Results tagged “Red Sox” from Who Made You Mirabelli?

No News is Good News

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dice-k.jpgAs of this morning, everyone and their uncle had their jock-straps in a twist over some theoretical announcement regarding Diasuke Matsuzaka's future with the Boston Red Sox. Was he going to start? Was he going to be benched? Was he going to be released? Taken out back and shot? WHAT? Somebody... please tell us what is going on.
But as the tension become more and more palpable (mostly because of the unreal amounts of media attention it was getting... but what do you want? -- it was an off-day), it became clear that Red Sox fans weren't even going to get a nugget of anything. The Red Sox are almost as bad as the Patriots in that respect. They have become masters in saying literally nothing. It's almost enough to pray for an Ozzie Guillen-type figure... almost.
But taking a step outside the box, the question is this: does it really matter when Dice-K comes back? We've already seen he's no Beckett in the post-season. And now that our bats have woken up from their beauty rest, the team is winning... without him.
Obviously, you want your ka-trillion dollar man out there earning his salt. But his return isn't going to make-or-break the season. If anything, it's going to give Red Sox fans more heartburn, as pointed out in a brilliant, funny, and awe-inspiring article by a good friend of Who Made You Mirabelli, Michael James Silver, or Pythagorus, as he is known is some circles. He's a talented young writer for FireBrandAL who is really going places. No wonder why his work has gotten picked up by the likes of ESPN.com's Rob Neyer, and was featured on the MLB Outsiders homepage.
Although it is somewhat silly that Dice-K, in all of his virtual irrelevance, is making the homepage of anything these days... slow news day.
d-peds.jpgYou've got to be happy for Dustin Pedroia after his first career multi-home run game. It's quite a big accomplishment, especially for such a little man.
But it seems like the only one not jacked about his pair of jacks last night is D-Peds himself. After the game, he told the Globe, "I'm not trying to hit home runs. I'm just trying to hit line drives. Some times they get up in the air and get out of here."
So humble...
Humility has never been the name of Ortiz's game, a game which tied a record for home-runs amongst DH's at 269, tying the Big Hurt's utterly useless record.
Now, riddle me this... who the hell saw Alex Gonzalez coming? Three homers all season with Cincy... three in the last month. Yes, please.
On to more pressing matters... Big Play Clay. Finally, his control is getting there. It's been the one missing piece to his puzzle, and it seems like he's learned to keep his mental game in check. Thank goodness. Last night, he racked up five strikeouts and one walk in seven innings. With the likes of Paul Byrd on the mound, Terry will take that any day of the week. Overall though, it was his comfort level that was the big difference. He's finally working smarter, not harder.
Michael Bowden, on the other hand, is working harder than anybody to get that 10.5 ERA down. Another two innings like he had last night might do the trick. He's still getting hit (two last night), but he needs to take his lumps in order to become a better pitcher. He'll get there eventually, but probably not this year.

Shipping Back to Boston

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According to the Providence Journal, both Jed Lowrie and Paw-Sox catcher Dusty Brown will be on the bench for tonight's game against the Orioles... prompting dozons of people to ask, "Who the hell is Dusty Brown? And didn't we just paint the living room that color?"

Tough Crowd

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Despite some fair play by the Red Sox over the long weekend, things don't seem to be going their way.
Marke Buehrle, who is emerging as the weirdest pitcher of the year (perfect game, followed immediately by six winless weeks), threw another gem against the Red Sox - while a bit down the coast, the Yankees were completing a sweep of the Rays. Moreover, Carlos Pena now has two broken fingers and is out for the season. Couldn't that have happened to someone in pinstripes? No? Too much to ask?
Well, at least we can look on the bright side... Derek Jeter apparently couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, so at least we've got that going.

Clay in Control

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Clay%20Buchholz%202.jpgForget the six game lead in the Wild Card -- well don't actually forget it, because that's pretty awesome too -- but last night's rubber match against the Tampa Bay Rays showed us something that might be more useful come October: the emergence of Clay Buccholz as a control starter.

