April 12 MLB Roundup: Full Count to Cano…Hey Look, Cars!

I mentioned in yesterday’s roundup that last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game was one of the weaker recent offerings involving the two teams. The game was close, but there wasn’t a lot of drama, and the atmosphere was surprisingly dull given the blood feud between the clubs.

Saturday’s game was more along the lines of what to expect when the Sox and Yanks square off. Like Friday’s game, both starting pitchers put forth pretty solid efforts to keep their respective teams in the game. Unlike Friday’s game, this game was actually enjoyable to watch.

I’ve already made most of my comments on Chien-Ming Wang, but I’ll throw out one more. He’s just not very interesting to watch as a pitcher. He goes in there, gets a ton of ground balls, eats innings, and that’s about it. He’s not very flashy, though he’s sure as hell effective. On the other side, you had Clay Buchholz, who has electric stuff but can’t always control it. The result was Buchholz throwing 99 pitches in six innings before giving way to the bullpen. It’s widely accepted that a pitcher’s pace has one of the biggest effects on a game, and when the home crowd sees its stud rookie pitcher laboring through six innings while the opposing team’s bland starter is mowing the home team down, it’s understandable that they’re not going to demonstrate a lot of enthusiasm, even with the game as close as it was yesterday.

This afternoon was a different story. Boston had its ace on the mound in Josh Beckett, and he was going up against the corpse of Mike Mussina. Beckett was arguably the best pitcher in the American League last season, whereas Mussina has been steadily declining for years and is often forced to rely more upon guile than skill at this stage of his career. Still, the Stanford graduate is far from an idiot when it comes to the art of pitching, and has been able to get by for the most part with his diminished stuff. Of course, he’ll take his lumps from time to time.

The Fenway faithful seemed to expect this to be one of those times, and was pumped up every time the Sox threatened to score. To Mussina’s credit, he held the Red Sox in check every time, but this crowd wasn’t as easily demoralized as Friday night’s. Even when Beckett coughed up the lead in top of the sixth inning, it wasn’t like dread set like it had on Friday. Sure enough, the Sox rallied back and the crowd went nuts.

(Say what you will about my placing this much emphasis on the crowd, but really, it’s Red Sox Nation and the Yankee fanbase that drive the rivalry. Everyone’s heard it already, but it’s not like the players on these teams legitimately hate each other (for the most part, anyway). Seeing a crowd that is actually into the game adds to the atmosphere, if nothing else.)

So we’ve established that the game was at least as dramatic as your typical close ballgame. Still, it wouldn’t be a Yankees-Red Sox game without at least some strange managerial decisions and a general sense of controversy.

The bad calls were primarily generated by Joe Girardi today. He allowed Mussina to pitch to Manny Ramirez with runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. At the time, the Yankees were clinging to a 2-1 lead. After Manny’s at-bat, the Yankees trailed 3-2. The second-guessing began almost immediately, as Ramirez could have been walked to load the bases for Kevin Youkilis.

Later, Girardi used LaTroy Hawkins in a one-run game in the 8th inning. The move worked out, but seriously, LaTroy Hawkins?

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Thoughts on Friday Night’s Yankees-Sox Game (4/11 Roundup)

I only caught one game in full on Friday night, and it was the first meeting of the season between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. For lack of anything better to write about, I’ll just throw out my thoughts on the Bronx Bombers’ 4-1 win.

First of all, as far as Yankees-Red Sox games go, this one was pretty much a stinker. I’m not looking to take anything away from Chien-Ming Wang’s performance tonight, because the dude was dealing for most of the game (namely every inning besides the fifth). But Boston helped him out too by going after him early in the count. I have to imagine that it was in the scouting report to jump on Wang early (yikes), but one would think that the team would try to make some adjustments to that strategy after failing to put anything resembling a strong offensive effort together at any point in the early innings.

It’s ridiculous that Wang only had to throw 93 pitches to record 27 outs against the Red Sox. I’m not the biggest fan of (…wow, almost walked right into that one. How shall I put this?…) the Korean right-hander. I tend to think he’s a little overrated by the Yankee fanbase and upper management (Brian Cashman is fond of comparing him to Brandon Webb), and that much of his game relies on luck. Still, a sinkerballer who eats as many innings as Wang does is a huge asset to have over the course of the season. There isn’t a team in the Major Leagues that wouldn’t happily take 200 innings of an ERA under 4, even if much of that success is reliant upon infield defense. (That reminds me, I loved Joe Girardi’s decision to plug defensive specialist Alberto Gonzalez in at shortstop behind Wang in place of the injured Jeter.)

