Tagged: Jon Lester

Live long and strikeout

Interesting start we’ve had to the season. A couple of ninth-inning rallies by home teams, a couple of 11-inning games won by road teams…I caught the end of Diamondbacks-Rockies, because I can’t resist an extra-inning game. Heard the Rockies announcers refer to Ian Kennedy as having a “Vulcan changeup”, which actually makes perfect sense but still sounded hilarious. As usual, I kept a scorecard for the Sox’ opener, ugly as it was. Let’s rate the debuts of their newcomers, huh?

Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-4, 3 RBI): A. Drove in three of the first four runs, played good defense at first, and even his outs weren’t horrible.

Matt Albers (1.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB): B+: First man out of the pen when Lester couldn’t get through the sixth, he came in with two on and one out and managed to strand all the inherited runners, then got the first out of the seventh. Don and Jerry were saying that he’s a guy who can go multiple innings if needed. Better still, all three outs came on ground balls. I like a guy who can come into a tight spot and induce a double play as well as eat up innings.

Dan Wheeler (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB): C: Long outs are not inspiring. Wheeler faced only two batters and retired them both, but doesn’t exactly get much confidence.

Dennys Reyes (0.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB): F: Apparently he’s the new lefty specialist, brought into today’s game to neutralize Josh Hamilton. And neutralize him Reyes did: Hamilton walked on four pitches. S***, I could do that.

Carl Crawford: (0-for-4, 3 K): F-: Apparently, Crawford is horrible against lefties. Have the Red Sox really been without a decent lefty for so many years? Because it seems like he always killed us. Four plate appearances, and no results. A single in any one of them would have gotten him his first RBI in a Sox uniform as Jacoby Ellsbury was in scoring position all four times–even a long fly ball would have done it on the first two, with Jacoby at third with only one out. Nothing. Anyway, Streak for the Cash decided to do a prop on the result of Crawford’s first at-bat–the usual “Hit, Walk, or Strikeout” vs. “Any Other Result”. Not realizing that Crawford was in a bad situation with the matchup with Wilson, I went the optimistic route and chose the former. It was the only at-bat in which Crawford didn’t strike out, instead hitting a weak liner to short. Crawford, you even fail at failing.

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Time to make the predictions?

I’ve been keeping busy with other sports–and some non-sports entertainment–over the offseason, so I’m not 100% dialed in to the goings-on of baseball, but nonetheless, it’s time to at least make an attempt at predicting things.

AL East: As per usual, the AL East is quite possibly the toughest in all of baseball, and will likely be the source of the Wild Card. Now, I know that I am not unbiased, but I believe the Red Sox will take the division due to the depth of their rotation. When it was announced that Daisuke Matsuzaka would miss the start of spring training due to injury, I wasn’t really worried, because for all that he cost to get, he’s basically the Sox’ number 4 now, behind Beckett/Lester/Lackey (arrange these three however you like, although that’s probably the order I’d put them), and they’ve got Buchholz and Wakefield behind that, so even without Dice-K, they’ve still got a solid 5-man rotation. The Yankees and Rays should both still be in the division race up until the final week, though, and either one could end up as the wild card–it comes down to the Yanks’ aging veterans vs. the Rays’ unproven youngsters, particularly where the rotations are concerned (although the Yanks also have some unproven youngsters at the tail end of the rotation). Baltimore, for some reason, is optimistic about this year, while Toronto is known to be in a rebuilding year, so I’ll say that the Jays finish in last place and the Orioles in fourth.

AL Central: Another three-team race. I’ll give the edge to the Tigers, but I wouldn’t give anyone in this division more than a 35% chance of reaching the playoffs–the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox are that close.

AL West: A definite mystery. The Angels have definitely taken a step back and fallen back to the pack, to the point that I’m pretty sure I heard one person on the radio call the West a three-team race between the A’s, Rangers, and Mariners at one point during the offseason. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, though–it’s still the Angels we’re talking about here. The Mariners definitely made great strides during the offseason, trading for Cliff Lee and signing Chone Figgins as a free agent, but I’m worried they still don’t have enough star power to make it last–I’m not even really sure who their 3-5 starters are, and the lineup is decidedly small-ball. Then again, who in this division really does have serious star power?