This is a guy with a career 1.73 SO/BB average, never knotching a season over 2.20. However, within the last week, Big Play Clay has earned himself a 4.0 SO/BB average. How's that for control? Hitting the spots has always been his biggest problem. His stuff is evident, and it's clear that he knows how to use it. But nibbling at the corners is something that he doesn't have yet... and that's fine. Those are the type of skills acquired by nothing but time and practice.

This trend is not only good for the kid, who very well may be a head case (emotionally... not psychologically... and yes... there is a difference), but it's also good for the team. Things are starting to click all over the place at the exact right time -- which as we've seen with the Rockies in '07 and the Rays in '08, trumps virtually all other skill sets.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox don't have time to stop and think about how nice this is starting to feel. Tonight, the Rangers go up against the Orioles, and Chris Tillman is going to call Scott Feldman his "daddy," after all -- he's practically old enough to be.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have won seven straight -- although tonight's matchup against Halladay and Baby Joba should be one for the ages... or in Joba's case, up until the fourth inning.

Big Game - Big Numbers

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Tonight is sure to be nothing short of a number game. As the Red Sox prepare to start a three game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field, the focus once again turns to pitching - the one area where the Sox have a decided advantage.

Thankfully, the Sox are staring down the barrel of a Sonnanstine, Garza, Price match-up - and we're firing back with Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz. Lester has been nothing short of spectacular in his last seven starts, picking up the slack for mysteriously ill Josh Beckett (H1N1? We're not saying... but we're just saying...)

It seems like a few short days ago when people were taking to the streets, praying up and down for any form of a pitcher. But in a series when a 14-5 ace with a 3.8 ERA is your biggest question mark, it's not a bad position to be in, relatively speaking of course.

In fact the three that the Sox are putting up this week have a combined ERA of 11.78, while the Rays are working with a 15.19 ERA. Of course, ERA can be one of the most misleading statistics in baseball, but the team's 8.9 hits allowed per 9 innings seem to echo the hittability of their pitchers. Not that the Red Sox have had the loudest bats as of late, but these Rays pitchers could be the nice cup o' joe that we so desperately need.

Now, the Globe, as it has been known to do, is crying to the hilss over this week's series - but they might actually be on to something here. At this point, with a month left in the season, there is a lot of room for change. But against a fiesty AL East competitor, the playoff picture could be much clearer by weeks end. Although Chad Finn needs to temper his enthusiasm (no... the earth is not going to open up and swallow the loser of this series), this is going to be a big one... hopefully with some big numbers for the boys in Red.

 

 

penny.jpgThere is a story about David Wells getting cut from the Yankees that's probably more myth than reality. According to the legend, the 946-pounder was called into Brian Cashman's office, and the young GM cut him lose, most likely for eating an entire party sub by himself. Wells takes it lying down, literally... as he allegedly dropped to his knees and starting crying like a 17-year-old acne faced theater kid on prom night.

 

Now, this is not to smear the reputation of Mr. Wells, although to be fair, his weight has done that already. Nowadays, the word smear just makes him hungrier.

 

Upon hearing of the pink slip handed to Brad Penny this morning, one can't help but think of the infamous hefty-lefty. However, Brad Penny is apparently taking this news like a man amongst men - to which Red Sox fans should tip their hats.

 

Now, his performance this season has been virtually inexcusable, and there is an imminent temptation to scream something along the lines of "don't let the door hit you in your engorged ass on the way out," but his comments on BostonHerald.com were something to be admired.

 

"I enjoyed playing with all of the guys," he said. "I played for a great manager on a great team. I had a great time. I enjoyed it. I wish things had worked out better, but that happens."

 

WELL DONE.

 

"I had some bad breaks and made some bad pitches," he said. "But I'm healthy, and that's what I'm happy about. This isn't last year, when I was hurt (with the Dodgers). If that had been the case, I'd be upset."

