5.1 innings of work so far this month.
  • I do love Matt Kemp.  He takes Hawkins' second pitch and hit it down the right field line for a double.  Here comes Kent, who really has a chance to put the Dodgers in the lead with one swing.  Come on, Kent.  Pull a Saenz for me!
  • Damn.  Jeff Kent just missed tying the game with a ball down the right field line.  It just bounced on the foul side, just barely.  3-2 to Kent, two outs, tying run on second.
  • Son of a bitch.  Kent grounds out to second base, and the inning is over.  With that out, the Dodgers may have wasted their best chance to win this game.
  • Hawpe leads off the seventh with a single off Hendrickson, and here comes Proctor.  If this team wants to give me any hope at all, this needs to remain a one-run game.
  • Torrealba lays down a sac bunt.  One out, runner on second, and a pinch hitter coming up for the Rockies.  Some September call-up named Joe Koshansky.
  • Awesome, awesome job.  Koshanky hits a ball to the base of the right field wall, scoring the run.  The ball bounced all the way back to the infield, but the kid didn't pay attention to his third base coach, and stopped at second.  He could have had a triple, easily.  3-1, Rockies.  This is pathetic.
  • And then Proctor hits the next pinch hitter, Ian Stewart.  I swear, sometimes I watch this team play and wonder why I ever believe they could make the playoffs.  They seem to have no passion, and then they come out and win big games like against the D-Backs and Padres last week.  Perhaps the young guys are what make them so inconsistent, but I don't know.  Proctor and Hendrickson are not young.  Analyzing this team this season seems to be pretty much impossible.  Still, it's a two-run game and the Dodgers have six outs to go.  It's not impossible, but the Rockies need to be set down here, and the Dodgers need to show a little fire already.
  • Sullivan hits a fly ball to center for the second out.  The runner at second advances.  Runners at first and third, two outs, Tulowitzki batting...and Proctor walks him on four pitches to load the bases.  Nicely done.  Remember how all these games are must-wins?  Now Holliday is at the plate.  This sucks.
  • Loney suddenly looks like a very ordinary guy.  He grounds out weakly to second to lead off the eighth.  This is not the way rallies begin.  Martin is next, and it looks like Nomar will be after him, in a pinch hitting role.
  • Martin strikes out swinging, and Nomar comes up.  Even if he manages a home run, we're still down, since no one feels like getting on base anymore.  Vin is noting how many bad at-bats the Dodgers have had today, and I'll add that I've certainly noticed that as well.
  • But, hey, a promo for the second fleece blanket night at Dodger Stadium!  It's on September 27, and I'll be there.  I missed the first one, which had the much nicer looking blanket.  My mini ticket plan didn't include either game, so I had to buy bleacher seats (front row) for this one on the 27th.  I'm excited.  The Dodgers have six home games left, and I'll be there for three of them (more, if I feel like seeing another game during the last weekend of the season).
  • Nomar grounds out to second.  Great, great inning, guys.
  • Beimel is in for the eight, and gets the first out on a nice play by Loney on a ground ball.
  • Beimel strikes Atkins out swinging.  Two outs.
  • The last batter, whoever he is, flies out to left field.  Three outs remaining for the Dodgers.  Up to bat are Ethier, Abreu and Valdez (who I think must be replaced with a pinch hitter.  I don't know why he's in the game.  Was there a double switch I missed?  Did he run for someone?  Strange.).
  • Ethier takes a ball, then grounds out to first.  These Rockies' relievers are not that good.  The Dodgers' hitters are better.  Where is the effort here?  There are twelve games left after this one.  When you lose this game, you will be screwed for the playoffs, and there will be calls for Colletti's head (as well as Grady's).  Show me something, for Christ's sake!  Of course, Abreu is at the plate and Sweeney will be pinch-hitting next, so expect a perfect inning for this closer.
  • As if on cue, Abreu grounds out to third.  Here comes Sweeney.  God, there were a lot of wasted opportunities in this game.
  • Sweeney flies out to center, and the game is over.  16 wins for Francis this year (3-0 against the Dodgers this season).  This game disgusted me.