NL East: The Phillies are still the class of the NL and should be able to make it four straight division titles and three straight NL pennants, at which point the talking heads will start to wonder how long it will be until we can start calling them a dynasty (yes, even if they lose the World Series again–after all, the ’90s/early ’00s Braves were a dynasty despite only winning one World Series, weren’t they? Okay, maybe not.) The Braves are my favorites to finish second, and possibly earn the Wild Card. The Mets have improved over the offseason and could end up in third if they stay healthy, or they could land in fourth. The Nationals will likely finish last in the division again, but will probably pick no higher than fourth and possibly as low as eighth in the 2011 draft rather than the #1 spot they’ll have for the second year in a row in 2010.

NL Central: To be honest, I really haven’t followed the NL that closely. I know that the Pirates will be in last place again, and that the Astros still aren’t terribly good and seem most likely to land in fifth, and that Milwaukee is a far cry from their 2008 wild card berth, but that’s about it. The Cubs and the Cardinals should slug it out again, and, like almost every other year, I’m going to say that the Reds could make some noise. (Note that I make this prediction almost every year, although I think I skipped it last year, and it hasn’t actually come true since 2006, when they still finished in third but weren’t eliminated from the division race until the penultimate day of the season.)

NL West: If the Braves don’t win the Wild Card, expect it to come from this division. This may be a four-team race, as the Dodgers and Rockies, both postseason teams last year, should not have fallen off much, the Giants are still a team on the rise (again, see last year), and the Diamondbacks…well, I still have no clue why they faltered so much. They won the division in 2007 and were in the hunt late in 2008, and they made humongous upgrades in the ’08-’09 offseason…and inexplicably were a complete non-factor in 2009. I can only dismiss this as a fluke, and I think they’ll compete this year. Who will win this division? Your guess is as good as mine; all I’m willing to predict is that the Padres will finish in last place.

Playoffs: Like I said, I’m not really sure who most of the NL teams will be, and frankly I don’t really care because the Phillies are far better than anyone else in the league in my mind and will win the NL pennant. As for the AL, I’m going to predict Red Sox over Tigers and Rays over Mariners in round 1, followed by…Red Sox over Rays in the ALCS, and then…ooh, this is a tough one. They say pitching wins championships, and nobody has better pitching (if they’re healthy) than the Red Sox, which is why I picked them this far (yes, the Rays could also outhit the Red Sox, but their pitching, while good, is not good enough). But the Phillies rotation, while not as deep, is probably even stronger at the top, and their lineup is quite possibly the best in either league. Then again, you have to look beyond the simple skills and consider the matchups. For some reason, the Red Sox never really had much trouble with Halladay, which is odd because the Red Sox usually struggle with the Blue Jays, period. Lackey, while never terribly good against his new team regardless, was especially bad at Fenway, so if he ends up as the #3 and the AL wins the All-Star Game again, that’s all the better–and if the NL somehow pulls it out and the Sox pitch Lackey in Games 2 and 6, even better. So…it’ll be a close one, but I think the Red Sox can make it 3 titles in 7 years.

Chess Game

Well, so much for that. The Phillies won game 5 of the NLCS to advance to the World Series. Incidentally, I was wrong about no starter starting three games in a seven-game series during my lifetime. Curt Schilling started three games in the 2001 World Series, with one win and two no-decisions.

Joe Maddon is creating a big stir once again. He has switched around his rotation, bringing Scott Kazmir back on normal rest for Game 5 and holding James Shields out for a potential Game 6. Personally, I think this is a good move on the Rays’ part. Up 3-1, they only need one more win, and Shields, their best pitcher, hasn’t been great at Fenway this year, or any other time in his young career, for that matter. By sending Kazmir up against Daisuke Matsuzaka tonight, they may indeed be hurting their chances of winning Game 5, but they’d still have a 3-2 series lead and a very favorable Game 6 pitching matchup at home of Shields versus Josh Beckett. Incidentally, that extra off-day between Games 4 and 5 works both ways, and the Red Sox could conceivably bring Jon Lester back on normal rest for Game 6, allowing the ailing Beckett an extra day of rest before a potential Game 7 matchup with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays. I think this is the Red Sox’ best chance of winning. I also don’t have enough faith in Terry Francona to believe that this is going to happen. Good luck against Philly, Rays.

