Saturday, August 12, 2006

Manny extends streak, propels Sox to huge 8-7 victory in 10.

What was shaping up to be a bad loss turned into a miraculous win for the Sox when they erased a 4- run deficit after 6 1/2 innings and scraped out a run in the 10th. Unfortunately, due to Fox'
regional coverage, I guess they calculated that there are more Stankee fans in the Tampa Bay area than Red Sox, so we got the Angels/Stankee game instead of this one. I had to track the game online, and when I saw that score after the Orioles scored 2 in the 6th, I was pretty worried. As I'm sure most everyone in the Nation was.
Soon-to-be released Jason Johnson (0-3, 7.20 ERA in 5 starts for BOS) was up to his old tricks from the start, allowing 2 runs in the 1st on 3 singles and a double, then 3 more in the 4th on 2 singles, a double , a walk & a wild pitch. But thanks to the suddenly red-hot Mirabelli, who hit an RBI single in the 2nd, and solo HRs by WMP (speaking of red-hot) and Coco, the Sox were only down 5-3 at the end of 5.
That's when things got wild. In the top of the 6th a walk, a bunt single by Corey Patterson, and a single by stud rookie Nick Markakis loaded the bases with one out. Exit Johnson, enter "Gasolina" Tavarez and IF I had been watching this game, I would have been covering my eyes.
Tavarez got Chris Widger to fan, but then lit the match and gave up a 2-run single to Brian "Sox Killer" Roberts, and that manageable 2 run deficit suddenly became an unsightly 4 runs. Thanks, Julian, another brilliant relief job. When is Tito going to stop throwing him out there in pressure situations?!
Just as things were looking bleak, the Sox came up with one of those magical Fenway innings, where if you're sitting in the stands and close your eyes, you think you have died and been transported to baseball heaven on a wave of exuberance and emotion. It started out innocently enough, with Papi fanning and then Manny, who hadn't extended his streak at this point, draw-ing a walk. After Youk flied out, it was looking more and more like this would be a lost Saturday at the yard. But then Mike Lowell singled, and that pushed Manny to second. Up steps WMP,

who has 4 HRs & 2 3Bs in the past 10 games, who promptly scorches a ball to the triangle that eluded Patterson, in raced manny & Lowell, and suddenly the deficit was only 2 again, 7-5.
Now comes the Special Fenway Moment. Before the crowd could even get back in their seats, Mirabelli crushes one into the Monster Seats for a game-tying 2-run bomb that erased an afternoon of frustration and might have just rejuvenated this staggering club. Of all people to be carrying this team right now, of course you expect Manny & Pai to be there, but to have Willy Mo and 'Belli step up like this has been just huge. WMP was just a SINGLE AWAY FROM THE CYCLE. This kid is an animal. I repeat what Nation members from Cohassett to Long Beach are saying right now: BRONSON WHO?
Now we're all tied up and it's just a matter of how to finish them off. Cuz you know they're not going to give this one back up. The pen stepped up and held the Birds scoreless for the final 3 frames, including an easy 2k 9th from Paps, which set up the dramatic finish in the 10th.
It started badly for B'More, as Bruce Chen walked Loretta and Papi. With Kappy in to run for Loretta, Man-Ram came to the plate with his 25 game hit streak in jeopardy and the game on his broad shoulders. What does the league's best second banana do? Calmly hit a single to right that skipped by LF Brandon Fahey's glove as Kappy raced home and the Old Ballyard erupted with cheers and sighs of relief mixed in with the "Dirty Water".
So the Sox remained 3 in back of the Stanks, who took care of the Angels, and they are 2 behind the Chiosox for the WC. 5 more days until the Showdown that might decide the race for the division. Bring on the Stanks.