In two and a half hours, David Wells versus Mark Redman.


Pierre Watch:  1-3, 1 BB



Player of the Game:  Chad Billingsley, I guess.


Record:  79-71



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/18/2007 04:01:01 PM

I don't know...I have to think the best regular season game in Dodgers history might have been when Koufax threw the no-no against the Cubs or when Jackie made his debut...
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/18/2007 04:05:26 PM

Jackie Robinson's first game was definitely the best moment in Dodgers' history.  But I actually don't know much about the game itself, so I'm not sure it, as a whole, qualifies.

Any no-hitter is in the running for the title, so we'll call last year's game the best one from an offensive standpoint.
-----

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/18/2007 04:21:17 PM

Deal.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm Back


**Half the links in this post are broken.  Nothing I can do about it.  Sorry.**

At Cobra Brigade this morning, Jack put up a post about the feud that has been going on between me and Brian.  Things got a little heated, and you may have wondered where I've been since Saturday.

The truth is, I had to take a step back for a little bit.  If the Red Sox had won on Sunday, you still wouldn't have heard from me until now (and without Jack's post, you might not have heard from me at all).  It has nothing to do with being "fair-weather" or "delusional."  It has more to do with me trying to figure out just what I'm doing here.  In the comments section of that Cobra Brigade post this morning, SML talked about how the whole Sox/Yankees rivalry (and yeah, I'll call it a rivalry, even if the Yankees always win, because the definition of the word refers to the actual competition, not the results) has ruined the fun of being a Yankee fan.  And that feeling is exactly what's been going on with me in the last few days, though I'm feeling it for slightly different reasons.

I'm all for good-natured ribbing and joking around between fans of opposing teams.  When it turns hostile, as these Sox/Yankees feuds often do, it's not fun anymore.  And while I'm sure Brian wasn't interested in personally attacking me, that's sure what it felt like.  And it's made me wonder if this is all worth it.  In life, I can, and do, ignore a Yankee fan who is berating me endlessly.  But this blog network is a different story.  Do I really want to write a post everyday if I feel like I have to respond to the next "clever" nickname that Yankee fans come up with for members of my team?  Does that make the game fun for me anymore?

The short answer to that is "no."  And yesterday I was literally ten seconds away from publishing a post that essentially announced my resignation from Red Sox blogging.  I would have continued writing about the Dodgers, but I wanted to go back to just watching the Red Sox games and being happy to see my team play.  Lately, I've been filled with a sense of dread, not because I'm worried they might lose some games like they have, but because I've had to worry about the next jab to which I will feel compelled to respond.  And that's no way to spend a day.

But I didn't hit that "publish" button yesterday, and I'm not going to quit today.  But there won't be any more feuding, if I can help it.  Brian can write the way he does, and I will continue to write the way I do.  I realize feuding might be fun for the readers, but it's making me insane, so I'm throwing in the towel.  If you want to read about the Yankees and also vote on what Papelbon's new nickname should be, or discuss ad infinitum the reasons that Kevin Youkilis has female anatomy, then please read up over at Depressed Fan.  You'll have fun.

It sucks to have lost two to the Yankees, but it also would have sucked losing two to the Devil Rays while the Yankees won two against Baltimore.  The point is, it sucks to lose, period, this late in the season, especially when it costs you games on your lead.  The Red Sox may lose this A.L. East lead, or they might just barely hold on.  If they get to the playoffs, they might make it to the World Series, or they might lose in the first round.  Anything can happen.  The sure bet is that it will be quite the roller coaster, and I'm ready to get back to enjoying the ride.

Oh, and I just want to say, guys, that we really need to work on better ways to insult male athletes.  Is the worst insult to a man really to call him a woman (by calling him "Nancy" or referring to his injury as "sore labia")?  That's ridiculous.  It shouldn't be insulting to a man to have these nicknames hurled, but it is quite insulting to women, especially since I'm the only one around here who would know how difficult it would be to play baseball if one had a sore labia.  Trust me, it would be painful.  You know when you pull an ab muscle, and then you go to do something and you think, "I had no idea I used that muscle for this activity until right now"?  It's like that.  Seriously, though, let's work on some new material.