Team of destiny?

By now you’ve no doubt noticed that the Tampa Bay Rays have
already equaled last year’s win total and stand just four wins shy of their
franchise record with 41 games remaining. (And this after a loss, too.) XM’s
Baseball This Morning provided a nice list of parallels between the ’08 Rays
and the ’69 Miracle Mets. First off: The ’08 Rays have a 24-year-old ace in
Scott Kazmir. The ’69 Mets had a 24-year-old ace, Tom Seaver. The ’67 Mets were
61-101, ditto the ’06 Devil Rays. The Mets’ manager in 1969 was Gil Hodges, who
has three letters in his first name and six in his last name, just like current
Rays manager Joe Maddon. What does it all mean? Absolutely nothing, of course,
but the Rays are a very good team without a doubt. Remains to be seen if
they can get past the Angels in the playoffs, assuming that that’s who they
play. The Red Sox’ traditional postseason dominance of the Angels can only go
so far, and with Boston’s horrible road record, I’m not so confident in their
chances as a wild card team–especially not against a team with the road record
to nullify their home field advantage when they do have. Modified predictions
for ALDS: Angels sweep Red Sox, Rays beat White Sox in 4.

 

Raul Ibañez set a new Seattle record for RBIs in an inning
with 6 in the seventh inning against Minnesota, part of a ten-run offensive by
the Mariners that inning. Ibañez’s grand slam proved key to the Mariners’
comeback win. Also hitting a grand slam yesterday was Marlon Byrd of the Texas
Rangers, after the Yankees rallied to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the
ninth, providing a 9-5 walkoff win in the regulation nine. Oakland lost their
seventh game in a row and is just 2-14 since the All-Star Break. Furthermore,
they had been playing only .500 ball leading into the break and are 9-23 since
their high-water mark of nine games over .500 on June 28th. The
Angels won last night on a bases-loaded walk, the same method Tampa Bay used to
win the previous day by an equal 6-5 score.

 

Milwaukee continues to reel, falling for the seventh time in
their last nine games as they were shut down by a Cincinnati team that was
coming off of a sweep at the hands of the league-worst Washington Nationals.
The game was more notable for the fight that transpired in the dugout between
Prince Fielder and Manny Parra. The Cubs also lost, 2-0 in a rain-shortened
game against the scorching Houston Astros (7-1 over their last eight), so
Milwaukee remains five games back, now just half a game up on the idle Cards in
the wild card race.

 

Yeah, yeah, I did it again. Two days worth of writing for
this entry. Tampa Bay got that win, passing last year’s mark with 40 games to
go. Also, I feel a lot better about the Red Sox now. They continue to get
production up and down the lineup, as Youk had his fourth straight game with an
XBH, Pedroia’s now got the longest road hitting streak by a Red Sox since 1913,
Lowrie continued his hot streak with another triple and more RBIs, Bay went 4
for 5, and even Jacoby got into the act, with two hits and two stolen bases–the
first steals in over a month. I really love this team. Where else do you see
the number four starter win Pitcher of the Month? Oh, right, Cleveland
(actually, that was the number 5, at least when it happened, back in April. 15
wins and an All-Star start can change that designation quickly). With win 15 on
Monday night, Lee leads the AL and was briefly tied for the major league lead,
but NL leader Brandon Webb picked up his 16th last night to retake
sole possession of the overall lead. Many happy returns, with Mike Hampton
picking up his first win since 2005, Chris Carpenter making his first home
start since Opening Day 2007 in an eventual 11-inning Cardinal win, and Francisco
Fausto Carmona returning for the Indians, though I’ve already mentioned that
the Indians didn’t win last night, being the Rays’ opponents. (Another
reference to XM Radio on the morning commute there. Really blew that one.)
Interesting play in last night’s Red Sox-Royals game. One of Jason Bay’s four
hits had just barely enough distance and height to clear the wall if
uncontested, but of course, it was contested. Royals centerfielder Mitch
Maier managed to get a glove on it but couldn’t make the catch, instead weakly
knocking the ball away. The ball continued to roll on top of the outfield
wall
for 10-20 seconds before left fielder Ross Gload batted it down and
threw in, limiting Bay to a double. Nevertheless, it was a wholly inexplicable
turn of events. Chris Waters had a phenomenal debut, shutting out the Angels
for eight innings, and the Tigers continued to struggle as they continued to
have trouble closing out games, blowing a 6-1 lead at the halfway point with a
run allowed in the bottom of the fifth, two more in the sixth and one each in
the seventh and eighth and wasting a two-run top of the 14th by
allowing four runs in the bottom of the inning, the last three on a Nick
Swisher home run.

