As baseball fans, we all get caught up in our team’s faults. And we myopically think our team is the only one that makes stupid mistakes and loses tough games. So at the end of road trips, you often hear things like …. Well we were 3-3 but we blew a couple of opportunities and should have been 5-1.
Well, it cuts both ways and let me tell you something, the LA Angel fan experienced a nightmare yesterday that rivals anything that Red Sox fans experienced during this most recent trip. And that includes Sunday’s eighth inning meltdown in Seattle, which by all accounts, was a five-alarm nightmare.
To recap Fernando Rodney’s eight inning yesterday: 3-3 game. Leadoff walk. Another walk. A sacrifice that turns into a hit. And a granny. Sequences like that are the stuff of lingering nightmares. And yes, they happen to other clubs just as frequently, and often more frequently, than they happen to the Red Sox.
So the Sox caught a break yesterday. In fact, they caught two breaks. First, Joel Pinero was a late scratch, turning the Angels quickly from a -110 favorite into a +115 underdog. And the second break came from the fingertips of Rodney who gifted the Sox two quick base runners in the 8th and set Boston up for a decisive blow. Funny how you won’t hear many Sox fans incorporate this information into their final assessments of the trip just concluded.
Now that is not to say that the Sox didn’t earn yesterday’s win. Because they did. Here were the highlights: Josh Beckett pitched very well, and much better than his line suggests. Each Sox infielder went yard, the first time that has happened in ML baseball since the Brewers did it in 2006 (and Billy Hall was playing second base). Eric Patterson and Marco Scutaro did huge damage from the 9 and 1 spots. The two strikeout machines – Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall – managed to secure four walks. And the two right-handed numnuts in the pen – MDC and R Squared – managed to get six outs without needing to call 911. So those are the good things.
And the bad? Well, notwithstanding Scutaro’s blast, the Sox continue to have all kinds of trouble hitting with runners in scoring position. Yesterday, the final tally was 2-14. On top of that, David Ortiz struck out four times and made a terrible base running play, Youkilis and McDoanld left an army of guys out at second, Jeremy Hermida gagged a third out and the Sox did only manage to rack up three runs over seven innings of middle relief. So there would have been plenty of ammo available to go ballistic today if Scutaro had lined into a triple play and the Sox ended up losing 4-3 on an 11th inning walkoff off Hideki Okajima.
All that aside, Boston ended its ten-day tour through the West at 6-4. Given the competition, that feels a bit soft but given where they were on Sunday night, it is a relief of sorts. Yeah, it feels like it should have been a bit better. And it would have been if the Sox had come up with a couple big hits, Wakefield hadn’t punked away a four-run lead, Patterson hadn’t disrupted Lester’s perfect game and Francona hadn’t put Okajima into a spot where he was bound to fail. But on the flip side, the team won two “2-1” games, they caught a big break yesterday and another one on Tuesday when Juan Rivera was caught playing 20 feet too short, and who would have thought they would have won last Thursday when the Mariners had the bases loaded in extras against Okajima?
So all in all, it was a pretty good trip. The Sox got healthier. They managed to stay alive. And there are signs that the starting pitching is ready to roll. There are still huge problems with the pen and god knows this club could use Pedroia and Ellsbury back, but I think the Sox should be able to ride their starters until the final cavalry units arrive. Hopefully, that is just a week from now in Pedroia’s case and ten days in the case of Ellsbury.
* If Bill Hall doesn’t lose a ball in the Sun and Jeremy Hermida doesn’t whiff a third out, Beckett’s line would have looked something like this …. 7 innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, five strikeouts. I realize the Angels are not a great offensive team and they were missing Hunter but that is still a great line.
* Boy am I glad that road trip is over. Seven late games in ten days tested my will but outside of the first inning Monday (Flaming Lips related), I had perfect attendance. I’m at 99-3 this season as far as games watched-games missed.
* Nothing matches Baltimore for home field advantage but it sure seems like LA is close. When Scutaro’s ball landed in the seats yesterday, the picture looked no different than a big bomb that curled around the Pesky Pole.
* 3rd Inning: Could someone tell me why David Ortiz didn’t tag from second on a loud fly-out to Matsui with nobody out? He does realize that a team’s chances of scoring improve when a runner is at third with one out, no? It turns out it wouldn’t have mattered as Hermida and Hall both whiffed, but that doesn’t excuse the blunder and it doesn’t alter my view that David Ortiz does a lot of things poorly.
* The Angels are just about dead …. So I’d give LA GM Tony Reagins a call and check on Brian Fuentes. I am not a big fan of Fuentes but he is left-handed and could be very useful against lefties down the stretch (he is KILLING lefties this year). Now he might be a Type A FA but in order to get picks, the Angels would have to offer him arbitration and he would have to turn it down. I don’t think he would turn that down as $10M in arbitration is more than he would make on the open market.
FARM REPORT: It was a rough night on the farm …. Michael Bowden, Boston’s prospective bullpen patch, got roughed up by Toledo, Ryan Kalish took an 0-5, Stephen Fife didn’t throw very well for Portland, Greenville pitcher Manny Rivera got pounded for the second time in a row (might be hitting a wall) and as per usual, Lowell lost AGAIN. That being said, Anthony Rizzo hit another out last night and Ryan Lavarnway just keeps mashing, this time blasting a two-run blast to win a game for Portland in extras. With four RBI last night, Lavarnway has now driven in runs 21 in just 51 AA at bats. And for the year, he now has 84 RBI in 355 at bats. You have to go back to Lou Gehrig to find an Ivy Leaguer with those types of numbers.