Results tagged “Manny Ramirez” from Who Made You Mirabelli?
1) Won in a Tim Wakefield start, and his first back off the DL at that.
2) Proved that they can rack up hits and score runs with Manny Ramirez in the Bronx.
3) Added a game in the wild card standings between themselves and the Yankees, meaning that -- at worst -- they'd have a four-game edge two days from now.
4) Added depth and another bat to the outfield, assuming that the Mark Kotsay trade goes through.
Which of those moves is most significant remains to be seen. Another win in Yankee Stadium, and that victory would immediately take precedence over all other actions. The Yankees truly are on the brink now, there's no denying it. Losing this series to the Sox, as Manager Joe Girardi said before the three-game set started, would essentially end realistic playoff hopes for New York. Doesn't mean it wouldn't happen, but it would be severely unlikely.
Add in a near perfect bullpen session from Boston ace Josh Beckett, and you have the makings of one incredibly strong night for the Red Sox. Sure, Manny Delcarmen had another rough night -- an increasingly worrisome trend -- but he was bailed out by the burgeoning bullpen star Justin Masterson.
One huge day, one day closer to dual goals: A playoff berth and the simultaneous denial of the Yankees earning one.
A blown 10-run lead in the first inning? No way. Two straight games with late-inning collapses? Even against a shaky middle relief corp, seems a bit far fetched.
Well, so much for screenwriters. The melodrama from the past two days has hit the roof, and that's before taking into account an abdomen strain and DL stint for Mike Lowell or the acquisition of Paul Byrd and, seemingly, subsequent demotion of Clay Buchholz.
Still, all that truly matters are the numbers on the Green Monster scoreboard at the end of the game. For the second straight night, those were pretty good this evening, despite a disappointing three run homer given up by Mike Timlin in just the latest proof that the veteran is careening down a precipitous downlslope of his career.
Meanwhile, Javier Lopez got the Sox out of trouble, then promptly put them back in it. Only Justin Masterson's performance was reassuring in relief, and that still came with plenty of drama. Sure, Masterson allowed a fluky hit and somewhat disturbing walk. The reassurance comes from how he responded, calmly fielding his position to facilitate a double play, then egging a pop-out from Michael Young to end the game.
Of course, those up and down efforts would have been worthless if not for another sparkling outing from Jon Lester, who looked like he was ticketed for a complete game until a homer and bad bounce got him in eighth inning trouble. Lester continues to be a rock in the rotation, giving the Sox something they thought would be provided by Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka; two legitimate aces who dominate opponents and almost guarantee wins.
That's not to demean Dice-K's season, nor his bulging win total. He's immensely improved over his 2007 debut season, consistently wriggling out of the jams he often couldn't last year. Those three starters are precisely the reason why Boston is so dangerous in the playoffs, but the bullpen's abhorent performance over the past two nights is precisely why it'll need to keep getting runs from David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and the shockingly hot Jed Lowrie if they're going to catch Tampa Bay and gather more momentum heading toward the playoffs.
Given the injuries Tampa's suffered in the past week -- devastating, multiple-week losses of outfielders Carl Crawford and rookie of the year candidate Evan Longoria -- and the fact that the Red Sox can block the Rays from adding personnel via the waiver wire, you have to like the position Boston is sitting in. Meanwhile, the Yankees haven't completely played themselves out of the postseason yet -- years past have certainly proven that -- but they're making yet another trip to the playoffs a pretty tall order entering the final six weeks of the season.
Oh, and in case you forgot, Jason Bay is looking awful good, and comfortable, in a Sox uniform. It just bears mentioning, particularly considering the fact that Manny Ramirez likely wouldn't have been playing half the time whatsoever.
Well, it's time to make some hay.
Boston opens it's latest sojourn away from the friendly confines of Fenway Park tonight in Kansas City, the first stop on a tour in which the Red Sox clearly need to keep winning to keep pace in an AL East race that is not about to go away. Amazingly, the Devil Rays are right on pace and the Yankees, buoyant after adding Xavier Nady and Pudge Rodriguez, are about to charge. If you need more proof of that, check their two-scoops of comeback win over the Angels yesterday.
Of course, those are precisely the reason the Jason Bay trade was so important. It's picked up the spirit of the Sox, all while keeping the media circus alive with tales of Manny Ramirez's petulant recent past, complete with him refusing to board the bus to Seattle and then turning back MRIs, not to mention his begging back to Boston after he was -- at least according to him -- miraculously dealt on the verge of the deadline last Thursday.
There's no two ways to put it: Bay's been terrific so far. Every time he touches the ground it looks like he's stretching a hit farther than he should. He swings with ease, he says all the right things after games and he clearly has his teammates rallying around that.
Will the rejuvenated push toward the playoffs -- and balanced lineup -- keep making strides? It'll have to with a shift in formation, and minus Mike Lowell, if they can in KC tonight. Will Bay keep hitting like a house afire away from home?
Time to find out.
Boston's new leftfielder has established an emotional link to the team and city via his father's fandom. He's scored a game-winning run, belted a monstrous three-run homer and saved runs with impressive defense. He's showing all the hustle than Manny Ramirez didn't across a mercurially brilliant eight-year stint in Boston, and by the sheer force of his low-key personality and unbending willingness to fit in, the entire team seems to be rally around Bay.
Not to mention the fact that his last name is tailor-made for brilliant headlines. We can rhyme and conceptcast this puppy until the cows come home.
Of all those things, the most important factor, clearly, is one that Bay identified himself in his introductory press conference. He is NOT Manny Ramirez, and he's not going to try to be. Instead, he's a guy with almost identical numbers who has all the clubhouse positives that ManRam didn't. And now, for the first time in his career, he gets a chance to fight for something that matters, in front of a crowd that quite clearly can't get enough of him.
It may not end as glowingly as it's started, but that story about Manny trying to beg his way out of the Dodgers trade looks like postscript right now, doesn't it? Revisionist history can be harsh, and it's entirely possible that this move could go down as a seismic Theo Epstein blunder. But it could also be one of his finest -- and boldest -- moments.
So far, it looks a lot more like the latter than the former, doesn't it?