 

Put it off another day…I really, REALLY despise the Tampa
Bay Rays. I wasn’t really paying that much attention to yesterday’s afternoon
games while they were in progress, but I knew that there were some going on,
including Rays-Indians. No sooner do I find the game on my radio… “WAAAAAAAAY
BACK!!! THIS GAME IS TIED!!!” I’m not going to do the whole quote, but yeah. I
then found out that the first two batters of the inning doubled. Disgusting…and
it only got worse. The infield single was disappointing, the four-pitch walk
was horrifying, and the three-run homer was, by that point, almost
predictable–I say almost because I was actually expecting the following batter
to get a grand slam instead. I’m watching the very beginning of SportsCenter
right now, and baseball is nowhere in sight–Brett Favre got traded, and the
entire rundown of seven topics is Favre-related. (I think it froze up again, though,
because this isn’t the top one any more. It may not even be one of the seven,
which would be really disturbing.) More media circus here in Jersey, too–the
Jets ended up winning out over the Buccaneers. (That’s a bit of a shame,
really; not only do I hate both “New York” football teams, Brett Favre would
probably be an upgrade for the Bucs–who do they have, Jeff Garcia? Garcia was
good for us when McNabb went down in ’06, but I’d rather have Favre
there–remember, the Bucs are in the same division as the Carolina Panthers,
whose ’09 first-round draft pick the Eagles picked up in a draft-day trade. So
improving the Bucs helps my favorite team.) Oh, wait, I was wrong about it
freezing up; we’ve returned from the first break and four of the seven are still
on the rundown. The end of SportsCenter was also all Favre…which detracts from
a different kind of Buc. I swear, good accomplishments on bad teams get
no attention at all–the next five on the rundown are “Indians-Rays”, “Walk-off
HR”, “Yankees-Rangers”, “Joba Chamberlain”, and “Red Sox-Royals”. In a way, it
makes sense–the Rays are a division leader and had an incredible comeback win,
the Yankees are in the same division and have a major starter who will be
missing some time, and the Sox are also in that division and leading the wild
card. Unfortunately, after that, it’s even more football coverage–about to fill
up the rundown again. Okay, so what’s the rule–you have to carry the
no-hitter into the ninth to get mentioned by the halfway point? Remember last
week’s entry, when John Lackey’s 8⅓ no-hit innings against the Red Sox got the
top story on SC (and brought the rest of the AL East to the top), even with
plenty of Favre news to go around, and Doug Davis, his cancer-survivor status
and his 7⅔ perfect innings couldn’t get in until after the second
commercial break? Guess what–it happened again, except this time it doesn’t
seem like this one will beat the third break. Eight NFL pieces in this