Mourning the Passing of Chicago Bob

Robert "Chicago Bob" Allen, 4/10/42 - 7/20/2006
Although it has been a couple of weeks now since Chicago Bob passed away suddenly from brain cancer, I had not started this blog, so I wanted to pay tribute to the man who "never met a stranger".
Bob was a one-of-a kind individual, as everyone he came in contact with will attest to. He was gregarious, hilarious, and one of those peole who always put a smile on the faces of those around him. I was fortunate enough to have worked with him for five years at Video Group. I can remember when I first started, he and Joe were the old veterans of the place (heck, they were the old veterans in most places!), and I didn't know how they would receive me or how I would fit in. Joe had his crusty exterior that prevented anyone from getting too close to him, but Bob was always friendly and told me not to worry about him. After Joe showed his true colors (he's really a teddy bear, but doesn't want anybody know it), we all immediately hit it off, and the three of us became pretty inseparable. I guess it was because they saw a younger version of themselves in me that they took me under their wing, but whatever the reason, for the next 5 years we had some terrific times: liquid lunches at The Corner; an all-day bender on St. Patty's Day in 2004 that nearly got us all fired; and listening to Bob's funny tales, jokes, & anecdotes that always had us laughing, no matter how many times we heard them.
Bob was the life of any party, and if there wasn't a party, his prescense alone would create one. He always had a joke to tell and a Budwesier nearby, but most importantly he truly loved all of his family & friends. He was a real "guys guy", a Vietnam War vet, hard partier and avid golfer; of course women loved him as well. I know for a fact that without the love and care of his wife Barb he would never have made it as far as he did, due to his penchant for wanting to stay out all night pounding Buds, being hit in the forehead with 2x4's, and eating urinal wafers!
Myself, my son, and my wife all cried heavily the night we heard that "Bubba" had passed. Although he had lived a very full and rewarding life, it was still much too soon and way too quick to have someone as special as him taken from our lives. He is a man I will never forget, and will never meet anyone similiar. He was an American institution to those who knew him, and his memories will live forever in all of us. But as Joe reminded everyone at the service, Bob would want us to celebrate his life, not mourn his death. And in that case, everytime I give a fist bump, or raise a cold one to my mouth, I will always think of Bob.
R.I.P. Bubba. I love you, man.


Sox get back on track with 9-2 drubbing of O's

Ah, just what the doctor ordered after a tough road trip- a date at Fenway Park with the hapless Baltimore Orioles, whom the hometown team had beaten 14 out of 15 times.
This night was no different, as the Sox exploded for 7 runs in the third, highlighted by RBI singles from Man-Ram, Lowell, WMP and Javy (In Your Face, Angelos) Lopez, and a two-run triple by Alex Gonzalez. That turned out to be plenty of runs for the invigorated David Wells, who easily threw his best game in a LONG time with a line of 7IP, 9H, 1R, 1BB, 4Ks.
Manny got things started right in the first when he singled off Miguel Tejada's glove to score Coco and extend his hitting streak to 26 games, the longest streak in the league currently and second only to PHI Chase Utley's 35 gamer for the longest in MLB this season. Although they blew a chance to break the game open right there when WMP struck out with the bases loaded, the more than made up for it with the 3rd inning explosion; the 7 runs scored in the inning wrere the most in one inning this year by the Sox (I know, hard to believe, especially when the Rays hung a 10-spot a few weeks ago).
The game was marred by a scary incident in the first when O's hurler Adam Loewen hit Lowell with a fastball to the noggin, sending him to the dirt and causing the raucous crowd to go eerily silent. Not only would the tough third baseman remain in the game, he would go on to make a terrific catch diving into the stands to snare a foul pop and also knoced in a run in that huge 3rd inning. Glad they didn't get rid of him at the deadline, although Peavey would've been nice to snag while he's having a down year.
All in all a good rebound game for the Beantowners; the Stanks got throttled by the Angels at the Stadium, so Boston now trails by 2 games, and the 5 game series with the Stanks is looming larger & larger in terms of deciding wheather they will be vying for a wild card berth (again) or that coveted Division crown.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Bucs look solid in Pre-Seas Opener

It was nice to have a night off from the stress of the pennant race with a good ole' meaningless pre-season NFL game. The Bucs (or at least a reasonable facsimile of the team) took on the NY J-E-T-S, who actually seemed to take the game seriously for a quarter and 1/2 or so. I mean, they played Chad Pennington into the second quarter, and I think Laverneus Coles had more receptions than he had in his first season with the Redskins.

But even though Chad and the Jets were treating the game as if their jobs were on the line (oh, wait a minute, they were), they could not penetrate the Bucs Red Zone defense. The Jets marched straight down the field on their opening drive, but after getting to the TB 36 yd line, they had to settle for a punt. Too bad the Bucs first drive was amnemic, featuring a false start penalty on Michael Clayton and a personal foul facemask call on rookie stud OL Davin Joseph.They didn't make it past their own 26, and that was all we would see from the first string. Well, we didn't see ANY of Cadillac or Galloway , so take what you will from that drive.

But the next drive produced the first points of the game, as backup wannabe Tim Rattay drove the team 73 yds in 15 plays leading to a Matt Bryant 25-yd FG and a 3-0 lead.