I'll be live-blogging the Dodgers/Rockies game in about an hour, just in case anyone other than me is interested.





COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 09/18/2007 02:53:20 PM

Thanks for sticking with it. I don't think I realized how serious things had become. I look forward to your Red Sox coverage the rest of the season.
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/18/2007 02:57:44 PM

Thanks Jack.  I realize I was probably overreacting, since we are just talking about a game here, but my sanity was starting to waver slightly, so I'm just going to work on getting the "fun factor" back.  Part of that, obviously, is me learning to not take everything so seriously.
-----

AUTHOR: Brian

DATE: 09/18/2007 04:07:20 PM

Erin,

In all fairness, the Nancy nickname goes back to his Dodger days, and was imposed by Dodger fans (it may go back further, this is the earliest reference I can find with a quick google search.

Listen, I'm sorry if you took offense, but saying you're delusional for thinking the Sox are a better team isn't really a personal attack so much as an attack on your team. And calling you a fair-weather blogger when you have plenty to say about the one game the Sox win in the series, and little to nothing to say about the two they lose isn't exactly an unfair statement either.

But what do I know, I'm just a "typical asshat," a comment which preceded anything I said personally about you, I might add.

If my calling Youkilis a girl is distasteful to you, I apologize. Of course, I find it a tad distasteful that you've been insinuating that I have homosexual feelings for him, so I guess we're even on that score.

No one has taken the high road here, and no one should. We're talking about sports for fuck's sake. Fan is derived from fanatic. I take the Yankees way too seriously, I write about them every day, for pleasure. That's not normal. Of course I'm going to rub some dirt in it when my team beats yours, just like you do when the tables are turned.

There's nothing personal about this, beyond the fact that I think anyone who willingly roots for the Sox has a few jumbled chromosomes.

I'm sorry if this little "battle" of ours has taken some of the joy out of watching/covering the games for you. I actually look forward to seeing how you're going to rip me a new one whenever I'm wrong (which happens quite often). I don't know, maybe I'm a sadist.

Anyway, I'm glad you're going to keep following the Sox and if you do happen to read my Yankee coverage, please keep in mind that my comments are directed at the entire "nation," not you directly.

Love,

The Asshat
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/18/2007 04:28:58 PM

Yeah, sometimes I'm a hypocrite.  No question about it. 

I'll be reading your Yankees' coverage, of course.  I just don't know how often I'll be responding, because it can turn crazy for me very quickly.  Of course, maybe I'll learn to lighten up a little bit.  Sometimes I can give as good as I get, so maybe your sadistic needs will be filled again before you know it. :)
-----

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dodgers Push Winning Streak to Four Games

Things are getting very interesting in the National League West these days, and the Dodgers are making it very exciting to watch.  With a win on Saturday, they might have started to make Arizona a little nervous, as the Padres are now only two behind (thanks to their win in against the Giants) and the Dodgers sit 3.5 games back.  In the Wild Card, things are even tighter.  San Diego is still in the lead, but the Dodgers and Phillies are both only 1.5 games behind.  This one might just go down to the wire.

The Dodgers have spent the last few games doing their part to stay in the race.  After taking the final two against San Diego earlier in the week, they have won the first two against Arizona, and have a decent chance at a sweep on Sunday.  That's when things might really start to get crazy out at Chavez Ravine.

Derek Lowe took the hill on Saturday, after missing his last start because of a game of catch with Jonathan Broxton.  I guess the extra rest did Lowe some good, because the Diamondbacks really couldn't manage anything against him.  He scattered four hits over seven innings, giving up one run (a long, long solo home run to Tony Clark in the seventh), walking one and striking out five.  It was a great performance from Lowe, and it was nice to see that he still has one in him this year after all the problems he's had thus far.

