Monday, July 21, 2008

A Mixed Bag

This post was written after the drama explained in the above post.

Given all the drama I created with my last post, I probably should have just spent today writing about Sunday's games. Much safer territory. And, at least with regard to one of my teams, much more pleasant, too.

But we'll start with the bad news. The Angels swept the Red Sox, and Boston's road struggles continue. Not a good weekend, especially since every game pretty much followed a pattern. The Angels took an early lead, the Red Sox came back to tie and/or take the lead, and the Angels fought back in the later innings to get a lead and hold onto it. Neither the offense nor the defense looked particularly terrible, so it's hard to point to any one thing as a reason for the losses. They just happened, and the best we can do is hope the Red Sox can have a better time in Seattle than they did back in May, when they lost two of three.

As for the Dodgers, they had a great weekend. In all three games against the Diamondbacks, they fought back after going down early, and that's just something we haven't seen a lot of from this team so far this season. The starters each gave up three runs in the first inning of their respective games, but Kuroda is the only one who didn't settle down from there. The bullpen performed spectacularly, and the offense came through late, though they did fall short in Saturday night's game. Still, nothing but positives to take away from this series, which is good news going into a series against the suddenly hot Colorado Rockies. Arizona is welcoming in the Cubs, so you'd have to think the Dodgers have the advantage here.

Sunday's game for the Dodgers was extra fun, since they went into the ninth inning down 4-1, but ended the game on top 6-5. Some great at-bats, a bunch of hits, and a bobbled double play ball all added up to five ninth-inning runs, four of which came with two outs. Broxton was a bit shaky in the ninth, and gave up an RBI single to Stephen Drew before finally shutting down the Diamondbacks. And with that, the Dodgers moved back into a tie atop the west.

Stults is making a start tonight against Kip Wells in Colorado. For the Sox, Lester is facing Washburn.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Listen, it's always fun to go to a baseball game. But I think we can all agree that it's much more fun when your team doesn't get destroyed, as the Red Sox did on Friday night in Anaheim.

It started off badly, when Buchholz gave up three runs in the first inning. But then it got a little better, when Youkilis smoked a two-run homer just inside the left field foul pole (the ball landed maybe twenty feet from me), and then Ramirez led off the fourth with a solo shot to tie the game at three.

Buchholz seemed to be settling down, until the sixth inning, when the wheels just completely came off. I don't want to get into details, because they're depressing, but Buchholz sucked, and then the bullpen didn't really help matters, and the final score was 11-3, Angels. Not cool.

It didn't get much better on Saturday. I didn't see any of the game, but I heard a lot on the radio, and it really seemed like Beckett was dealing until the seventh inning. The Sox had a 2-0 lead going into the inning, and Beckett had allowed the Angels only one baserunner until that point (Figgins, who led off the game with a double but didn't score). But Guerrero led off with a solo homer. Two hits, a sac bunt and an intentional walk later, Aybar hit a triple down the right field line, and the Angels suddenly led 4-2. The Sox got two on with one out against Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth, but both Ramirez and Lowell popped up, and that was that.

I've now gone to Sox games in Anaheim five years in a row, and I really feel like they've lost virtually every game I've seen down there. I don't know the real stats, but maybe one day I'll look them up to see what kind of damage I've done by appearing at the games. What I do know is that the Sox might suffer against the Angels in the regular season, but the Angels seem to get the worst of it in the postseason. I'll take that.

Now the Sox sit 1.5 games behind the Rays in the A.L. East. Not great, but we still have plenty of time left in the season. Tonight (on ESPN), the Sox will play their 100th game.

As for the Dodgers, they were in first place for a day, and now find themselves a game back, thanks to a split in the first two games of the series against the Diamondbacks. The Friday night game was a doozy, which I basically had to keep up with on the out of town scoreboard at Angel Stadium. I saw the Dodgers go up 3-0 in the first inning, then fall behind 4-3 after the bottom of the first, then 6-3 after the bottom of the second. The Dodgers scored twice in the third to make it a 6-5 game, then the Diamondbacks added another run, and it was 7-5, Diamondbacks.