By now things were starting to get pretty dull, but luckily my buddy JT has sweet seats 5 rows from the field, so we had something to take our mind off the actual game:

When action resumed, the Bucs second & third stringers were in the game, and they actually performed fairly well. QB Bruce Gradkowski more than held his own against the Jets garbage-timers, going 11-13, 104 yds & 2 TDs. 2006 draft pick WR Maurice Stovall (3 recs, 21 yds, 1TD) looked good, and 2005 pre-season phenom Ernest Graham ran for 69 yds and had 37 yds receiving; the Bucs outgained New York on the ground, 167- 44.

All in all a decent showing for the preseason; Simms and the starting O didn't do much, but draft picks Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood and Stovall all held played well, especially with Joseph & Trueblood getting the surprise starts and leading the rushing attack (Joseph also recovered 2 fumbles by Happy Feet Pittman). Graham made another push for more carries in the regular season, and A-Train, who was relgated to being the player on a preseason ticket, ran hard in his cameo. Just your typical meaningless preseason game, unless you're an NFL coach, Fantasy Football geek, 3rd-stringer or degenerate gambler.


It's Official: Panic Time

Schill ties A.L. record for most XBH's allowed as Sox are swept in K.C., 5-4.

Well it has come to this. Not even the Devil Rays and Royals can offer salvation to the sinking ship that is known as the Boston Red Sox nowadays. The Beantown Boys limp back to Fenway tonight having completed a wretched 1-5 road trip against the aforementioned bottom feeders of the A.L., and even though the Orioles await, the way they are playing right now it wouldn't matter if they were playing the '62 Mets.

Last night followed a pattern that is becoming all too familiar for members of The Nation: get a lead early, take it into the late innings, then blow it and suffer an excruciating loss. Just in the past week alone they have had the lead 6 times and ended up losing the game - 6 times in one week, to Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and K.C.! Ouch, babe! Last night was more of the same.
Mirabelli didn't need a police escort as he returned after missing 4 games with a sprained ankle, but he did provide an early 1-0 lead with a mammoth 3rd inning HR off starter Runelvys Hernandez. But you knew it wouldn't be enoughtonight, because even though Schill was pitching okay, locating his pitches(of his 107 pitches, 76 were strikes), he wasn't the dominant pitcher that he needed to be in this crucial game; how do I know? HE GAVE UP 10 EXTRA BASE HITS (9 doubles, 1 HR). Yes, you read that right, 10 XBHs to the Royals. He became the first Boston hurler accomplish that feat since 1957, and tied the AL mark set by Dale Gear in 1901 and El Tiante (w/ CLE) in 1969 .
After Emile Brown homered in the 6th, the score was 2-1 K.C. and the Sox needeed a spark if they were to avoid an embarrassing sweep. That spark would come from our boy Willy M0 (Bronson Who?) Pena, who hit another titanic blast (429ft.) to straightaway center with Lowell & Youk aboard to give the Sox the lead back, 4-2, through 7. (If WMP keeps hitting moon shots, batting over .300, and playing an above-average outfield and Arroyo, who hasn't won since June 19th, keeps floundering then The Nation might let the Sox brass off the hook for that trade).

Schill had been lucky enough to escape serious damage all night despite the parade of 2-baggers, and with the condition of the bully right now, he and Tito had no choice but to leave him out there for the 8th. I mean who are you gonna briing in? But it was eerily reminscent of Grady leaving Pedro in too long that fateful night in the Bronx, because you knew Schill had been skirting trouble all evening, and he had to be tiring in the damp, humid KC evening. But he trudged out for the 8th, and that is when the wheels came off for every member of The Nation.
Back-to back doubles by Sweeney & Teahen got one run back. Reggie Sanders then hit his 3rd double of the game to plate the tying run, and all of a sudden the good feelings disappeared and were replaced by that all-too-familiar feeling for RSN: dread.
What came next was a "things are definately not going your way" moment that would seal ther fate of this game and the road trip: Massive 1st baseman Ryan Shealey hit a little squibber back to the mound; Schill touched it, but couldn't come up with it, and as it rolled into no man's land near short and the winning run scampered home. Those who were not members of The Nation in the crowd cheered wildly and, the then we witnessed the ultimate indignity, WAVING BROOMS signifying the Royals flushing the Bostonians out of their city. Ironically that hit turned out to be KC's only single of the game. And it signified the crumbling of hopes in Beantown.
The Royals had their first sweep of the Beantowners at home since 1991.
If they can't dispose of these lesser teams, how on earth are they going to defeat the red-hot Stanks (although they lost to the Chisox last night) and Detroit, the two teams they face after the B'More series? Things could get ugly in the nation- Boomer Wells is on the mound tonight.
I'm glad I'm going to the Bucs preseason game!


