Bill Simmons, the purveyor of this myth that the 2010 Boston Red Sox are a boring team stuck in a boring season, just keeps getting burned. Exhibit L for the prosecution …. Last night’s 5-4 walkoff off the bat of Jed Lowrie.
Folks, that was a good baseball game. Good pitching for the most part, some action at the plate, some offense, a big Toronto rally, and finally the dramatic slam. Not sure that makes last night’s game an “A,” but it certainly was a B plus, and contrary to Simmons claim, the grading curve this year is turning out to be pretty tough.
Last night’s hero was obviously Jay-killer Jed Lowrie who slammed a 2-2 curveball into the Sox pen for the game winner. My first thought was nice job kid. Second thought … boy could we have used a couple of those earlier in the year when we were dropping extra-inning games to Baltimore and Tampa. And three, “Zed’s Dead” was a big line of Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction. Thankfully, that line no longer applies to “Jed ‘s” career, because Lowrie is proving to be a high-quality asset.
People forget that Lowrie has a pretty strong pedigree. After all, this guy was a triple crown winner in the best conference in NCAA baseball. (Speaking of Triple Crowns, Happy 71st Birthday wishes to Yaz!) And he was a second rounder who did nothing but hit in the minors. If you don’t believe me, look at his 2007 season in Portland and Pawtucket …. total Laser Show.
That he was hurt in 08 and unable to play at all in 2009 and early 2010 is no longer of consequence. What matters now is Lowrie is finally healthy and living up to expectations that were actually pretty lofty at one point. Case in point, heading into 2009, myself and ESPN’s Rob Neyer agreed that a healthy Lowrie was set up to be the best offensive shortstop in the AL East. That obviously didn’t happen. And this season’s small sample hardly confirms that Lowrie is now a MLB star. But the super-utility man is quickly morphing from a question mark into an exclamation point and at this point I’m not sure its blasphemous to think of Lowrie as the best offensive SS in the AL East heading into 2011. (Yankee Fans … check on your boy’s ROAD OPS before you say a FUCKING WORD!)
While Lowrie got all the back slaps last night, it should be noted that Matsusaka threw a pretty good game. I know the final line doesn’t look great and he did surrender a three-run lead, but his final game score of 59 is solid and he did yeoman’s work by getting those six extra outs in the seventh and eighth innings. And the importance of those can’t be discounted given the state of Boston’s middle relief. In fact, that was probably the key to the game because Lord only knows what would have happened if Doubront were called on to pitch the seventh or MDC was asked to get three outs in the eleventh.
Now it’s hardly a secret that Matsusaka is no darling in Boston. But take a look at the numbers. He has actually had a pretty good year. So good in fact that I would sign on the dotted line for something similar next season. For instance, look at that WHIP of 1.32. That is EXACTLY what it was in 2007 and 2008. And while it is not Lester-esque, it is slightly better than the league average and right in line with guys like Ervin Santana and Mark Buehrle.
I know it’s not always pretty to watch but that doesn’t mean it’s broken. And at this point, Matsusaka is clearly the third best starter on the Sox staff.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
* Fuck you Craig Breslow. I stayed up to watch that Tampa-Oakland game and that thing should have been over. David Price should have picked up a loss (and fallen further behind Buchholz in the CYA race) and the Sox should be just 4.5 out this morning. But with two outs and nobody on the eighth …. Breslow got raped and Oakland couldn’t recover.*
* I know I just raved about Matsusaka but one question here: In the second, he pitched around Overbay with first base open. And in the 4th, with a runner on first, he was once again very careful with Overbay, throwing everything away. For one reason or another, Matsusaka was in no mood to challenge the Jays first baseman, so why didn’t he just walk him in the sixth with first base open? Instead, he left a mistake out over the plate and OB tied the game. If Matsusaka was trying to be careful in that instance and the evidence suggests he was, than that was an awfully careless pitch.
* I didn’t have any volume last night so I am curious to hear if there was an explanation for that Nava-Lowrie double substitution in the 8th. Here is the reset …. Tie game and Lowell reaches second on an error. Kalish comes into run and Hall fucks things up by not getting him over. So then Nava is called out to pinch hit for Navarro. Cito responds with LH Scott Downs and Francona responds with Lowrie. The question I have is why Francona didn’t just go with Lowrie in the first place and save Nava as a PH or PR later on? I suspect it’s because he liked Nava against a right-hander more than he liked Lowrie and once the Jays countered that move with a lefty, Francona preferred a RH Lowrie to a RH Nava. But it seems he was picking up very little in that transaction and not enough to justify losing Nava without seeing a pitch. In doing so, Francona forfeited his right to use Nava for McDonald down the line against a tough-ish righty like Kevin Gregg. Whatever ….
* Bill Hall had one rough night. He went 0-5 with two strikeouts, he threw a ball away, and he proved he can’t bunt to save his life or anyone else for that matter. Billy Ballgame has done a great job for the Sox this season and he will have a job next season (somewhere) but it’s after games like last night that you understand why Hall is generally perceived to be a hack.
* David Ortiz left EIGHT guys on base last night. And he didn’t look good doing it.
* They were hardly crushed but it was nice to see Victor get a couple of RBI knocks.
* Another great night for Bard and Pap proved once again that Fenway is not his problem. But boy, is it just me or is Pap getting even slower between pitches? Thank god he isn’t a starter!