 

KUDOS!

 

"All in all I had a great time here. My shoulder is healthy, and I'm glad I came here. It was a blessing."

 

WOW! BRAVO GOOD SIR!

 

It's almost enough to wash the taste of that 5.61 ERA out of your mouth, and even perhaps respect the guy. But seriously... get the hell out of here.

Papi Lifts Spirits

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ortiz.jpgOn a day when Bay Staters needed a little pick-me-up, it was one of the most jovial men in Boston sports history that gave it to them, as David Ortiz crushed a walk off homer to lift the Red Sox past the White Sox last night, 3-2.

Ortiz, who could use a little pick-up himself with the events of the last month, enjoyed his 10th career walk-off home-run, nine of those coming in a Red Sox uniform - a record which pushed Papi passed Jimmie Foxx for an all-time team record.

However, as the good folks at NESN pointed out, Ortiz hadn't had a walk-off homer since September 12, 2007. He was certainly due for what has become the big man's calling card. For a full listing of Ortiz's crowning moments, check out NESN.com's timeline.

Maybe it was the donning of the old real Red Sox uniform that got Ortiz back to his old form. Between the old jerseys, Ortiz's walk-off, and Alex Gonzalez jacking one over the wall, you can't help but feel nostalgic.

Red Sox Lose Favorite

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It is with great sadness that we bid a fond farewell to Senator Ted Kennedy, a true American Hero. As Red Sox fans, we must all mourn the loss of one of our greatest champions. It is truly a sad day for the State of Massachusetts, and the thoughts and prayers of us all are with Teddy and his family.

He has been a figure in all of our lives for years, and his memory still remains in the hearts of every Bay Stater.

By the way, if you're first reading of this tragic loss on this blog - maybe it's time to try CNN.com, not that we don't appreciate your traffic.

Down to the Wire

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Well a thinly stretched, yet talented bullpen will be gettins some more support in the form of one Mr. Bill Wagner. For some yet unknown reason, the 38-year-old closer waived his no-trade clause, supposedly just minutes before the 1:30 p.m. deadline.

According to Boston.com,

"The source said the Red Sox have agreed to Wagner's wishes and will not pick up his $8 million option for 2010, the final element of the four-year, $43 million deal he signed with the Mets as a free agent before the 2006 season. Notably, the club will retain the right to offer him arbitration, meaning they would get two compensatory draft picks if another team signs him. "

Now, this promises to muddy the closing waters even more - although not for a while at least. It appears that one of Boston's draws to Wagner was the promise that the team will not overuse his still delicate arm, and that he would ease into a new role as a set-up man.

Although not in any immediate fear for his job (or at least he shouldn't be, with Bard's collapse and Wagner's recovery time-table), Jon Papelbon is still a tad unhappy about the whole situation.

"What has he done? Has he pitched this year?" Is he ready to pitch or is he not? ... I think our bullpen is good where we're at right now. Don't get me wrong. But I guess you could always make it better. It's kind of like the [Eric] Gagne thing, I guess."

Wagner apparently didn't take the comments lying down according to Boston.com, telling SI.com,

"[W]hen he walks in my shoes then I'll say something. Let him be 38 and have Tommy John surgery."  

This has the makings of a potential serious rift, and could serve to push Papelbon out of town even faster. As stacked as we are, this is not the time to burn any bridges, especially with a young man who has given us what appears to have been the best of his career.

But in either case, the Red Sox now have more potential closers on one team than the entire NL Central. It's rediculous. However, this Wagner move could fill one void in particular - the Veteran spot left by the departure of John Smoltz.

From the beginning of the season, it was clear that Smoltz's strongest contributions to the team could have been in a tight relief spot in extra innings on a tense October night. Now, Billy Wagner can fill that role - and that's more of a psychological advantage than anything - an advantage which this team is dying for right now. 