The Dodgers' offense got the job done in the first inning before Livan Hernandez shut the door, and that was pretty much all they needed  to secure the win.  Hernandez struggled mightily in the first, allowing this sequence: single, stolen base, walk, single (one run scores), home run (three runs score), single, pop out, ground out, foul out.  At the end of the first, it was 4-0, Dodgers.

Hernandez stopped the bleeding after that, only allowing a single and two walks over the next four innings, before giving up a solo home run to Andre Ethier in the sixth inning.  Hernandez didn't come out for the seventh inning, when the Dodgers able to score one more run to make the score 6-1.

Beimel came out for Lowe in the top of the eighth, and immediately gave up a double to the leadoff hitter.  He got a ground ball next that should have been at least an out, if not a double play, but Garciaparra bobbled the ball and everyone was safe.  Then Beimel gave up another double to score a run.  After Stephen Drew fouled out, Broxton came in to relieve Beimel.  Broxton got Byrnes to foul out and struck out Tony Clark to end the inning.  Proctor pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two to finish the game.

Loaiza is pitching against Edgar Gonzalez.  The Dodgers should be able to hit Gonzalez, but Loaiza is scary.  He needs to pitch a hell of a lot better than he did his last time out, and Grady needs to have him on a much shorter leash.


Pierre Watch:
  0-3, 1 BB, 1 run scored



Player of the Game:  Rafael Furcal-- 2-4, 1 BB, 2 runs scored, 4 SB (25)


Record:  79-69

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Red Sox Win, Yankees Lose

I was called delusional yesterday for believing in my team and remaining optimistic by stating that the loss was just one loss, and it didn't mean much.  Maybe other Sox fans were just blowing smoke when they eschewed positivity like that, but I meant it.  I knew the one thing we didn't need to do was assign too much to just one game.  There are 162 in the season, after all, and the Sox have played pretty well for a good chunk of those.

Sure, the bullpen (specifically Okajima and Papelbon) got knocked around on Friday.  But that happens.  That one loss, though, made Yankees' fans so happy that they immediately claimed a psychological edge over the Red Sox.  That was somewhat laughable, but I needed the Red Sox to come out on Saturday and prove me right.  And to do so, they would have to go against the Yankees' number one pitcher.

Luckily for the Sox, they had their own ace on the mound, in the form of one Mr. Josh Beckett.  And Beckett did not disappoint.  In fact, he was downright dominant, and Wang was very much not.  The Red Sox got to Wang for five runs in just 5.2 innings, and it should have been more.  But, I'll take it.  Are the Yankees the better team, as Brian posited yesterday?  I don't think so.  

And here's why: the Red Sox were absolutely demoralized on Friday.  The Yankees were in control, had the so-called psychological edge, and were ready to win the rest of the way, doing their best to push the Red Sox out of the East lead, and maybe even out of the playoffs.  A win Saturday for the Yankees might have deflated the Sox fan base and the team itself.  They had their ace on the mound, and their hitters were ready.  And what did the Yankees do?  They hit the ball four times, once for extra bases.  They were outplayed from the very beginning (after the glow of Jeter's home run, the only run the Yankees scored, wore off).

If you want some numbers to make you think twice about the Yankees being the better team, I've got them for you.  Yes, the Red Sox bullpen sucked on Friday (but not on Saturday).  They choked bigtime, and there is no denying that.  But what about the starters?  What do their numbers say about this series so far?  As you look at the numbers, remember that these are the #1 and #2 starters for the Yankees that we're talking about.


Red Sox starters:  12.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 14 Ks  (2.21 ERA)

Yankees starters:  9.2 IP, 18 H, 10 ER, 5 BB, 8 Ks (9.78 ERA)


Just so you don't think I'm ignoring the bullpen numbers, here they are:

Red Sox:  5.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks  (10.59 ERA)

Yankees:  7.1 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 7 BB, 12 Ks  (8.87 ERA)


Overall, the Red Sox pitchers so far have a 4.50 ERA, and the Yankees' pitching staff has doubled that with a 9.00 ERA.  Sure makes those Yankees seem like the better team, huh?  The Red Sox offense has also outhit the Yankees 25-16 in the first two games, and outscored them 17-9. 