All clever puns and hopefulness aside, it's hard to make a case for the Manny Ramirez-Bay trade based on the numbers. Of course, that's why its the other aspects of the move that made it absolutely essential to make. On WEEI this afternoon, Providence Journal Red Sox writer Sean McAdam made the case that owner John Henry had frequently defended ManRam because his productivity looked so good on paper. That meshed well with Henry's background as a millionaire stock broker, but Manny's human side -- read: "Jesus! This guy is absolutely killing our clubhouse!" -- finally hit home for Henry when he was the subject of personal attacks ManRam made repeatedly to media sources, mostly ESPN Deportes, across the last week.
Now, McAdam was quick to question some of the validity of those comments, saying that they could have been translated more harshly than intended from their original Spanish, but they were unquestionably a direct shot on Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Luchhino and the rest of the Red Sox front office when, before Wednesday's huge game against the Angels, Ramirez told ESPN Deportes that the Red Sox didn't deserve a player like himself.
That's true, but for all the reasons Ramirez didn't consider.
The Red Sox don't deserve a player like ManRam because he's a consistent headache and pain in the ass. They don't deserve a player like Ramirez because his lackadaisical outfield play costs the team at least 10-15 runs a year -- though it also unarguably saves them five or so because of his expertise dealing with the wall. They don't deserve a player like Ramirez because he can singlehandedly kill the momentum created by the rest of the team with one selfish "I'm questionable because my knee hurts" move.
No, the Red Sox deserve a young outfielder like Jason Bay, a power hitter who was the National League rookie of the year in 2004 and is still only 29. They deserve a player like Bay, a pull-hitting righty who has been driving shots toward a cavernous left field wall that's 441 feet from home plate, ridiculously farther than the 37-foot high Monster he'll be hitting them toward now. They deserve a player like Bay, who's already developed a reputation for earnest hustle and consistent defense, an All-Star who has as many homers as Ramirez, though they may be less majestic.
They deserve a player like Bay, productive without the panache, content to fit in with a contender after years slugging each night in anonymity in the baseball desert of Pittsburgh. And Bay deserves his shot to be a real contributor, a player who can make a name for himself in a season and a half before he hits the free market as a Boras client.
Don't get WMYM wrong, the side pieces in this deal hurt Boston. Bad. We're officially on the record from here on out believing that giving up on Craig Hansen may come back to haunt us, not to mention the remarkably timely contributions from Brandon Moss, a perfect September call-up if ever there was one.
But this was still the deal that HAD to happen if Boston was going to compete in '08. The Yankees may have won the trade war, particularly after getting Pudge Rodriguez. But with Bay -- and more significantly, minus Manny -- the Sox ensured that they still have a shot to catch a second wind, galvanize as a team in a way they couldn't with ManRam on board and start fighting in the division as a team on the chase rather than the reigning World Series champs.
If memory serves us correctly, that may not be a bad thing for their future. It beats being a sitting duck with a free agent to be left fielder who may or may not sit out the final third of a season because he's sick of Beantown.
If that's the case -- and the more these three-way rumors with the Pirates and Marlins heat up, the more it's starting to look like an eventuality -- ManRam's exit over the past two days has been unbelievably anonymous on the field. While he's been lazing his way to first matter-of-factly on routine ground outs, he's also been actively talking his way out of Boston. Now the Palm Beach Post is claiming that a tentative deal has been reached that will send ManRam to the Fish and net the Sox Jason Bay to play left field and John Grabow as a lefty power arm out of the bullpen.
So, is a haul of Jason Bay and John Grabow proper compensation for Manny Ramirez -- not to mention the two throw-in prospects needed to get the deal done? No way. That being said, it's still absolutely the right thing to do if Theo Epstein wants to save the Sox' season.
It's not hard to remember the last time the Sox made a trade to shake things up and create momentum. Was Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz proper compensation for Nohhmaahhhh? Of course not. But it did help the Sox shore up a problem area and spiced up the team's lineup for the playoff push.
Bay would serve to do the same thing in 2007. He's note Manny Ramirez, but he's a hard-nosed player who's never had a shot at playing for anything of merit. He has the power to contribute to the Sox lineup, and he could become a significant wall-shot producer ala Mike Lowell. Grabow, who could contribute out of the pen, is hardly a bail-out fireman, but he should be an upgrade in an area that the team needs any help it can get.
The bigger issue, to be sure, is just getting rid of Manny. He's long since worn out his welcome, but his productivity was always seen as a quantitative reason to keep him around. Well, ManRam isn't hitting the way he did four years ago. Sure, missing his bat will be a big blow, but missing his day-in, day-out circus will be a huge boon to the psyche of a team that just seems exhausted from trying to come up with new rationalizations for why its power-hitting leftfielder is a complete space cadet.
Like all passionate relationships, there will eventually be a period of mourning for Senor Ramirez. The fans will miss his sojourns into the Green Monster. They'll miss his truly sensational mental lapses in the outfield -- cutting off a throw from center Manny? Really? And, more than anything else, they'll miss all the majestic shots he sent over the Monster, occasionally drilling a baseball on to the Mass Pike, reminding passing motorists that Kenmore Square is just over that bridge on the left.
So we'll see you later Manny. Good luck in South Florida and then, wherever you may end up (Queens? Southside of Chicago? L.A.?). Red Sox fans will be watching, and Boston will be missing you. Eventually. For now, Sox fans will be happy to see someone else in left for a change. Maybe they'll actually hustle their way into avoiding a double play for a change.
Amazingly, Jon Lester is transforming into an ace -- a lefty ace at that -- in front of our own eyes. A day after the pitcher he modeled himself after as a teenager, Andy Pettitte, riddled the Red Sox, Boston's own lefthanded power pitcher turned the tables, holding the Yankees to two runs in seven innings. He got into serious trouble only once, the fifth inning, and limited the damage of a bases-loaded, no outs scenario to the two runs he let in.
fans than this one from last night. (AP)
Beyond that, Lester was in such command that, had the fifth been avoided, he likely could have gone eight frames himself. Instead, he gave way to Manny Delcarmen, who was efficient for an inning before passing the torch to Mike Timlin, who aced his mop-up duty, thank you very much.