Feeling Uninspired?

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So are these Boston Red Sox. There's no way to rationalize or explain our way out of it. This is a slump of spirits - and unfortunately, these past few weeks have brought opponents that the Red Sox absolutely could not afford to lose to.
But in year's past, the Red Sox always used to dig out those must-win games. This year, things are a bit different. The Sunday night game against the Yankees showed endless money shots of a loose New York Yankees team. But then again, five home runs against the best pitcher on your rivals team might do that to you.
Bottom line is that the Red Sox are in a funk of spirits, and that's leading to poor on the field performance. They need to loosen up, and figure out how to jive better as a team - and the quickest way to do that is to start winning games. Vicious cycle. Let's hope it ends soon.

It's just about that time of year: the Yankees are playing well, the Red Sox are slumping, and the streets of Dorchester are lined with bodies from all of the fans heaving themselves from the tallest building they can find.

The Red Sox are in a free-fall, but this is a road that this team insists on going down almost every single year... and while it may feel like the sky is falling, this is nothing new under the sun.

In fact, this year's pitfalls are certainly better than the ones that Red Sox nation felt in 2006 - a year in which the BoSox missed the playoffs. This year... there is a safety net. So let's calm down a bit, shall we?

Earlier on in the year, the Red Sox went out for essentially every buy-low veteran on the market. Theo has learned well from the missteps in 2006, and gone after inexpensive depth. To have a guy like Josh Reddick who they can call up and send down whenever he's needed is beyond invaluable (note: Jed Lowrie would normally be deserving of some sort of mention in a paragraph such as this... but his crisp .074 since the All Star break is keeping him out of the running).

They even have pitching options, believe it or not. A few of those options aren't exactly that viable, but they're options, none the less. The wheels are, indeed, coming off of Brad Penny and John Smoltz and are now careening towards a crowd of horrified onlookers, but their problems (including, but not limited to, a combined 47 earned runs in 10 starts within the last month) are magnified by the situations the team has been in lately. Keep in mind that the 13-inning jaunt the other night burnt out the core of the Red Sox pitching staff beyond belief. After something like that, a shaky series has to be expected... it's just too bad that such a series had to be against the Yankees... It always has to be the Yankees.

Pitching Out Of Order

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images.jpgWith all of the roster moves surrounding the trade deadline, there has to be a slight degree of forgiveness if the casual fan hasn't quite memorized the new roster... never mind the line-up. But it's not everyday when the manager forgets who the closer(s) are.

Tuning into a tie game in the ninth against a division rival, one would expect to see... maybe Jonathan Papelbon... maybe Daniel Bard - clearly the closer of the future. No, no, dear friends. Ramon Ramirez. That is what we saw.

Now, for those unfortunate souls watching the game on the trusted MLB.tv, we actually didn't "see" this per se. Instead, we found ourselves cursing the webmaster and then cursing Takashi Saito via ESPN's gamecast... a lovely way to spend an evening indeed.

But back to the pitching. Daniel Bard is, almost unquestionably going to be the closer for the Boston Red Sox at some point in the future, barring injury or trade - although the Fangraph boys think his "untouchable" tag is a bit undeserved. He gave up a two-run jack to Evan Longoria, who despite his uncharacteristically low numbers this season, has a propensity for tattooing young pitchers with not a lot of ball movement when their velocity tails... he is after all a professional ball player. But despite Longoria's jolt to Bard's confidence, the kid looks like the real deal. But the only way to give him a go is to give him a go... in a close situation.

If the Sox management was looking to play tonight a little more conservatively and give Papelbon the green light in the ninth... all well and good. That's what the team pays him for. That is not, however, what they pay Ramon Ramirez for. Nothing against poor Ram Ram - who ended up pitching his way out of a serious tight spot, but what? Why? Huh? So confused... must lay down.