block, followed by…the NL East: Padres-Mets, then Marlins-Phillies. Hello? 7⅔
perfect innings!!!
This time the Diamondbacks were on the other side of the
ball, unable to get a baserunner until there were two outs in the eighth. Two
more pieces appear on the rundown, and they’re Tigers-White Sox and
Twins-Mariners. We’ve hit the third commercial break, and they’ve told us to
stick around for highlights of the Cubs’ eight-run third against the
Astros–they often tell us to “stick around” for something that we’ll still be
“sticking around” for at the next commercial break, like yesterday with
the surreal play from the Red Sox-Royals game. We’re back, and the next one is,
rather cryptically, “Images”. I’m guessing it’s more Brett Favre. The clock by
the rundown says 11:37, and I might be wrong about the “Images” because the
next one is Dodgers-Cardinals. Will this be it? NO! The next one is
Astros-Cubs, so the following one should be Brewers-Reds…and it is…PGA
Championship. Man, and I was sure that they were going for the NL
Central thing. They go for the second-in-the-West Dodgers versus
second-in-the-wild-card, third-in-the Central Cards, and then follow up with
the Central’s leader…and doesn’t go to the Brew Crew next? Bad editing,
guys…Twins-M’s took us into the fourth commercial, and “End of an Era” followed
“PGA Championship”, followed by even more Favre. I am not going to
finish this entry until SportsCenter gets to the biggest accomplishment of the
night…I mean, you’ve got this 25-year-old, recently acquired…Ah, there’s
“Images”. Image of the week–Manny arriving in LA, Favre arriving and leaving
Green Bay, Carl Edwards celebrating a win, or US cyclists wearing black masks
in Beijing. Manny won out in the poll. “Headlines” and “Legends” follow
“Favre’s Best”…wait…at 11:47, “Headlines” could be that bit I saw…IT IS! The
next one after “Legends” is “Long, Strange Trip”, which was the final
segment–and, yep, there’s “Top Stories” again. Oh, look, “Favre’s Best” is the
daily top 10–they’re taking all of them from Favre’s career highlights instead
of the day’s plays. So, we’ve now got SportsCenter all wrapped up, and so many
games left uncovered. Brewers-Reds, A’s-Jays, Orioles-Angels, Braves-Giants,
Nats-Rockies (okay, that one got rained out; doubleheader today), and, of
course…Pirates-Diamondbacks. If a large-market team kept an opponent of the
bases–or was kept off the bases–for so much as six innings complete,
it’d probably be the top story. Jeff Karstens retires the first twenty-three
Diamondbacks he faces, and it doesn’t get on SportsCenter at all. Come on, near
perfect game? Against a division leader? Still a complete-game shutout–unlike
the Lackey game, which wasn’t a shutout, or the Davis game, which wasn’t a complete game?
Opposing a sure-fire Hall of Famer–“the ugly guy”, as my mom calls him. (Randy
Johnson may not be pretty, but he throws a mean fastball.) ESPN, you disgust
me.