To say that the Red Sox had to have that victory is melodramatic. To say that a sweep at home by the Yankees would have been crushing is, too, but it's also probably accurate. Friday night's loss was devastating because it showed that Joba Chamberlain is advancing as fast as Lester. His upside is equally tremendous and, if he can become more consistent Chamberlain is starting to look like an outright Boston menace. Not to mention his penchant for throwing at Kevin Youkilis. That's a brawl waiting to happen.
And that drama doesn't even take the latest Manny Ramirez saga into account. ManRam has officially reached the point of no Red Sox return. Again. Of course, the latest "They can trade me. Sure. Whatever." development could all blow over by the time the Angels leave town if ManRam has a big series. And if he shuts up, either of which could happen and both of which might not. Either way, Sunday night provided a return to normalcy, with ManRam and David Ortiz connecting on key hits -- Big Papi's homer proving some of his power is back -- and Dustin Pedroia comfortable back in the lead-off spot, with Jacoby Ellsbury breathing easier at the bottom of the order.
Will things keep clicking with the Angels in town? They certainly didn't a little more than a week ago in Anaheim, and one out of three against the Yankees didn't help matters. Jon Lester DID help, but he won't get a shot to take care of the Angels. That's up to Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett.
And Big Papi and ManRam, of course. After all, some things don't change, including parity in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. This weekend certainly went a long way toward proving that yet again.
Oh wait, no it's not.
In case anyone was lost in the blue, the Red Sox and Yankees face off again tonight, the latest adventure in the tet-a-tet warfare that has decided the fate of the AL East for the past decade. While the Rays have made things in the division a heck of a lot more interesting this time around, you may have noticed the Yankees' stunning surge back into the thick of the race. Winning 10-straight at home will do that for you.
So will having a pitcher run headfirst into a renaissance year that nobody -- repeat: NOBODY -- thought could possibly happen. Mike Mussine SHOULD have made the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, no questions asked. He's been positively terrific, emerging as a staff ace with Ching Ming "I'm so quiet it creeps the hell out of my teammates" Wang on the DL and Joba Chamberlain adjusting to a new role as a starter.
Now that Chamberlain seems to be settling in, the entire division dynamic is shifting. The Rays are still streaking ahead, but each blip on the radar screen -- a Thursday night loss, for example -- seems significantly more poignant. Each loss is no longer just a segue back to expectations, but rather a step back from a truly unbelievable run which, quite naturally, becomes a lot more believable every time they lose.
Of course, the divisional flip side of the Rays success has been an overall Yankee malaise, and it seems fair to say that's gone ... completely. It's hard to pinpoint an exact moment when New York snapped back to relevancy and a realization that they were, in fact, the Yankees. If there was one snapshot that captured their moment of their in-season awakening, however, it appropriately came in the last series between these rivals.
According to a variety of New York media sources, Johnny Damon gave a rousing, "we're not playing hard enough, we're not fighting for wins," speech before the game with the Red Sox on Independence Day. Hours later, Damon was lost for weeks because of a headfirst run into the fence that left him looking ridiculous as the ball -- a triple by Kevin Youkilis -- nearly balanced atop the fence and then left him with a serious shoulder injury and a trip to the DL. He hadn't made the play, but his reckless effort had left a hell of an impression.
Needless to say, that would be an inspiring thing for almost anyone, Yankees not excepted. According to some in the clubhouse, it was. Suddenly New York is hitting, at least more than they were before, and they're pitching relatively efficient games.
Of course, with the exception of an abysmal three-game stretch in Anaheim last weekend, the Sox haven't been huge slouches lately either. But there are more glaring concerns in Boston's lineup than at any time previous. David Ortiz makes his return to the lineup tonight, but where will Terry Francona bat him? Does he slot back into third right away? The team's power hitters have increased slugging percentage admirably in his absence, so moving them in the middle of a Yankees series might not be the best way to get Big Papi back in the swing of things. Some of the lineup headache might be mitigated with Manny Ramirez out of the lineup with a sore knee, though that would raises bigger issues, with Ramirez's bat in absencia during an enormous series that could drastically swing momentum in the AL East. Not to mention the issue it raises about how someone could possibly injure their knee jaywalking in the Pacific Northwest.
Most of the scuttlebutt in Boston has focused on a monthlong slump by Jacoby Ellsbury, and the rookie could lose his leadoff spot though, again, that would be an interesting twist to the lineup at a particularly dramatic time to make the change. There's also the question mark that is Jed Lowrie -- can he really keep hitting above .300? -- and Coco Crisp's fleeting productivity.
On paper, Boston would seem to have a pitching edge. After all, no matter how strong Chamberlain looks in bursts, Josh Beckett > Chamberlain until further notice. There's no word that notice will ever come, either. Tim Wakefield has also been spectacular despite losses in recent starts. It's hard to blame him when he can't get W's despite limiting opponents to two runs across seven and eight innings. And Jon Lester has been the Red Sox' most reliable starter of all the past month, never clearer than in Seattle, when he settled into another stirring start with more emotional pangs, this time from a homecoming where he's showing what he can do when he really is healthy. Oh, and that Mussina guy WMYM was raving about? He's not pitching (you can exhale now).
What does that mean for the Sox at Fenway? It means pressure could swing wildly. If Boston wins behind Beckett on Friday, they would be in good shape for a strong weekend. If they lose, the pressure will get intense. Fast.
Hold on to your hats folks, here we go again. And this time around, make sure to bring you Madonna wigs and stillettos. If A-Rod thought the blond bombshell treatment was frustrating last spring, he's sure throwing a lot more firewood out for the flames.
1) We'll start with a biggy right out of the box: Given the recent seven-game tailspin by the Rays, who is a bigger threat to the Red Sox in the American League East: the Yankees or the Rays? Why?
We may not want to admit it, but the Yankees are definitely the bigger concern. Sure, the Rays have had a great first half, but their seven-game losing streak heading into the break exposed them for what they are: A terrific home team that's still learning to win on the road. Come September, rookies, second and third year players the likes of Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton will have to keep swinging hot sticks when it counts. It says here they'll slow down. The Yankees, on the other hand, really can't go down from where they already are. Joba Chamberlain seems to be settling into the rotation, Andy Pettitte is practically guaranteed to come through with three, four, maybe even 10 clutch starts and Mike Mussina is in the middle of an inexplicable renaissance. Put those factors together with a veteran lineup that has yet to truly click, and you get a team that could put together a serious challenge, whether Sox fans like it or not.