 

malamud.jpg

It's time to come out of the cave folks... it's a whole new week. Yes... David Ortiz tested positive for steroids in 2003. And no... there really is no possible way that Tim Tebow hasn't gotten laid at a school like Florida.

Now, anyone who can honestly say TO THEMSELVES that they didn't see the Ortiz allegation coming need to walk themselves to the nearest Pearl Vision. The Red Sox Hipocrites Code, to which we all hold steadfast, mandates that we defend him until the bitter end in front of others, especially Yankees fans. But to ourselves, we must be true.

These feelings of expected mourning are strangely familiar. When you were eight, you figured out that Santa Clause wasn't real, but four years later - at the ripe old age of 12, your parents probably told you that there was truly no chimney shimmey - and it still kind of stung. As is the case with Santa Clause; the fat man, is indeed, not real.

Apparently, there have been fistfights in the Boston Globe newsroom as to what to do next. Dan Shaughnessy suggests that Papi take the strong, silent approach - a la Mark McGwire. Bob Ryan, on the other hand, feels like Papi should throw himself head first into the steroid fire.

Now, Who Made Your Mirabelli? would never be so bold as to suggest any advice for the Big Guy himself. However, if you are wondering how to crawl out of this dark, dingy hole that Papi's needle pushing has left you in, we recommend a good read for our loyal readers.

Go to the local bookstore and pick up a copy of Bernard Malamud's The Natural. That's right, the Robert Redford movie. As easy to read as it is vivid in detail, the book will remind you of why you fell in love with the game to begin with. It's about everything that is pure and unadulterated about the game. Maybe one day, professional baseball can get back to the days of Roy Hobbs... a character who himself was modelled, at least in part, after Teddy Ballgame himself.

Come to think of it, we do have one suggestion for Mr. Selig. Make the classic book "required reading" for all new players entering the minors... although books on tape might be more appropriate for some. **cough cough** Kevin Millar ** cough cough**

Patriot Games

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For a long time, the Red Sox have been considered one of the most "American" franchises in the most American of games, whatever that may mean.

But what it doesn't mean is wearing your patriotism on your sleeve -- or on your hat, as it were. This weekend was another aimless (as opposed to shameless) appeal to latent American ideals by the MLB. The league has again saught to brand itself with this form of "consumer patriotism" - this year with mandated Red Hats. But let's face it, no color can accurately capture the notion of patriotism.

The fact that we are able to enjoy baseball on a sweltering afternoon in the same city where the very ideas of democracy and freedom became solidified as law on the Fourth of July is about as patriotic as it gets; no matter what hat color we wear.

So stop shopping for it; it's not something we can buy. Instead, we need to start understanding it. It's something we should appreciate everyday; we don't need a weekend holiday to do it. Every time we watch any game, we must appreciate the sacrifices made to make that Sunday afternoon at the ballpark possible.

Sorry this one was so heavy, and we hope everyone enjoyed their weekend holiday. But let's not let these feelings slide: let's live it everyday. As much as we're members of Red Sox Nation, we're all a part of this nation too - and we should be damn proud of it.

See, now even Jason Bay knows what I'm talking about.

Smoltz, but No Cigar

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PicImg_MLB_APR_12_4b21.JPGEvery human has a fight or flight mechanism that kicks in during times of stress. During John Smoltz's first outing back from major shoulder surgery last week, that flight instinct manifested itself as a very hittable slider.

In last Thursday match up against the Nationals, the 42-year-old threw 10 sliders in just the first inning (which stretched a grueling 34-pitches). With a less than stellar slider these days, this was a clear sign that he was in trouble, and he was looking for ways out.

Today, he threw zero first inning sliders. This means that he's more comfortable with his pitches, and is more in command. Today, he kept the off-speed pitches down. Today, he decided to fight.