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Time to Panic for RSN?

Sox lose another heartbreaker to lowly Royals, 5-4.
Another night, another blown lead and wasted chance for the Red Sox. They were pretty desperate for a win last night, having lost their last 3 games, to the Rays and Royals, and with Josh ("Gopher Ball") Beckett on the hill, a victory was no sure thing.
But thnks to a monster 1st inning 2-run homer by Man-Ram, which extended his hitting streak to 24 games, and a clutch @-run double (finally) from Javy Lopez that made the score 4-0 in the 4th, it looked as though that win would become a reality.
Alas the only thing that is a reality for the Bosox right now is poor pitching and blown leads, and that is what followed, starting in the bottom of the 4th.
That inning featured three Royal hits (the big blow a 2-run double by the immortal Mark Teahen) , 2 wild pitches and a passed ball. Now we know that no one can replace Captain Tek, but Javy, c'mon- you whined about not being allowed to catch in B'More, then you come here and proceed to look like Josh Bard did trying to catch Wake's flutterball. Sure he's still getting used to the pitching staff, blah blah blah, but hasn't he ever caught a 95mph heater in his career? He did catch Smoltz for a number of years, correct? He's going to HAVE to step it up if they have any hope of staying in this race. Oh yeah, his passed ball led to the third run of the inning, and all of a sudden it's a 4-3 game .

Meanwhile the Sox were squandering opportunities on the basepaths, tiwce grounding into double plays with the bases loaded (Loretta & Pena). Beckett exited after the 6th, having thrown 103 pitches, 67 for strikes. His line- 6IP, 6H, 3 (2ER) 0BB, 5K's and, most importantly, NO HR"S ALLOWED. For a man who has given up 23 of his 31 homers this year away from Fenway, that is cause for a celebration. Except there would be no celebrating, because here comes the beleagured Boston bullpen. Mattapan Manny Delcarmen entered first, and he actually pitched pretty well, for 2/3 of an inning. Then came Timlin, who has been like pure gasoline lately (4 HRs allowed in his past 5 inns), but this time he put out a couple of fires and kept the Sox in line for the win with 1 1/3 of 1 hit ball.
So they entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4-3 lead. I was at the Meltdown at The Trop on Sunday, when Paplebon blew the save by allowing a HR to Dionner Freakin' Navarro, so no way he gives up a one- run, 9th- inning lead tonight, right? Just three days later? Right? Wrong! As soon as you can say "nofreakingwaythisishappeningagain", the truly immortal Esteban German, he of the three career triples, promptly tags one into the gap that Coco misjudged or misplayed into , you guessed it, a triple. Now the Royals had the tying run on 3rd with no outs. Yikes! Okay, just just mow down the next three, end the rally, and take it to extras. Unfortunately, these times are tough even for the fireballing rookie sensation; he promptly surrendered a flyball, and Manny did his best Johnny Demon impersonation, throwing a wormkiller to the plate- next thing you know, tie score, blown save, and then that familiar feeling of dread was creeping into every member of the Red Sox Nation.
Still all Paps had to do was get two more outs to send it to extras. But in the midst of this slump (can we call it that now?) even Mr Automatic is coming up short. After Gathright struck out (shocker!), "Eye Chart" Grudzielanek smacked a double over Manny's head that looked like a home run but died at the wall, and the winning run was on second with with two out . Up to the plate steps Mike Sweeney, he of the balky back who had just been re-activated over the weekend. He promptly nails a 95mph heater to, who else, Man-Ram, who couldn't get the ball out of his glove, or else he was just tired of having so many balls hit his way in one inning, so he didn't even bother to attempt a throw home. Around comes Eye Chart to score, and the Sox have lost four in a row to the scourge of th A.L., fallen 3 games behind the Stanks in the East and 1 1/2 out of the Wild Card. Yes, there is cause for alarm in The Nation.
Good thing Schill is on the hill tonight, because they NEED a win desperately in order to stop the slide, restore some confidence, and hopefully stay within striking distance of those Stanks. Tough times, but we're used to it.