2) What do you see as the single biggest thing the Red Sox struggle with in 2008? Is it in the bullpen? Timely hitting? The gaping holes that have appeared at times in the lineup? How do you fix that problem?
Clearly it's the bullpen. Thinking back to 2007, there were plenty of stretches when the lineup was mired in slumps and when the team left ducks on the pond. The difference thus far, aside from having more injuries in 2008, has been the surprisingly vulnerable bullpen. If you check out the numbers, most would probably be surprised to find that Javier Lopez has done a better job of limiting damage off inherited runners than anyone else. Javier Freaking Lopez, the lefty specialist. That's not a great sign. Manny Delcarmen's recent surge has been a bright ray of optimism and Craig Hansen seems to be getting more and more consistent, but neither has reached the status of Hideki Okajima in '07, aka a sure bridge to Jonathan Papelbon (speaking of which, turn away all Sox fans, but Paps has been a touch more hittable this year, too, despite the fact that WMYM, for one would rather have him on the mound than anyone else in the ninth). So there you go, clearly, the bullpen is the issue and Theo Epstein would do awful well to go grab a, say, Scott Linebrink at the trade deadline. Not that he's available, but someone of that ilk would sure go a long ways.
3) I've got a record for being a pretty large Terry Francona supporter and apologist at times. With that said, some of his decisions in the first half of the season have baffled me, like not sending in a pinch-hitter for the badly slumping Jason Varitek with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a 2-1 loss against the Yankees on
July 5. Where do you stand on Francona's performance and juggling act in the face of numerous injuries this season?
WMYM has always been a pretty huge Francona backer itself, so it's pretty hard for me to weigh in objectively. That being said, WMYM is standing by Francona, blemishes and all, halfway through the season. Sure, it took him far too long to catch on to Hideki Okaijima's inability to retire batters that were already on base when he took the mound, and some of his other moves to the bullpen have created some head scratching, too. That being said, WMYM would have had Varitek hit in that situation, too. If the Sox are going to bounce back, Varitek is going to have to be a big part of it. Boston might as well get him going now, or this whole "Division and World Title Defense" thing just isn't happening.
4) David Ortiz is expected to return after July 25, which is obviously a huge sigh of relief for Red Sox fans. If you were in charge, how would you incorporate him into a lineup that has produced abundantly at times with JD Drew hitting third, ahead of Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell? Also, what do you do about the four starting outfielders the Red Sox have used while Ortiz was out, since Manny got the bulk of the at-bats at designated hitter?
This one's easy: You move everyone back to where they were, recent productivity aside. Ortiz and Ramirez have always been lethal as the three-four combo, and Mike Lowell is born for the five-hole. So All-Star Game MVP J.D. Drew hit's sixth, you ask? That's right, and congratulations for your mastery of math. With the way the guys in front of him tend to hit, that'll still give J.D. plenty of RBI opportunities, and in that situation he's more of an insurance policy, which is what the team really needs him for anyway.
5) Who wins more games this season: Daisuke Matsuzaka or Josh Beckett? What would you put the over-under number at for each pitcher, and why?
This is actually tougher than it looks, but WMYM is going with Beckett. Sure, Matsuzaka's off to a 10-1 start at the break, and he's already missed injury time which should make him a big more fresh coming down the stretch. The problem is the modifying piece of that last sentence: a bit. Anyone who saw Dice-K's late season meltdown last year has to temper expectations. Still, he's been more effective this year, so we're going with a final record of 18-6. Beckett, meanwhile, has missed a little time himself, and is a win behind at the break, entering with a record of 9-5. Yet Beckett looks to be in more command every time out, and if the division race stays close down the stretch, there's little doubt that Beckett will raise his performance again. So we're going with a final record if 19-8 for Beckett, which means we have him with a second-half record of 10-3. Sounds about right, don't it?
6) How do you see the American League playoff picture shaping up? Is this a year where the wild card does not come out of the AL East? Who makes the playoffs?
When you take a gander at the American League in total, it's hard to see another division grabbing the wild card spot. AL Central? Not by the record of it, and that assumes that the Twins can keep pace with the White Sox. Clearly Detroit's just too old. AL West? Not likely. The Angels are already running away with the division and the A's are too busy trading significant pieces to notice. Where does that leave us? Well, as much as WMYM hates to admit it, that gives us a playoff picture like so: AL East: Red Sox/Yankees, AL Central: White Sox, AL West: Angels. Sure, I'd love to see the Rays keep the Yankees out, too, but as previously stated, it's just too much of a leap of faith on youth ... which is a real shame.
You wouldn't have known it from the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon's win.
WMYM could easily go back through the hit-by-hit, play-by-play reinactment of the carnage, but the AP's Jimmy Golen does a much better job, seeing as how he was actually sitting in Fenway at the time and all:
The Red Sox had runners on second and third when Jason Varitek hit a sinking liner to center and Denard Span slid for the ball, backhanding it and then holding up his glove as if he caught it. The base runners took off and, after the umpires belatedly signaled a catch, Span threw to second to double off Casey.
Second baseman Alexi Casilla leisurely threw to third to get Mike Lowell, who had already crossed the plate. (Lowell appeared to have tagged up, but he was rung up anyway.)
While the umpires conferred, official scorer Mike Petraglia announced that the play was an 8-4-5 triple play, "for now."
The call was reversed -- correctly, replays confirmed -- and irate Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out of the dugout for an argument that led to a quick ejection.
Casey stayed at third and Varitek was credited with an RBI single that gave Boston an 8-5 lead. Craig Breslow relieved Boof Bonser and struck out Brandon Moss, but Julio Lugo walked to load the bases.
Ellsbury singled to drive in another run and, with Brian Bass pitching, Pedroia hit a double to left to clear the bases and extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Youkilis doubled and Ramirez followed with an RBI single to make it 14-5.