Now, it's certainly easy to forget the plusses when the bullpen puts forth such a putrid showing. It's just too bad that their stinkfest had to outshine Smoltz's real comeback. In what would be the biggest comeback in the history of the Orioles franchise, Red Sox "relievers" gave up five runs in two consecutive innings, after Adam Jones, on of the most dangerous young players in the leauge, left the game. Ten runs between Masterson, Okajima, and Saito? Seriously? This is a team that crumbled to the Sox 11 times in the last twelve meetings, mind you. Since when did Oscar Salazar coming off the bench strike fear into the hearts of major league pitchers? So many questions... so little time.
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In what must have been an homage to the New Yankee stadium, Red Sox pitchers were letting them fly in last night's loss to the Twins. They tied a modern day record for most wild pitches in a single game with a whopping six slips. Four of those humdingers came from the apparently spasm ridden hand of Daisuke Matsuzaka. The other two came from Delcarmen, who laid an egg and a half, and Masterson - who tried to clean up after the cracking of said egg. In related news, catcher George Kottaras had a nervous breakdown after tonight's "display," and the Twin Cities negotiation team has been trying to talk him down from the clock tower.

Masterson and Manny (which it feels surprisingly refreshing to call him) have no excuse - but any Red Sox fan could tell you that if they had to put money on one pitcher throwing four wild pitches in a game, it would be none other than Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"Labor" is a good word to associate with the Dice-man. Everything he does now seems tedious - not boring - but tedious. Never known for his quick style of play (or his endurance for that matter), Dice-K through over a hundred pitches tonight... in only five innings. Sox fans have come to realize that the high priced import is far from a sure thing - apparently a Rolaids sponsorship is somewhere in the wings.

But the interesting thing, the element that keeps us coming back for more after getting slapped around for a few hours every six days, is that the difference between a brilliant Dice-K start is a razor-thin line. Half of the (or maybe the only) fun in watching this guy pitch revolves around seeing him get into these sticky situations just to see what kind of pitch he'll invent to get out of them.

It's long and sometimes painful (as we saw tonight) - but at least it's entertaining. Unless, of course, you're poor George Kottaras.

Last night, the Rays handled the Red Sox and rolled into the World Series. They did it with an overpowering starter who, all strops and headcase reactions aside, could become one of the best in baseball. They did it with a closer who had never close a game before, but may be the  best pitching prospect in baseball (who said losing never pays?). They did it the right we, and Boston just got flat out beat.

So why hadn't I been posting about this string of crazy events that led to this inexplicable Game 7 ... and it's subsequent Red Sox meltdown? Like so many superstitious Sox fans I thought I was on to something. Maybe checking in on the blog was bad luck, so I did away with it, hoping to spur on Boston and then resume blogging in the World Series.

Evidently it came up one or two Jason Varitek hits short.

Was it a memorable series? Absolutely. It was beyond that. But that doesn't make the Game 7 loss that much easier, particularly considering Jon Lester's strong start less than a week after he was shelled by the same team.

In fact, no matter how one tries to step back from the scene and take everything in, it's impossible not to be struck with the distinct feeling that, as good as the Red Sox were at times during the year, and as good as they were against the Angels in the ALDS, they just ran out of bullets. Missing Mike Lowell and a legitimate fourth playoff pitcher -- check out Tim Wakefield's splits in recent ALCS performances and you'll see what I mean -- they just didn't have the ammunition to go seven games with the Rays. Somehow they got there anyway, and the Rays came up with just enough plays to get through.

Will the Sox bounce back? Sure. But the franchise faces a lot of difficult offseason decisions about it's future. We'll be analyzing those in significantly more detail in the days to come. For now, we're going to go back to prying to pretend last night -- and much of the last nine months against the Rays, for that matter -- never happened.
What do the Sawx have to do to stay alive tonight? It's not hard to figure out:


1) Have Daisuke Matsuzaka throw an efficient outing: Another game like Game 1 on Friday would set Boston up for a nice, conservative win. Matsuzaka can be infuriating for his voluminous walks, but he has a knack for working out of the jams he creates. Now would be a very ideal time to tap into the competitiveness Theo Epstein and co. cited when paying out the nose for the right to sign him in November 2006.