Interestingly, of the 24 outs Wang recorded by getting Red Sox hitters to put the ball in play, 14 came on fly balls. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. Wang consistently finds himself near the top of the league in ground ball percentage thanks to his turbo sinker. It’s possible that this, too, may have been in the scouting report for Boston. Of course, I may also just be overthinking this. It’s entirely possible the Sox were just overmatched. That certainly looked to be the case with Big Papi, who was downright painful to watch.

(For the record, and I’m going to keep myself from going off on a tangent here, it’s my belief that the best way to beat pitchers like Wang, Webb or Carmona is to stack a lineup with as many speed guys as possible, even if it’s at the expense of guys with better on-base percentages. Within reason, of course. [I remember being frustrated that the Mets, who were well equipped to execute this strategy last year with Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Carlos Gomez and Luis Castillo all on the roster, went with their standard lineup and lost to Wang on a Sunday night game last season.] Maybe I’ll try doing a study on this scenario the road and see if I’m wrong. If nothing else, it piques my interest.)

Getting back to my original point, the game was close early on, but for me, it never really seemed all that exciting. The Fenway crowd was pretty dead, almost from the first pitch, and there just wasn’t a lot of energy displayed by anyone throughout the game. It was very weird for the first game of the year between “the greatest rivals in sports.”

One other thing I’ll throw out there is how great Coco Crisp’s defense in center field is. He was putting on a clinic tonight. Unfortunately, that was one of the only bright spots for the Sox.

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Al Reyes Hit Hard In Thursday Night Appearance

Tampa Bay Rays setup man Al Reyes celebrated his 38th birthday in style Thursday night, getting wasted and causing several disturbances at Tampa’s Hyde Park Cafe.

According to a St. Petersburg Times report, Reyes became angry with another bar patron when the pitcher staggered into a ceramic pot inside the bar. Reyes contended that the other patron, identified as Eduardo Mora, had shoved him into the pot, and called him out on his chicanery.

Mora, surely unaware that it was Reyes’ birthday, responded by punching the burly right-hander in his 38-year-old face. And that’s where the real fun began.

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Today Was A Nice Day To Take Up Smoking (Box Scores and Picks for 4/10)

Busy day today — not a lot of time to watch baseball (or sports of any kind). It was a nice day out today, and so I spent the day the way most people my age would — by hauling bags filled with sticks from one property to another in preparation for a garbage pickup that I later learned wouldn’t take place until Tuesday.

This session proved taxing on my afternoon and evening baseball viewing time. Admittedly, I chose to watch the return of The Office instead of the Phillies-Mets game that was available to me (what can I say? I’m a fan of Ken Tremendous’s writing), which also cut down on my viewing time. Ultimately, I was only able to catch a couple innings of the Royals-Yankees game, which was highlighted by the triumphant return to the Major Leagues of Hideo Nomo (well, that really depends on your definition of triumphant. At least nobody got hurt.)

Other than that, I kind of slacked today. I didn’t even apply myself to my goal of taking up smoking. All in all, a beautiful day was wasted by my being outside. May it never happen again.

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Time To Start Drawing Inspiration From Jim Leyland (4/9 in MLB)

The Detroit Tigers won their first game today, improving from winless to just very bad with a 7-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

The Tigers, my pick to win the World Series (well, of course), have had a nightmarish start to their season, with injuries sidelining Curtis Granderson, Gary Sheffield, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney for some or all of the team’s first eight games.

It’s easy to pin the team’s struggles on its weakened bullpen, but that hasn’t been its only issue. The Tigers, predicted by some to score 1,000 runs this season, had produced only 15 in the seven games prior to tonight’s victory. After tonight’s seven run outburst, the Tigers will have to average roughly 6.35 runs per game the rest of the way to meet that unrealistic expectation.

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4/8 Roundup: Mets Get Rickroll’d, NHL Picks Used As Diversionary Tactic

The way I figure it, there are going to be a shit-ton of articles tomorrow from the members of the sports media who just happened to learn of this Internet fad called the Rickroll. Now, to be fair, these sportswriters aren’t going to have the ability to bust out video feeds and what have you to accentuate their point. Seeing how this is a blog, though, I do have that opportunity, and will take full advantage.

And since once of the videos contains the Mets’ P.A. announcer explaining the entire situation, we’ll just move right on to the media portion of this post.

We’ll start with the portion of the Rickroll that reached the largest number of people, courtesy of this afternoon’s SNY telecast:

Following the jump, we have four more videos from fans who attended today’s game — courtesy of YouTube, natch — and a fifth video which, well, you just have to watch it.

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One Shining Moment

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