That's how quick a 7-5 contest with a trajectory to go down to the wire can snowball into a rout in Fenway Park. That's also exactly the kind of drastic turn of events Red Sox fans were used to seeing a lot more of in 2004 and 2005, with teams built to smash long balls and rack up massive amounts of runs on the bottom half of Fenway's antiquated scoreboard.
The fact that Josh Beckett didn't have his best stuff this afternoon is actually the most encouraging aspect of the victory, from a Boston perspective. By winning an 18-5 slugfest, and by pulling away rather than relying on a bullpen that has given cause for a lot of gnawed fingernails this season, this Red Sox team showed that it can flex a considerable amount of muscle when it needs to, Big Papi or no Big Papi.
That should quiet the Barry Bonds talk, at least for an afternoon. Or two, if we're all lucky. It hasn't slowed the Boston Herald yet, but there's a first for everything.
In fact, Moss may be picking his spots so admirably that he might be prime trade bait over the next couple of weeks.
That's a story for the future, not one for a deceptively important night after a second-straight Red Sox win over a Twins team that entered as hot as anyone in the major leagues. They'll exit with a lost series, and will have to beat Josh Beckett to get a win out of a three-game set.
As the case turned out, they should have beaten Jon Lester on Tuesday, a day in which he toggled between brilliance and the kind of scuffles that pockmarked his previous tenures in the major leagues. Occasionally, when listening to a play-by-play team on the radio or TV, one of the announcers will just get it right. That was the case Tuesday, when Dave O'Brien, one half of the WEEI radio crew and a weekly ESPN TV play-by-play man, said that Lester was, "just a little off tonight." It's true. While Lester was absolutely dominant over the first three innings, he was lucky to get out of the fourth allowing just three runs. He got things back under control in the fifth and sixth, but found himself struggling again in both the seventh and eighth before being relieved and bailed out by David Aardsma, who earned the win in relief.
Was the performance a bit schizophrenic? Sure, but it was hardly Lester's worst. In fact, by going deep into the game, the second consecutive night a Sox starter has lasted long enough to avoid using more than one reliever as a bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon, Lester ensured that the Boston bullpen would be all but completely fresh for Wednesday's series finale, Papelbon aside.
just keep contributing to a lineup he's starting to crack more often
with Big Papi working his way back. (AP Photos)
Still, Ramirez was the story again, as the outfielder-come-DH showed that he can get himself re-tracked as quickly as he slips off the rails. After the win, Terry Francona reflected on Ramirez's bomb the way he's reflected on missing Big Papi from the lineup, with a proverbial, "sometimes you just need a home run."
On Tuesday, the Red Sox needed a home run. They got one, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
That's why it was particularly important that Boston return to Fenway and play a lot more like the team that earned seven All-Star spots without raising an eyebrow than the one that left more ducks on the pond than a conservation specialist in Boston Common.
In the end, after a little more than three hours in the Boston humidity, the Red Sox bats didn't quite reverse the trends of the last seven days. They did, however, do just enough to break a two-game losing streak and help closer Jonathan Papelbon get rid of the truly rotten taste in his mouth left over from a 10th-inning loss, the first time in 20 Papelbon outings that the Sox didn't win.
This one, they did, 1-0 against a surging Twins team that had won 16 of its past 18 games. The fact that one run, driven in by the slumping Manny Ramirez after a terrific Dustin Pedroia double to lead off the top of the eighth inning, was enough to earn a win and break a horrendous slippery slope, a downhill traipse of demoralizing one-run losses that that was quickly mounting to the realm of crippling. Instead, the Sox bounced back behind a dominant performance from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who wriggled out of a first inning jam and then proceeded to put himself on efficient pitch counts until a rough patch in the eighth inning.
The rest, of course, is one-night history. Hideki Okajima gets himself in even more hot water, then gets off without a run. ManRam strokes his RBI single, and Papelbon gets redemption moments later.
It's an auspicious start to a truly essential three game series. With the Twins as hot as any other team in the majors, Boston has an immediate opportunity to prove that it's rough road trip was a fluke. It can also use the tripartite series as an instant edge in any potential wild card chase down the road, not to mention the tiebreaking factor in head-to-head factor.
Naturally, it's too early to be taken those kind of considerations seriously. In 2006 the Sox looked as good as any team in the majors at the All Star break, then faded to a dismal third place. While starting pitching depth would seem to make that a less likely eventuality this time around, nothing is impossible -- copyright Adidas -- particularly with Reebok pitchman Big Papi cheering from the bench instead of relaxing in the batter's box.
So, while Justin Masterson heads down to the minor leagues to learn how to be a reliever, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett get a chance to show they can keep pace with Matsuzaka. If they can, then perhaps Boston can move on and get back to life before the week of July 1-7. Needless to say, that would be a step in the right direction.
That's the bad news. Oh, wait, there's more. The Sox were apocryphally bad with runners in scoring position throughout the series, but particularly on Sunday, when Kevin Youkilis finally bailed out Jonathan Papelbon -- and himself, for striking out when a blooper would have scored the winning run in the 11th -- by knocking a walk-off homer into the Monster Seats, providing Boston with its lone win of the weekend.
The silver lining is that neither the Rays nor the Yankees could close any ground, the Reds keeping the Yankees in check and the Astros somehow doing the same with the surging Rays. The lead is still there, but the interleague momentum is certainly long gone.
What now? Well, for starters, there's a duel of aces Monday night, with Arizona stud Dan Haren going up against Josh Beckett. While Beckett won't feel like he's acting as a true stopper, his role will be pretty close. The Sox all but DID lose Sunday's game, and the long, pitcher-heavy victory will put a big onus on Beckett to pitch deep into Monday night's ESPN game.
The win over the Cardinals also puts pressure on the lineup to start producing again, a prospect a lot more easily said than done when batters are facing a powerful arm like Haren's. The hits, or at lest getting runners on base, isn't necessarily the problem. It's getting them to cross home plate that's been holding the team's oft-feared offense from clicking into gear.
A return by David Ortiz -- provided a healed wrist sheath, of course -- would go a long ways toward that. Until then, the team has to pray that J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez keep slugging home runs at the shocking clip they've been keeping up for the past half a month. If they don't, well, there may be a lot more results like the ones on Friday and Saturday than the W's that Sox fans have grown accustomed to.