Obviously, all of these numbers could change dramatically by Sunday's game.  I just wanted to point out that a psychological edge sure looks different than I thought it would.

Yankee fans wanted Saturday's game.  They wanted to beat the Red Sox best while watching the Red Sox lineup look silly against Wang.  Turns out that things went exactly the opposite direction of that plan. 

Hey, just for kicks, head over to read Brian's post about why this loss is actually a good thing.  It should make you chuckle a little bit (it gives you a bigger laugh if you keep in mind what he might be saying if his team had won the game).  But hey, if Yankees' fans want to claim to be content with the Wild Card, the rest of us are fine with that.  At least this way we know for sure which fan base is delusional.  And we'll all be satisfied to see the Yankees lose in the first round anyway.

When I wrote about this series before it started, I said that the
Yankees would probably win on Friday, the Red Sox would win on
Saturday, and Sunday's game could go either way.  I guess that makes me 67%
correct so far.

Oh, and when Youkilis got hit, I knew I would see a picture of him (and a glowing write-up about the incident) here.  It's getting a bit obsessive.  Someone might have a little man-crush.


Player of the Game:  Josh Beckett (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks)


Record:  90-59


Magic Number:  9



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Brian

DATE: 09/16/2007 03:22:45 AM

I take issue with the man-crush statement, mainly because Youkilis is in no way, shape or form, a man. By the way, did you know he's hitting .247 since May? I'm sure he cries himself to sleep at night about that.

I like the stats you chose to use here. I guess it's a compliment that you're comparing the ERAs of Sean Henn, Ron Villone, Ross Ohlendorf and Brian Bruney to Okajima and Papelbon. You're absolutely right, though. The Sox now know that if the Yanks bring any of those guys into a playoff game, they have a pretty good shot at scoring some runs. Just like the Yanks know they own Papelbon and Okajima.

By the way, in their last 5 appearances against the Yankees, Okajima and Papelbon have given up 11 earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.

So yes, if your starter gives you a great start and the Yankee starter has a bad game, you can probably be confident that you're going to win that game. (Boston's starters ERA against the Yankees is 6.06 on the season, including Beckett's gem today, so I don't think you can bank on quality starts out of that group.) If, however, you're playing a close game, are you confident that Papelbon and Okajima can get the job done? If you say yes, you are indeed delusional. I don't think even Papelbon and Okajima themselves could honestly say yes at this point.

So, the Yankees have routinely beat up on Boston's starting pitching (the aforementioned 6.06 ERA) and they've beaten up on the back end of the bullpen (the aforementioned 11 earned runs in 4.1 innings of work). So the odds are that they're going to put plenty of runs on the board and even if they're trailing late in the game, they have an ace up their sleeve because the Sox can't close a game out against them. I'd say that's a pretty solid psychological advantage.
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/16/2007 12:14:27 PM

Your own post claimed that the Sox were riding on wins early in the season.  Apparently, those games don't matter then, right?  So I'm not using the stats.  I'm talking about these two games, and specifically Saturday's, the one that the Yankees really wanted to win to prove their superiority.  And they couldn't do it.

Just like you, I don't care what happened earlier in this season.  I chose to use these stats because they're the ones that matter.  The Yankees can take the Boston starters' 6.06 ERA and cry themselves to sleep on it after they lose the East.

As for our bullpen, I'm not worried. And call it delusional if you want.  I don't know about Okajima.  He's the one who's given up most of those eleven runs you noted.  He's probably tired, and he was over-performing early in the season anyway.  But Papelbon is solid.  He's given up a solo home run to Rodriguez earlier in the year, and two runs on Friday.  That's it.  That his total collapse against the Yankees.  Three runs.  Rivera gave up four runs in one game to the Red Sox earlier in the year.  I  bet you'd trust him, though, huh?  If Sunday's game is a one-run game in the ninth inning, I want Papelbon in the game, and I won't even think twice about it.