Instant classic

Note: This was originally written to run yesterday. The appropriate changes have been made.

Been a few days since I updated, so in backlogged news, let me congratulate the Kansas City Royals on their remarkable comeback against the Giants, trailing 10-3 in the middle of the fifth, and also congratulate King Felix on his grand slam, the first by an American League pitcher since the DH rule was implemented. The M’s were brilliant again Tuesday night, crushing the Mets 11-0. The other New York team didn’t fare much better, losing 12-5 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, two late runs making the final margin only remotely respectable. Now, for an instant classic. Like most Red Sox games as of late, it began with a rain delay. When things resumed, it was time for the festivities, for June 24, 2008 was designated as Jerry Remy day, celebrating twenty years of the Remdawg in the NESN booth. Remy made all the right moves, making a plug for Jim Rice to be inducted into Cooperstown next year, and received a shiny new Ford Mustang. The game started out on the right foot, as Justin Masterson set the D-Backs down in order in the top of the first and Dustin Pedroia homered into the Monster seats to give the Sox the 1-0 lead after one, but Masterson didn’t have it and gave it back before getting a single out, falling behind 4-1 after a three-run homer by Chad Tracy in the bottom of the third–Tracy also had the RBI in the second. As the game wore on, numerous guests visited Don and Remy in the booth, and Tom Werner and John Henry had a humorous list of “Top Ten Reasons why we had Jerry Remy Day”. The number one reason was “we wanted to have something with Jerry’s name on it that he wasn’t selling on his website.” I could probably recall most of the others for you, but that’s not the point, and I’m sure NESN.com probably has it archived anyway. Anyway, comedian Lenny Clarke arrived in the top of the eighth, and after directing more on-field traffic than Julian Tavarez, he left by imploring the Sox to score some runs, a tough task seeing as how they’d only had two hits since the three in the first inning. They listened. Julio Lugo led off with a single, Jacoby Ellsbury followed in kind, and after Diamondbacks starter Doug Davis was pulled (if Lester was starting for the Sox, it would’ve set a new record for most cancer survivors on a single pitching mound), Dustin Pedroia lined one just over the glove of Orlando Hudson to drive in the second run of the game. J.D. Drew, no longer the hottest thing in all of baseball, struck out, and Manny hit a sharp grounder to third, too tricky a hop to turn a double play–second and third, two outs, Mike Lowell coming to the plate. The Diamondbacks stuck with the reliever they had out there, Chad Qualls. The graphic appeared on screen that Mike was 1 for 1 off of Qualls in his career and that that hit was an RBI double, and I remarked that a double would be fine right now. A minute or so later, I was pleading with a ball to keep heading back, back, and it did, bouncing off the Wall for a two-run double. Am I good at this or what? Jason Varitek, who ended the longest hitless streak of his career with a double in Monday’s game, followed with a single to give the Sox a 5-4 lead, and as the unexpected starting first baseman, Brandon Moss, came to the plate, the cameras showed Kevin Youkilis in the dugout seemingly trying to convince his manager and bench coach that he could go in for defensive purposes for the ninth. (In a bizarre fluke, Youk was hit in the eye by a ball that took a bad bounce during between-inning warmups in Monday’s game and had to be removed, and Moss made a crucial mistake in the seventh inning of that game, repeatedly bobbling a ball hit to him with runners at second and third and one out until the only play he had was to tag the batter-runner–so no error was charged, but the run scored, leading to the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 win. Presumably Sean Casey is serving his suspension from the Rays brawl.) Moss singled to extend the inning and chased Qualls from the game, and Coco Crisp became the ninth Sox batter of the inning. Reliever Tony Peña induced a fly-out. Despite having a black eye and being bothered by wateriness that kept him out of the starting lineup, Youkilis came on for the ninth, and although he again walked a batter, Pap nailed down the save this time. Four runs in the eighth inning to win by a score of 5-4, on Jerry Remy Day–this, in my opinion, is an instant classic. The oodles of special guests, the exciting matter in which they won, and the fact that on a day honoring the Sox’ former second baseman, Dustin Pedroia homered and had the first RBI of the Sox’ rally with a single, makes this a NESN classic, a near shoo-in for the All-Star Break marathon of first-half games. Let’s see, they need three games for that marathon…I’m thinking Lester’s no-hitter, this game, and…hmm…oh, right, of course; Manny’s 500th home run game. It’s a shame that those games are blocked out in my market.

 

Final note: While both New York teams were embarrassed immensely, neither was the most lopsided defeat of the day. Cincinnati lost to Toronto by the score of 14-1. Also embarrassing: The Marlins’ eighth-inning collapse. After scoring in the bottom of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie, giving Scott Olsen, who’d been pinch-hit for, a chance to pick up his first win since May 9, they found themselves with the bases loaded and no one out. A beautiful play allowed them to get the first out 5-2, and after an at-bat so long I was able to see an entire half-inning of the Sox game before it ended, they got the second out 3-2, preserving the lead that was also 3-2. Then they walked in the tying run, following another half-inning of the Sox game. Then they walked in the go-ahead run. Then in the ninth, they found themselves with a runner at third, two outs, and Carl Crawford up, and they intentionally walked him to get to Longoria, only to end up walking him as well to load the bases. What followed was a two-run single, important because the game that had at one point seemed so far ahead of the Sox game was still going on when the latter had ended, Troy Percival having already allowed one run in with runners at first and third and two outs. The bases would be loaded by a walk to Dan Uggla after I’d begun watching, but that’s all that would happen as the Rays won 6-4 to remain just one game behind the Red Sox.