WEEKLY LINEUP CARD (Stats do NOT take Sunday's win into consideration):
Jacoby Ellsbury: B-
It was a fairly lackluster offensive week for Ellsbury, who carried both a .250 average and OBP. The amazing thing, though, is that he scored four runs while only reaching base six times, buoyed by a double and homer (what, no triple this week?). He was even caught stealing once, bringing his season total up to two. And while his output might be a good week for many hitters, anytime Jacoby strikes out five times compared with six hits, there's something more to be desired.
Julio Lugo: A-
A pretty solid week for the shortstop, which is a really good thing for him, considering the fact that he was atrocious in the field. Lugo pushed a solid .524 OBP, and he flexed good power for a change, making him more valuable in his leadoff spot. Still, the most important factor in handing out Lugo's grade this week was the strikeout-to-walk ratio -- 3:5. Clearly, he needs to keep that kind of production up to keep himself safe amidst all the throwing errors.
Kevin Youkilis: C-
.231 average, .286 OBP, and only one RBI. Not the kind of numbers the Sox have gotten used to from the Greek God of Walks. Then again, his nickname is the most striking note of a rough week in itself: Youk didn't walk a single time last week.
Dustin Pedroia: A
DP appears to be firmly out of his mini-slump, drilling 11 solid hits, two of them homers (he had three total RBI). He only had two walks to add to the tally -- that makes for an OBP of .429 -- but he kept up his amazing mark of drawing pitchers out of opposing pitchers, avoiding strikeouts for the entire week.
Manny Ramirez: C
Well, the hot streak had to cool down a bit eventually, didn't it? ManRam's average dipped below .300 with a .200 week, a seven-day stretch during which he only connected for three hits. He did draw a pair of walks, but he struck out three times. Still, with Manny you just can't get too upset, can you?
Mike Lowell: B-
The week would have been a lot tougher for Dr. Double if not for his well-trained eye, with the slugger drawing four walks compared with only two strikeouts. He also had a pair of RBI among his five hits, but the final numbers -- .238 average, .385 OBP and .381 slugging don't quite cut mustard at the B level.
J.D. Drew: A+
Can we officially call Senor Drew the Human Torch yet? As the temperatures keep climbing, so do the stats on the smooth-swinging right fielder. This week he batted a blistering .381, with an OBP of .519 and an astounding 1.000 slugging. That's right people, they were all doubles or better. Well, four of them were homers, for that matter, which padded his RBI count up to 44, seven of which came this week.
Jason Varitek: F
Where J.D. is hot, 'Tek is ice cold, pulling down a straight 0 this week. Literally. He didn't get a single hit. He did score a run on one of his walks, but there were only four of those, compared with five strikeouts. Truly, one of the worst weeks at the plate WMYM has seen in a long, long time.
Coco Crisp: A-
Five hits in four games? Three runs? Thank God for suspension appeals, huh? Crisp has stepped up admirably since moving his way back into the everyday lineup following Big Papi's wrist injury, and while his four strikeouts compared with no walks put a damper on his otherwise outstanding week of .387 hitting, his two steals helped bridge some of the gap left from the lack of walks.
Sean Casey: A-
The Mayor's getting more time folks, and that means more hits if you have him in a roto league. He played in four games last week, but when he did play he stroked two doubles among his five hits, pulling down a .385 average which improves to .429 when you factor in his one walk. Most astounding? He had a stolen base. Seriously.
No? Well, then stay away. He is, and the Sox need him to keep the heat. (AP)
OK, we lied, it's not the first Cardinals faceoff since the four-game sweep that ended 86 years of misery. Still, despite a missing Albert Pujols from the Cards' power-hungry hitters, this weekends trio of games could provide interesting fodder for future introspection. Should the Sox take care of business, thus pushing their interleague record up toward the stratosphere of the 2005 interleague campaign, they would surely be in a much better position going forward in the division, particularly given the surging (8-2 in their last 10) Yankees. Fumble away a pair -- let alone all three -- and the complexion of the division race going forward could change dramatically.
So, time to check out that old adage, right? Momentum is the next day's pitcher, eh? Well, the Sox are rolling out Tim Wakefield tonight, going up against an impressive Kyle Lohse (8-2). While the disparity in records -- Wakefield is currently 4-4 -- might portend problems for the Sox, Wakefield has alternated between brilliant, virtually un-hittable starts and weighty, brutal losses. Which Wake shows up at home tonight may clear up whether the Sox are in the driver's seat in the series, a slippery slope that could keep rolling with Daisuke Matsuzaka making his return tomorrow against a neophyte and Jon Lester facing off against old friend Joel Pineiro on Sunday.
Then again, Matsuzaka hasn't pitching in a big league game in weeks. Lester has his share of rough patches, though they've been growing more rare as the season has developed. And the Boston lineup is still relying on speed, moxie and, more than anything else, profound power surges from both Manny Ramirez and the human torch that is J.D. Drew to keep afloat.
What's coming? Stay tuned. The next three days could provide a little breathing room or make things disappointingly dramatic. Either way, their impact shouldn't be diminished.
It's hard to say whether the earlier start time threw Josh Beckett off his usual rhythms. Something did, because he wasn't fooling ANY of the Orioles hitters. Aubrey Huff looked like a monster, which is just to say that, clearly, Beckett wasn't hitting his spots. He struggled with location, seemed to question his approach to a handful of hitters, then proceeded to get absolutely smoked when he left anything up in the zone.
Without a doubt, Beckett has spent as much of '08 looking like he did in '06 as he looked in '07. That's not a good development. After all, Inside Edge graded Beckett's performance as a C+. Again.
Equally troubling is the gradual breakdown of Hideki Okajima. The majors' most reliable set-up man a year ago, Oki was battered around for his second loss against the Orioles this year. Clearly, they've figured out some sort of a tip off from his delivery, as they routed his grooved fastballs for the the three decisive runs in Tuesday's game.
In truth, Sox fans could probably see it coming. When Okajima was summoned for the seventh, then promptly put a pair of runners on, it only seemed like a matter of time before things collapsed. His personal choke job was finished when Manny Delcarmen allowed the go-ahead run on a sac fly -- chalk up another inherited runner allowed -- the collapse was complete.