Kuroda definitely didn't have anything for the Dodgers, but I guess the lucky thing is that the bats responded and took care of Doug Davis. And after solo home runs from Garciaparra and Kemp, in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, the Dodgers found themselves in a tie ball game. The bullpen pitched nine total innings in this game, giving up one run on seven hits, walking three and striking out eight. It was a great performance from those seven guys (Johnson, Beimel, Falkenborg, Kuo, Park, Wade, Broxton), but it would have been for nothing if not for a great defensive play from DeWitt in the bottom of the ninth. I still haven't seen video, but it sounded exciting on the radio. With the winning run at third, Ojeda hit a ball down the line, which DeWitt backhanded, then spun and fired to first to get the out.

That play allowed the game to continue, and Loney, who had gone 0-3 until that point, led off the eleventh inning with a solo home run to give the Dodgers an 8-7 lead. Broxton came in for his first save opportunity since Saito went to the DL, and he did not disappoint. Delwyn Young made a good catch in left field for the first out, and then Broxton struck out the next two guys to end the game and give the Dodgers the win, as well as a piece of first place in the division.

Saturday, they gave the lead back to the Diamondbacks. Billingsley was a bit shaky in the first, and gave up two runs, then allowed another in the fourth. He threw a lot of pitches (114 in 5.2 innings) and just couldn't match up to Dan Haren's performance. The Dodgers mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth, but left the tying run standing on third.

Today it's Derek Lowe versus Brandon Webb, so expect a lot of ground balls, and possibly a Dodger loss. The offense rarely scores for Lowe, and that becomes a much more difficult prospect with Webb on the mound. So, unless Don Mattingly has some magic formula for the hitters, this could be a tough one.



Buchholz warms up before the game. Perhaps he should have taken a bit more time.


Papelbon signs a few autographs (none for me, though).


I was seated in the front of the section straight down the left field line. For some reason, the closer you get to the bullpens, the lower the seats get (or higher the wall gets). This is the eye level view from my seat. See how you can only sort of tell where home plate is, just barely above the top of the wall? Yeah.


Smoke covers the field after fireworks that followed a Garret Anderson home run. I always think that's a stupid thing for a ballpark to do.


Manny Ramirez.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Rifle, My Pony and Me

Baseball came back yesterday, but the four games played did not interest me in the least. So, officially, the break is over today. And tonight I go to Anaheim to see the Sox play the Angels, so expect posts from me on that game, as well as the Dodgers' game against the Diamondbacks (I'll have my eye on it tonight, of course), tomorrow morning.

When I was in Texas, I drove about 35 miles west of Marfa to a little town called Valentine. We had driven around this town last year when we were in Marfa, and it was kind of cool. The town is essentially abandoned, though people do appear to live there. There are homes from the early 1900s that are still standing, though they are probably not safe to live in. None of the roads are paved. But last year I saw something that I wanted to come back and take a picture of this year, mainly because of one of my loyal readers.

This scared the crap out of me the last time, and we drove out of town quickly after seeing it. I was a little scared this time around, too, especially because as soon as I pulled to a stop outside the property, I heard three large dogs begin to bark. So I snapped the photo and hit the gas.



It may be a little hard to read, but that's only because I couldn't get any closer. If you've been reading this site, I'm sure you can guess for which reader this picture was taken. If you can't guess, don't worry. I bet he'll be commenting on it soon enough. The sign reads "Armed American citizen: nothing behind this wire is worth your life!"


COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine
DATE: 07/18/2008 06:47:57 PM

What you fear, I do abide. When the clutch of fight takes you, there are tears of joy. Weep friends, for the beauty we know now is but fleeting. God made all men, Samuel Colt made them equal. Hallelujah!
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Marfalicious

Am I having fun in Marfa?



Yes. Yes I am. Okay, technically that picture was taken inside the visitors' center at the McDonald Observatory, but still. Close enough. Guess who else is having fun in Marfa? My dog.


Today was a good, good day. We took a scenic trip up to the observatory, which is in the Davis Mountains, about 45 miles from Marfa. The telescope there is the fifth largest in the world. The mirror inside is 362 inches. It's insanely big. In this picture, it appears to be only about three times my size, but don't be fooled.


