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.
The same day it’s being posted
Extra innings abounded yesterday, as the two New York teams both won in extras, the Yanks in 10, the Mets in 12. Together, the two games were just five innings longer than the Braves’ 7-6 victory over Houston, four straight singles leading off the bottom of the seventeenth. Detroit and Seattle also went 15, the visiting Tigers winning 2-1. Mariners backup catcher Jamie Burke came in as a reliever. All-Star selections were announced yesterday, and my powers of preseason prognostication proved faulty–quite deservingly with the somewhat down year he’s been having, Nick Markakis is not an All-Star. This prediction had been made partly because I thought Markakis was a rising star and partly because I didn’t think the O’s had any better candidates. The lone representative of the Baltimore club is in his first year with the team, and that is George Sherrill, the former Seattle setup man who became the Orioles’ closer. Brian Roberts, two-time All-Star, has been relegated to the final man ballot. However, as an American League fan who wants the AL to win, I must advocate for a member of a team that I’m not particularly fond of right now: Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays. “Longo” is the best of the five players on the ballot, in my opinion. However, since I’m a fair guy, I’ll also tell you honestly who I think should get the final spot in the National League: Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies. Other fairly happy news: the underachieving Jason Varitek, for a long time the AL vote leader at catcher, has been relegated to backup status by Joe Mauer. Why is Tek still the backup? Er, well, I think it has something to do with Francona being the AL manager. The players pick the first line of backups, but there are two reserve catchers and Dioner Navarro seems more likely as the players’ choice. Like most of the Rays, he’s been having a good year. C.C. Sabathia has been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Correction: Varitek was the players’ choice…sort of. The player ballot is submitted before the fan voting ends, and so the with the players’ choice, Mauer, the starter, the second-place finisher on their ballot gets the nod. Well, on the plus side, there’s no rule saying Terry has to play him…but of course, he will anyway, because he’s not about to diss his captain…is he? Does he have the guts to follow the example of Tony La Russa, who last year chose Dmitri Young over his own player, Albert Pujols, to pinch-hit in the ninth inning with the game on the line? I sure hope so. Final observation: The Twins are currently on a 17-2 run.
Ah, screw this “multiple entries” thing–I’m wrapping up pretty much the entire week here. This week’s been a raging disappointment on a baseball standpoint. Wednesday, in particular, was absolute hell. We had awesome seats, the Sox were beating the Rays, the out-of-town scoreboard showed the Yankees losing, bottom of the seventh in both locales…and then the eighth innings just refused to come. Manny Delcarmen faced three batters and retired none of them. The usually reliable Craig Hansen followed in kind. All told, six runs would cross the plate before it was over, turning a 4-1 lead into a 7-4 deficit. And through it all, the Yankees just kept scoring…and scoring…and scoring…a 7-6 deficit becoming a 15-7 lead, with three more runs scoring in the eighth. The Sox made a comeback for a bit, pushing one across in the eighth and another in the ninth, until, with one out and Mike Lowell on first…”The Coma” returned. Terry Francona made three indefensible decisions in a row. The first was not sending Casey up to pinch-hit for the slumping Varitek. The second was putting on the hit-and-run with a batter who’d been striking out a lot recently at the plate and a runner that doesn’t steal many bases on board. The third was, when the first hit-and-run attempt was fouled off, calling for the same play again. Lowell was caught stealing, Tek struck out, and we had to deal with waving brooms and even more f*cking COWBELL!!! My Boston readers, I implore you: Bring cowbells the next time the Rays come to Fenway, and make a point of ringing them at all the proper moments–and only at the proper moments! I can’t tell you how many times the Rays fans rung them at times other than those listed on the scoreboard at the start of the game. I think this is a proper form of payback for the Rays’ playing of Sweet Caroline at the end of each of the Tropicana sweeps. Speaking of music, they accidentally cut into the National Anthem on Wednesday, although this was probably not a horrible thing because the singer was. If your team has been tagged in this entry, then you were represented today–someone on today’s day trip was wearing your team’s apparel.