So where do the Sox go from here? Like the Celtics, they turn around and wait to play again. Unlike the Celtics, they get to turn around and throw another ace out there right away. Despite his disastrous last outing, Bartolo Colon has been impressive in three of his four starts in an XXL sized Red Sox uniform. His 3.91 ERA stacks up favorably with Baltimore pitcher Jeremy Guthrie's 3.40, particularly considering a disproportionate percentage of that 3.40 was put on him by Red Sox bats. That trend seems primed to continue with both J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez swinging a hotter bat than they've wielded since, well, just about forever.
That, as they say, is the end. Finito. Which is precisely the great part about baseball, because there's another finito to have tomorrow. Hopefully for Red Sox fans, it'll close a bit brighter than this one. Something tells WMYM that Celtics fans are hoping for that, too.
Just hours after we questioned whether his return to the Boston lineup would re-invigorate the offense after a lackluster night, Ramirez ensured it would with a monster of a two-run homer. When combined with a blistering day from J.D. Drew, who homered to deep center in the middle of an afternoon that cemented his spot among the hottest hitters in the bigs, and a handful of resourceful plays from Alex Cora, the Sox had more than enough to even a weekend series with the Mariners.
On a normal day, those developments provide more than enough headlines in themselves. But that wasn't the case Saturday, a Tim Wakefield start where, for the first time since 2002, he was on the mound at the same time as another knuckleballer. That other butterfly specialist in question was Seattle's R.A. Dickey, the former flamethrower who, after losing his ulnar collateral ligament from long-term damage - yes, he REALLY doesn't have the ligament at all anymore - became a knuckleball specialist, now in relief for the Mariners. Unfortunately for the M's, Dickey wasn't significantly more successful than his predecessor, Miguel Batista, with the Sox adding a run during his two innings on the mound. That run came on another one of Drew's hits, a stroke to center which truly may have been the indication that he's officially on fire.
In other good news, Jacoby Ellsbury made a late appearance, the cameo giving Sox fans hope that he can return soon, thus easing some of the strain on the outfield and perhaps clearing up a rotation for when Coco Crisp's appeal of his mound charging suspension is summarily rejected. It says here that's coming a lot sooner than later.
In the meantime, the Sox can enjoy another win, with the afternoon punctuated by the ManRam and Drew bombs and a nice, throwback performance by Wakefield. They'll take that every time.
STARTING PITCHING; Tim Wakefield: √+, seven innings, two runs. All in a solid day's work for Wake.
MIDDLE RELIEF: N/A
SET-UP RELIEF; Craig Hansen: √+, one inning, no runs, one hits. Another scoreless shines more light on Hansen's evolution from mop-up man to legitimate set-up contender. He keeps improving.
CLOSER: Jonathan Papelbon: -, one inning, one hit, one run. Paps gave up another run, and while it didn't affect the final result, Red Sox fans never want to see their closer give up a run. Under any conditions. Luckily, Papelbon has a similarly potent distaste for letting runs cross the plate, so it probably won't happen again soon.
Much of that had to do with the ineffectiveness of pitcher Bartolo Colon, just as the rest of Boston's batting struggles revolved around Hernandez cruising once again at Fenway. After outdueling Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Japanese ace's home debut last year, Hernandez might want to check the dimensions of Fenway when deciding where to sign his next contract.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, with momentum being the next day's pitcher, today's Tim Wakefield start doesn't necessarily bode too well. Wakefield has been almost grotesquely inconsistent all year, throwing a terrific inning before facing an equally horrendous inning less than an hour later.
That doesn't mean Wakefield won't put out an impressive game tonight, particularly after Colon's rough patch last night. It does mean that the Sox will almost certainly have to hit Seattle starter Miguel Battista a lot better than they hit Hernandez last night.
They'll also be trying to do so without Dustin Pedroia, who has the day off amidst one of the worst stretches of his young career. According to the Globe's Gordon Edes, DP is 0-for-12 during the team's current Fenway Park homestand, with an even more abysmmal 10-for-67 (.149) across the past 17 games.
So will fill-in Alex Cora and No. 2 hole replacement Julio Lugo be able to bridge the gap for the Sox? We're about to find out.
Case in point: The Sox host Tampa Bay for a divisional face-off three-fer, and Coco Crisp slides into second base a big high (think Bob Uecker from Major League "Just a biiiiitt high"), leading to a drilling from Tampa pitcher James "Don't Call Me Jamie" Shields in his first at bat Thursday. After feigning a calm stroll down to first, Coco charged the mound with a fury ducking a haymaker from Shields and landing a cross of his own before succumbing to oogles of kidney shots from various Rays.
Here's the best video, both from the fight and it's locker room aftermath, that we've been able to find so far, courtesy the ever-uncutvideo savvy Sox and Dawgs.
The postscript to the fight was almost as interesting. Within an hour, Jacoby Ellsbury injures his wrist on a diving catch, leading to an in-dugout argument between Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis about who's heading into the outfield. Two innings later, Manny left the game with a sore hamstring, and suddenly the Sox were down to a single bench player (Alex Cora).
That didn't keep Boston from sweeping the three-game set, but it paved the way for tonight's 8-0 blanking at the hands of Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.
So what now? Well, why grade a lousy home loss, the first of Bartolo Colon's Red Sox career, when you can score a massive bench-clearing brawl that led to eight suspensions? With that in mind, here's how the street cred of some of Thursday night's bruhaha shakes out following the, ummm, let's call it an altercation:
Coco Crisp: √+
Not only did the former everyday center fielder use clever premeditated tactics to get a clean run at Shields, he had the wherewithal to duck Shield's best shot after sprinting 90 feet, and then landed a punch of his own, though he played down the connection afterwards. It wasn't a knockout, but given Crisp and Shield's relative dimensions, that charging could have been a Robin Ventura-style drilling. If anything, it ended up on the other side of the coin, and that's a testament to Crisp's toughness. Now, about that seven game suspension with David Ortiz missing time because of his wrist injury ...
Sean Casey: √
Who says that it takes a season to get integrated into a team? The Mayor stood up for his teammates, pulling down a three-game ban as a result. For the camaraderie he helped build and the stand-up guy street cred he gets as a result, it's well worth it for a back-up first baseman.
