Posts Tagged Boston Red Sox

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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Nobody’s Perfect, But Detroit’s Still Winless (April 4 Roundup)

It didn’t take all that long for the final undefeated team to take a loss in the 2008 Major League Baseball season. The Kansas City Royals had their hopes of a 173-0 season dashed on Friday night when they were edged out by the Minnesota Twins, 4-3. Lefty John Bale, making his first Major League start since September 18, 2003, kept his then-unblemished team in the game by allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings. Unfortunately for Bale and the Royals, Minnesota’s Scott Baker was a little bit better. The Twins righthander threw 6 2/3 innings of 3-run ball, allowing seven hits and walking none while striking out two.

When Baker departed, he turned the game over to the capable back end of the Minnesota bullpen. Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan joined forces to record the final seven outs of the game while only allowing one hit, enabling the Twins to hang on for the win.

The Royals fall to 3-1 following the loss, and are now tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers for the best record in baseball.

The Detroit Tigers find themselves on the other end of the spectrum after losing their fourth consecutive game to begin the season. A.J. Pierzynski led the charge against the Tigers today, delivering a three-run home run and driving in a total of five runs to lead the Chicago White Sox to an 8-5 win. The White Sox improved their record to 2-2, while the Tigers fell to 0-4.

A quick look at the remainder of Friday’s games after the jump.

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My Bad On Garza-Cabrera (April 2 MLB Roundup)

A day ago, I pointed out what I thought was an interesting pitching matchup in Wednesday’s Tampa Bay-Baltimore meeting. The game was to involve two pitchers who had previously dominated the opposing team — Matt Garza for Tampa Bay (3-0, 2.16 ERA in three starts vs. Baltimore) and Daniel Cabrera for the O’s (6-0, 3.04 ERA in 11 starts against the Rays). I speculated that pitching would likely be the key to the game, even calling it a “sleeper” matchup.

Well, I was wrong. Neither pitcher made it past the sixth inning — Cabrera was gone after four — and neither factored into the decision. Cabrera was particularly awful, relinquishing six runs on six hits in the four innings. As he often does, Cabrera also struggled with his control, walking five batters while only striking out a pair.

Garza’s line wasn’t much prettier. He got the hook after tossing 5 1/3 innings of 5-run ball. He allowed six hits and walked two batters while striking out three. Despite his poor outing, the former Twin left the game in a position to pick up his fourth win in as many starts against the Orioles.

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You Can’t Box In Larry Bowa (and Other Stories from April 1 in Major League Baseball)

It wasn’t the day’s biggest story — the derailment of Pedro Martinez’s return due to a leg injury earns that distinction — but on April Fools’ Day, it seems appropriate to focus on the day’s wackiest story.

Enter Larry Bowa.

The high-strung former Phillies manager, now a third base coach for Joe Torre’s Los Angeles Dodgers, was thrown out of Tuesday night’s Giants-Dodgers game for arguing with third base umpire Ed Montague.

“What was he arguing?” you may ask. And then you might venture guesses such as balls and strikes, a close play at third, or whether a ball hit down the line was fair or foul. All are fairly common arguments, after all.

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MLB Preview: Playoffs In March

Now that I have the regular season predictions out of the way, it only makes sense that I at least give some brief thoughts on what I think things might look like in October in Major League Baseball.

To recap, here are the teams I think will win their respective divisions (as well as the wild card):

National League East: New York Mets
National League Central: Milwaukee Brewers
National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

American League East: Boston Red Sox
American League Central: Detroit Tigers
American League West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
American League Wild Card: Seattle Mariners

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Me vs. the NL Central, Day Two

Well, it’s day number two and I almost forgot to publish my pick for the March 26 slate of games.

But here it is: the Sox will complete their Japanese sweep of the Oakland Athletics to push their and my record to 2-0.

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