 

Senior Circuit run-around

Is it possible to get thrown out of a game that’s already over? It
didn’t quite happen, but all-time ejections leader Bobby Cox was out to
argue as trail runner Gregor Blanco was called out at home plate on
Yunel Escobar’s two-out RBI single in the tenth; had Blanco been safe,
the game would’ve been tied at four, the Phillies having scored twice
in the top of the inning. Shane Victorino drove in the first of the
Phils’ two tenth-inning runs with a triple, scored the other on a Chase
Utley double, and threw Blanco out to save the game. Also in the
Phillies’ area of MLB.com: future “Excuse me?” All-Star Devaris
Strange-Gordon, selected in the fourth round of the draft by the
Dodgers, son of tonight’s winning pitcher, Tom Gordon, much beloved in
Boston (as memorialized in a Stephen King book) for saving 46 games in
1998 and for spectacularly failing to record a single out in the eighth
inning of the fifth game of the 2004 ALCS.

Meanwhile, the Rockies climbed the ladder in the eighth inning, as four
consecutive batters combined for a cycle in ascending order: Ryan
Spilborghs with the single, Todd Helton with the double (driving in
Jonathan Herrera, who had singled ahead of Spilborghs to start the
inning), Garret Atkins tripled to chase Guillermo Mota without a single
out to his credit, and Brad Hawpe greeted Brian Shouse with a home run.
The Rockies run an “E-Mentoring” program, and because tonight’s
featured school, Columbine Elementary, picked Brad Hawpe to homer
tonight and he did, the students get tickets to a September game. Yes,
I was actually listening to the Rockies’ broadcast. I got hungry, okay?
I can choose any game I want to to listen to in the car, and this was more interesting than
Mets-Padres, Cubs-Dodgers, or A’s-Angels. Atkins’s triple tied the game
at 4-4, and Brian Fuentes recorded the save to give the Rox their first
three-game winning streak since mid-May–the first game back from
interleague weekend was the third win in their last one.

In residual Rays-Red Sox news, eight suspensions totalling thirty-eight
games were handed out, led by the three ejected players–7 games for
Crisp, 6 for Shields, and 5 for Gomes. Pitchers Jon Lester and Edwin
Jackson also got five apiece–Lester for hitting a batter after the
warnings had been issued, Jackson for his role in the brawl. Also
ejected for their roles in the brawl were Rays outfielder Carl Crawford
(4 games), Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, and Red Sox first
baseman Sean Casey (3 games apiece). Ironically, the player initially
responsible for getting these teams riled up got no suspension at
all–Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett, who angered Coco Crisp by blocking
second base on a (successful) stolen base attempt in the sixth inning
of Wednesday’s game. In follow-up action, the Rays ended their
three-game losing streak by following in Cleveland’s footsteps and
pounding the sh*t out of the Rangers, tripling their hosts’ output over
each of the following three stretches: the first seven innings (3-1),
the eighth inning (3-1), and the ninth inning (6-2). The Red Sox didn’t
fare quite so well, as Seattle scored in five different innings en
route to an 8-0 victory; Felix Hernandez has yet to allow a run in two
career starts at Fenway Park, the other start being Daisuke’s first
home start last year, at which point Hernandez stole the show by
carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

Speaking of ejections, I’m now listening to the Cubs-Dodgers game, and
apparently Jeff Kent was ejected. Apparently he was arguing a called
third strike to end the fifth inning. LA leads 2-0 after 5.

And speaking of Cleveland, Paul Byrd recorded his 100th career win as the Native Americans Indians beat the Detroit Tigers for the 1,000th time in franchise history (opposite 1,022 losses).

The $126 million reliever

YOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUK!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Red Sox broke out of their slump with a 1-0 walkoff win over
Toronto yesterday, Kevin Youkilis driving in the winning run. It was
the fourth consecutive complete game for Roy Halladay and the third
consecutive loss. Halladay’s the last of a dying breed, the pitcher who
has no need for a bullpen. The game finished in a tidy 2:18, and it
wasn’t just Halladay’s quickness on the mound that supplied this. I had
been flipping in and out of American Idol, and when I missed
the entire top of the fifth I just assumed that Jon Lester still had
his no-hitter intact, the inning was over so quickly. Uh, no. Leadoff
single on a 1-0, followed by a first-pitch GIDP. Jonathan Papelbon
picked up the win in relief, and Dustin Pedroia made a game-saving play
in the top of the ninth to rival even his brilliant play in Clay
Buchholz’s no-hitter last year. (Speaking of American Idol, David Archuleta did a great rendition of Fenway Park staple “Sweet Caroline”.)