2) For God's sake hit someone!: Scott Kazmir would be a good place for the Red Sox to beginhitting again, and there's no time like the present. Sure, Kazmir is the Rays' ace, but he's been hittable by Boston's bats in his last two outings against the Red Sox, both in the regular season and in Game 2. Both of those matchups were in Florida, and Kazmir has fared pretty well at Fenway in his career (4-4, 3.02 ERA in 11 starts). Boston needs to get to Kazmir and get to him early, scoring off him before the Rays have a chance to summon their terrific bullpen.

3) Relieve pressure early: The last two games at Fenway have sounded like a tomb, with fans staring at Rays routs in silence. If Boston can jump to an early lead, they can remind their fans that this whole comeback thing is old hat with them.

4) Give the Rays something to think about: Staying alive for another day will force the series to back to Florida, and then the Red Sox could tap into the mystique forged by the 2004 and 2007 Sox squads before them. That, needless to say, would be a huge benefit.

Can Boston pull off all four of those goals? Maybe, but things will have to be a lot different than they have been recently if the Sox are going to stay alive. Otherwise the long, cold offseason starts tonight. And with the Patriots where they're at right now, that's not a pretty place to be.

There's a post worth reading that has a bit of WMYM on it over at The Washington Post's Baseball Insider Blog, and it gets to the heart of the second incredibly questionable decision by Terry Francona in the first two games (for the record, the first questionable call was leaving Daisuke Matsuzaka in the game to start the eighth inning of Game 1).

paulbyrdalcs1.pngAnyone else get why this guy wasn't on the mound
in the 11th last night? Yeah, we don't either.


It gets into a lot of depth but here's the gist: Why start the bottom of the 11th with Mike Timlin when you could use a perfectly ready Paul Byrd?

Byrd is on the Red Sox roster for a reason. He's a crafty and clever pitcher, and while his guile can't get him out of every jam, it was good enough for him to rack up a 4-2 record with Boston since the Red Sox added him for the stretch run. Needless to say, plenty of his eight starts came against top notch competition (though, interestingly, none came against the Rays).

But wait, there's more. Another potential Byrd advantage is that the Rays haven't seen him this season at all! When Byrd was still pitching for the Indians, he missed the teams only two series against Tampa Bay early in the season. For some pitchers that might not be an advantage, but for Byrd it probably is. The 6-foot-1 righty uses a bizarre, double windup that has a tendency to throw off hitters, and might be just the kind of weapon to unnerve the Rays hitters.

Add to that Byrd's stats in his three most recent trip to the postseason -- last year's ALDS and ALCS -- where he was 2-0 while allowing a total of four runs over 14 innings against the Yankees and Red Sox, and one has to wonder why Francona decided against throwing him instead of Timlin.

As you can read, the post goes on to question whether Francona is saving Byrd for a surprise Game 6 start, given Josh Beckett's recent woes. For the record, I don't think that's the case, and I imagine Andy doesn't think that's the case, either (though he can speak for himself).

Still, it makes one wonder why Byrd is on the roster if not to pitch in that exact situation. Mike Timlin finished the regular season as the team's mop-up man, strictly playing in extra innings and blowouts. That seemed to be the role he was targeted for in this series, too, until he was summoned in the 11th last night. 

So what can Tito be thinking? Is he really considering giving Byrd a start in Game 6 and also trying to save his arm in case he has to be used some in Game 4, which will be started by the ever-terrifying dual persona of Tim Wakefield? It's possible, but given Francona's predilection to stick with "his guys", it seems unlikely.

Really, the whole issue is a head-scratcher, and that's what makes it so strange. Francona rarely makes decisions that beg for second guessing. Maybe he'll be right about this one in the long run, too, but it has us awful curious at the moment.




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