None of it matters anyway.  Assuming the Yanks can hold on to the Wild Card, they'll lose in the first round and the Red Sox won't have to play them.  Let them "own" Papelbon and Okajima tonight if it makes them feel better.
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/16/2007 02:25:13 PM

The truth is, the numbers say a lot of things, and many of them are in the Yankees' favor.  They've been the better team offensively this season, but their pitching has failed them.  But the only numbers that matter right now are the records, and the Red Sox have the best of that one.  And that's really all I care about.  If they meet in the playoffs, however unlikely I think that is, nothing about the regular season will matter.  If you believe in psychological edges, you have to believe the Red Sox have one, too, because no matter how hard the Yankees have tried, and how badly they've beaten the Red Sox, they just haven't been able to catch up.
-----

AUTHOR: Brian

DATE: 09/16/2007 03:35:18 PM

So to sum up your arguments:

1. The Sox have a better record, ha ha

2. Someone else is going to beat the Yanks anyway

3. What happened in the past doesn't matter (unless we're talking about the Sox record, which is better. Did I mention that?)

4. Okajima is tired, but Papelbon isn't, even though he was throwing 91 MPH the other day and got lit up like a Christmas tree.

5. The Yankees must demoralized because they only shaved 10 games off their deficit and turned a dismal season into a playoff berth.

Sox fans definitely aren't delusional, I retract all previous comments.
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 09/16/2007 05:39:22 PM

1.  Yep.  Ha ha.
2.  Indeed.  And it will be fun to watch.
3.  The numbers in the past don't matter.   That was your big point about the early season for the Sox.  I merely agreed, and stated that the only number that matters is the record.  And the Sox record is the best one out there.
4.  Okajima is tired.  Pap had a bad night.  It's the only night his velocity has been down thus far, and I guarantee it will be better the next time around.  After all, you were allowed to be optimistic after Rivera blew a couple of saves this year, right?
5.  The Yankees' fans were convinced they would win yet another A.L. East title this year.  Getting into the playoffs isn't enough, and if I had told you at the beginning of the year that you would only (maybe) get the Wild Card, you would not be happy.  It's fine to change your tune once things don't go your way, and then convince yourselves that all you really wanted was a playoff berth any way you could get it, but we all know the truth.  You know as well as I do that it should have never been a dismal season for the Yankees to begin with, so I guess you can be proud for underperforming and still (maybe) making it to the playoffs.  Congrats.

You call it delusional, and I'll call it optimism.  I checked with a few people to be sure, and it turns out I'm still allowed to be happy about my team having a 5.5 game lead with thirteen games to play.  You had me confused for a bit, and for a while there I thought I was supposed to turn on my team because they lost a game.  Good thing I figured it out.
-----

AUTHOR: Brian

DATE: 09/16/2007 06:16:18 PM

You see, here's the funny thing. The Yankees team you see right now is nothing like the Yankees team you saw back in April and May. That team had significant injuries to its rotation, no cohesion in its bullpen, it was old and it was not performing. That's why the Yanks had a .420 winning percentage on May 29th.

Since then, the Yanks have owned not only the Sox, but pretty much the entire league. Their winning percentage has been .643, the best in baseball. They've reworked their roster, and they are a better team now.

Boston, on the other hand, had a .706 winning percentage on that date. The best in the game. Since then, they've played at an adequate .551 winning percentage, but they have become a worse team. Youkilis has hit under .250 since that date, Dice K's perfomance has been dismal, to say the least, the only significant move they made (Gagne) has actually hurt their team more than helping it.

So you can point at the overall record and take solace in all of those wins you pile up early in the season, but in all honesty, the only thing you can really do is cross your fingers and pray that someone else knocks the Yankees off either before or during the playoffs, because they are, in fact, the better team right now. Who was the better team in May doesn't really mean much.

Winning the division is obviously preferred, but getting to the playoffs is the only thing that matters. That's true at the beginning of the season and at the end. I don't judge a Yankee season by their seeding at the beginning of the playoffs, rather by how they finish once they get there. That's always been the case.