I think the Red Sox have created a monster, however. This morning, on
my regular trip to Dunkin Donuts, I saw a man with a shirt that said on
the front–get this–North Nation, on the back adding “NHHS–Go Lions!” with the appropriate drawing of a lion. That’s a high school
team, talking about a Nation. (I later found out from listening to
discussions that the man was a coach at North.) And as a Voorhees
graduate, I was none too happy to see this. Although, I think on this
particular day, I’ll let it slide.
North and Voorhees are sister schools and have all of the markings of a
“sibling rivalry”, but we both truly hate Central. Previously unbeaten.
Is there any sport that the Red Devils are bad at?

Boston fans absolutely hate Roger Clemens, started even before he left
Boston, yet he has more wins with the Red Sox than with his other three
teams combined. This would create quite the awkward moment if he were
ever to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Luckily, that will probably
never happen, as his laundry list of sins continues to grow. Though he
denies that his relations with former country star Mindy McCready were
sexual, she says otherwise. So, unless everyone in the world is out to get the Rocket and he’s the only
truthful person in the world, we can now add adultery and statutory
rape to his rap sheet (McCready was 15 at the time; Roger was 28.) If
they can keep Pete Rose out of the Hall for gambling, they can
certainly keep Roger out for, well, everything.

A differentiation between two similar words:

Zito: Highest paid reliever in major league history.
Ziti: Popular type of pasta, and what likely fills the heads of the
Giants executives that okayed the Barry Zito deal. $126 million for
seven years, an average of $18 million a year (but it’s mostly
backloaded, so his salary actually increases each year), and after
having the worst year of his career last year and going 0-6 in April
this year, he’s been moved to the bullpen. Worst. Contract. EVER. At
least Carl Pavano was kind enough to go on the DL for most of his time
in pinstripes and spare the Yankees from the embarassing and lopsided losses that result from having Carl Pavano as your starter. And no, linking those two games never gets old.

Greg Maddux again failed to win his 350th game yesterday, putting his
next start on…Sunday. YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Sunday is the ideal day,
because the only night game is the ESPN game, which still starts at a
reasonable hour for East Coasters, and there are no blacked-out FOX
games. Still, since not everyone is as lucky as I am to have DirecTV…please
let somebody national be carrying this game. C’mon, TBS, Maddux was a
force on the Braves for years! You’d do this for him…right? (goes to
check)…Crud. TBS has Mets-Diamondbacks, and ESPN has Cubs-Cards. You
disappoint me, Turner!

Follow-up on a story from yesterday:
• The White Sox announced that their suspended game from Monday night,
tied 3-3 with Baltimore after 11 innings when it was halted by rain,
will be resumed before the two teams meet on Aug. 25.

A choice week in the White Sox schedule:

Fri, Aug 22 Tampa Bay 8:11 PM    
Sat, Aug 23 Tampa Bay 7:05 PM    
Sun, Aug 24 Tampa Bay 2:05 PM    
Mon, Aug 25 @ Baltimore 7:05 PM    
Tue, Aug 26 @ Baltimore 7:05 PM    
Wed, Aug 27 @ Baltimore 7:05 PM    

No off-day, obviously, and they’re in Baltimore. Again, can we contact
Elias, see if a game has ever been played at two different ballparks?
Speaking of unlikely situations, how can a run simultaneously be
considered earned and unearned? I read this in a book of strange
baseball questions yesterday. Say that a player reaches on an error
with two outs. By the rules of baseball, that run and all runs that
follow in the inning are unearned. Now, immediately following this
reached-on-error, a new pitcher enters the game, and promptly gives up
a home run. The previous pitcher is charged with one unearned run for
the inherited runner that scores, and the team is charged with unearned
runs for both runs, but the reliever is charged with an earned run for
the homer that he allowed, and with good reason! The run represented by
the player that hit the homer is therefore both earned (for the
reliever) and unearned (for the reliever’s team). How strange is that?!