So, the Red Sox won last night in a pitchers' duel at Fenway that ended 1-0 in favor of Boston. And in Los Angeles, Hiroki Kuroda came close to a perfect game against the Braves. I saw part of the Sox game because it was on ESPN, but I didn't know anything about Kuroda's game until this morning. No matter. Tonight I listened to the Sox come-from-behind victory against the Twins (thanks to a four-run eighth), and I'm keeping my eye on the Dodgers while listening to the bugs and birds and whatever else is just outside my screen door. Here's where I am right now (though it's much darker at the moment than this photo indicates).


To take it one step further, this is the town of Marfa. Or at least the main drag, including the beautifully restored Presidio County Courthouse (built in 1886).


And the road north of town, which leads to the town of Fort Davis and the observatory, and, much further away (both physically and in spirit), I-10, which will eventually take us home.


Here is a beautiful pose of me, trying on the girlfriend's cowboy hat while driving.



One of our last stops of the day was a truly strange place in Fort Davis, run by some pretty creepy guys. Inside, we looked at snakes. Lots of snakes. I was afraid to take a picture of the guys, so all I have for you is an exterior shot.


And finally, a shot of the girlfriend and me, which we took at a picnic area on the mountain road up to the observatory. Scenic, no?



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: SoSG Orel

DATE: 07/09/2008 11:41:20 PM

Cute puppy!

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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine
DATE: 07/16/2008 07:03:31 PM

I have written four times more posts in the last week than you have, your vacation better be unfrickingbelievable.

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AUTHOR: Erin
DATE: 07/16/2008 07:04:41 PM

I was literally seconds away from posting the new one. Just refresh the page.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Road Trip Part Two

Well, here I am in Marfa, Texas, the greatest place on earth. Seriously. Saturday was about a 450-mile drive through Texas, but it was well worth it when we finally pulled into the driveway of our rented casita. I listened to the Red Sox and Yankees on the radio on the way, and heard the Red Sox lose. That didn't matter once I got to Marfa. Then I saw that the Dodgers' bullpen had blown a 2-0 lead, and the Dodgers lost to the Giants. But I was on my way to see the Marfa Mystery Lights (call me a kook, but if you come and look at these things, you'll walk away a believer; I was a skeptic once, too), so I didn't care so much about the Dodgers losing, even if a win would have meant a half-game lead in the division.

This is not to say that I've stopped caring altogether. It's just hard to get worked up about one game when one is in such a laid back place. Should both teams go on losing streaks this week, I may find it all the more difficult to maintain my composure, but I'm sure it will be easier than it would be if I were in L.A. But I'm sitting here in the Marfa Book Company, finishing this blog so I can go play catch in the park with the girlfriend and the dog. So life is good.

On to the pictures. They can only be so big on the site, which is a shame because there is some really beautiful scenery here. Hopefully you get the idea.

First of all, no road trip is complete without a trip (or five) to DQ.


I am obsessed with abandoned gas stations, so here are a few I stopped to capture along the way.

A Phillips 66 in Stamford, Texas.


An abandoned gas station in the seemingly abandoned town of Sylvester, Texas.


A burned-out Texaco at the intersection of TX-70 and Farm Road 2903.


And finally, a few views from the front porch of my casita.




And a view of the sunset, from a few blocks away from the house.



Yanks and Sox finish up the four-game set today, with the Yankees looking for a split, and the Sox looking to win. It won't be easy with Joba Chamberlain on the mound, but let's hope Wakefield is on his game, and the Sox give Joba a run for his money. In San Francisco, the Dodgers are finishing up the series with the Giants today, with Eric Stults taking on Matt Cain. The Dodgers have been on a bit of a roll lately, and a win today would mean the third series win in a row. And if the Diamondbacks lose again, it could mean a division lead.

Rest assured, I will post more pictures a little later in the week. There is an amazing photo opportunity around every corner here. It might not be sports related, but hopefully it's somewhat entertaining.


COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine
DATE: 07/07/2008 03:06:59 AM

The little town I am from is the kinda town that is only big enough for a Dairy Queen. No McDonalds, no Burger King, no Subway, and that suits me just fine. God made the Oreo Blizzard to help Bruce Paine get through losing another Little League championship. I was enough of a guts player to get my teams to it but not a good enough player to win it. Always the bridesmaid I suppose. Back in the day, DQ had this thing going where you could get a hot fudge sundae in the helmet of a MLB team. This was about 22 or 23 years ago. I collected them all in about a month of ice cream headaches. I wouldn't have been able to do it if my older sister didn't have her driver's license. Anyway, my mother still has them and when I was in high school I kept the Dodgers helmet, my first little league team, in the cup holder of my 1983 Oldsmobile Royale. When I would go in to DQ to eat I would take the helmet and fill it with pickles while I waited for my food. Anyway, that was a really precious thing to me. You have really taken me back in my mind. Thanks.

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AUTHOR: SoSG Orel
DATE: 07/08/2008 01:37:27 AM

Wonderful pictures, Erin! I can almost hear the tumbleweeds drifting by.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Road Trip Part One

Greetings from Wichita Falls, Texas. This is the halfway point between last night's stop in St. Louis, and the place I'll be for the next week, my favorite place on earth, Marfa, Texas.

St. Louis is only about five hours from Chicago, so it was a pretty easy first day. We pulled into town about four hours before the Cardinals and Mets were scheduled to play at Busch Stadium, which was right across the street from our hotel.

The girlfriend took a few nice shots of the Gateway Arch as we pulled into town. It's a great piece of architecture, and pictures don't do it justice, so if you find yourself in St. Louis (which would sort of be unfortunate for you, since the town as a whole sort of sucks), check it out.
We stood in line for a while, waiting to check in at the front desk. There was only one woman working, and it was taking some time to get it done. But that turned out to be to our advantage, because of who showed up in line right behind us. Turns out our hotel is the same one that most out of town teams use when they play the Cardinals, and so as the girlfriend and I stood there talking about the evening's plans, I realized that the man who had just walked up behind us was none other than one Mr. Johan Santana. So, at about the same time that Jon Lester, one of the players Theo Epstein floated as part of a possible trade for Santana, was pitching a five-hit shutout of the Yankees, I was telling Santana that I would be rooting for the Mets at the game that night because I had met him. His response was a friendly, "yeah, whatever" as he posed for a picture with me. He was a very nice guy, and quite handsome. I almost felt guilty for once writing that I didn't want him on my team. Almost. He was with Endy Chavez, though I wasn't quite sure it was him until later. But, really, does anyone need a picture with Endy Chavez? Both me were dressed very nicely in their suits, for the record. I was impressed.

We headed over to the game shortly thereafter, hoping to catch some batting practice. The clouds were ominous, but we had high hopes.


Just before the rain started, we got someone to take a picture of us from a spot near our seats.
After that, we took a walk around the park, and then got a hot dog, just in time to be completely drenched by a torrential downpour. The game was delayed by a little more than 30 minutes, meaning that I experienced my first official rain delay at a MLB game. They didn't have the lights on until about a half hour before the game actually started, which gave the whole stadium sort of an eerie feel until the clouds cleared a little bit.

After enduring the rain delay, we headed back to our bleacher seats. Here is an illustration to show you where we were sitting, which was almost in straightaway center:


And finally, a shot of the stadium during the game, with the lights on:


To bottom line it, Busch Stadium is gorgeous. It's just a beautiful, beautiful park, and it has a good all-around feel to it. We only stayed for half the game (because we went to check out a casino in town), but it was still a great time. If you have to go to St. Louis, this stadium and the Arch are worth seeing. More tomorrow, after we arrive in Marfa!


COMMENTS:


AUTHOR: SoSG Orel
DATE: 07/05/2008 12:11:54 AM

I bet Johan Santana went to his teammates and said, "Guess what? I just took my picture with Erin from Beantown West!"
Great pictures! Looking forward to part two.
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine
DATE: 07/05/2008 03:02:35 AM

You are where the rubber of being a fan meets the road of sports enthusiasm.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_Lion
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 07/06/2008 09:10:36 PM

Very cool! My Sister was born in Wichita Falls while my Dad was stationed there in the AF.

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AUTHOR: SoSG Alex Cora
DATE: 07/16/2008 09:34:49 PM

Great picture with Johan - he is a sharped dressed man. Are you going to hit Dyersville Iowa, home of the Field of Dreams?

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