Kevin Youkilis: √-
Youk is known for being a tough-guy everyman and standing up for teammates, so it's no surprise that he was out of the dugout pretty quickly. It's also no surprise that he was the one who stood up to Manny in between innings. Naturally, this grade could go way down if ManRam's performance plummets in the aftermath of the argument.
Jon Lester: √
He may be a young starter, but Lester's established enough that he can throw in retribution without thinking twice. When he had the chance - and the responsibility - to do so, he did it Wednesday. He got a five-game suspension for his trouble, but getting his teammates' respect is worth a lot more than that.
Manny Ramirez: -
Let's see, late to get in on the action, lackluster when he does, and unwilling (or, perhaps, unable) to pitch in on the field, ManRam was a total disappointment. Then again, is anyone surprised? Didn't think so.
Bartolo Colon: -
And who was lagging back with ManRam? The Big Diuretic, that's who. Think about it: If anyone needs the extra running work for more cardio, isn't it Bartolo? Then what happens the next night? He get's rocked. Nice work Colon cleanse. Sheesh.
Such was Saturday's night's Sox win, at which Manny Ramirez hit his 500th career homer, Jon Lester got back on track after a rough outing in Oakland and David Ortiz suffered a wrist injury which may or may not keep him on the sidelines for quite awhile.
While Big Papi's injury may be the biggest story by season's end - here's hoping it's not - the Camden Yards Manny love-in was completely overwhelming. Over the years, WMYM has been at a fair handful of Red Sox games at the Yard, but none came close to having a crowd so thoroughly dominated by Boston fans. Three times in the upper sections, large "Beat L.A." chants got started up by Celtics crazed fans. Whenever Manny strode to the plate, flashbulbs went off like Times Square. It was certifiably nuts, a development driven home no more completely than by the troupe of 60ish folks who were wearing matching t-shirts emblazoned with "Just Call it Fenway South".
The fandemonium was impressive, but the performances from Boston's rejuvenated batting order have been even more so. Before the injury, Big Papi was looking like the RBI bounty hunter Boston fans have grown to know and love. As soon as he stroked 500, ManRam waited only a pair of at-bats to get back in the act with 501. He looks locked, loaded and back on track, with the weight of a long milestone chase finally behind him.
And then there's the pitching staff, which followed a solid Josh Beckett outing on Friday with Lester's workmanlike six innings Satuday and another truly impressive outing from Bartolo Colon, who was routinely hitting the mid 90s with his fastball, with some radar guns reporting that he was touching as high as 97. To say that the Colon signing looks like a smart move now - with Clay Buchholz getting extra time back in Pawtucket and Daisuke Matsuzaka sitting on the 15-day DL with a window for more time out - is an immense understatement.
So, how do Red Sox fans celebrate such recent self-applied accolades? Hopefully with another win tonight in Baltimore, which would complete a notable four-game sweep on the road. After all, the Orioles swept the last Sox road trip from Boston, so turnabout is fair play. At least that's what WMYM keeps hearing. There is the issue of Tim Wakefield's truly sporadic starts, even by his standards, and an improved Jeremy Guthrie taking the ball for Baltimore, don't let the 2-6 record fool you, but if the bats - sans Dustin Pedroia, who's finally taking a day off - can producer the way they have, then a sweep actually could be in the offing.
In the meantime, there's plenty of video from Manny's historic hit to savor, so here's some of the best:
Of course, there are pleasantries to discuss, after the Sox rallied to take an extra-inning win on the road from Camden Yards last night. While Josh Beckett wasn't as dominant as he often is and struggled with his control, walking the bases full in his final inning, he also did what he tends to do best: He got the outs when he needed to and shut down Baltimore's chances at big innings.
That's what stoppers do: they stop the bleeding. And Beckett sopped the bleeding on the road pretty well last night. Of course, that begs the next question: Will the Sox be able to build on road success for a change, or will be just another blip on what has so far been a horrendous road resume. Lester certainly has the talent to do so, and if he does, he'll do so in an intriguing matchup. Baltimore's Garrett Olson has been terrific early, and the Red Sox will have to hit better than they have outside of Fenway all year to break through his teflon.
They'll also have to do it with efficient pitching, since nearly the entire bullpen made a cameo in last night's 13-inning face off. Hideki Okajima had an inning, Javier Lopez and Craig Hansen combined to put up a frame, Manny Delcarmen had his say, Mike Timlin showed up in the 12th and Jonathan Papelbon shut things down at the end of the road. Put all that together, and things start to look like a perfect opportunity for a multiple-inning Papelbon outing if Boston has a lead tonight. Remember, he'd hardly pitched in a week and a half before last night's quick 1-2-3 inning.
STARTING PITCHING: √
He wasn't perfect, but Beckett did what he's shown he's best at the past two seasons: He got the job done. Inside Edge was hardly blown away - they graded him at a B - but he did have a couple really impressive marks: Overall Effectiveness and Battle Tendency. Look, if you make WMYM pick two categories to have a pitcher excel in, we'll take Battle Tendency as one of them every single time.
MIDDLE RELIEF: √+
Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Craig Hansen ... all the young guys got the job done last night. In fact, with the exception of the melodrama brought by Delcarmen and Timlin, things cruised along quite nicely. That's exactly what you want from this bunch, and what people came to expect last year from Boston's excellent corps.
SET-UP RELIEF: N/A
Hard to call Timlin a set up reliever, since he wasn't in a set-up situation, which is why we lumped him in with the category above.
Can't go wrong with a 1-2-3 Papelbon outing, even if the lead was a bit more luxurious than he planned on, to be sure.
They just didn't take advantage of so many of the opportunities that were thrown in front of them. Whether it was squandering runners on base - didn't it seem like Jacoby Ellsbury was on the base paths all night - or blowing extra outs earlier in the game, it took the top of the 13th inning for Boston to finally come through, thanks to some horrendous Orioles defense. Accordingly, that's why you see Inside Edge grade the whole evening as a C, and to be fair, it's hard to argue otherwise. A nice game from Ellsbury, a nice game from David Ortiz and, eventually, a slump-busting hit from Kevin Youkilis aside, better things are expected from the Boston hitters, to be sure.