The Battle for Second
When the RotoWidow and I bought tickets for this weekend’s Boston-Toronto series way back when, we were expecting this to be a very exciting weekend. Would the AL East be on the line? At the very least, we assumed, the Wild Card could be decided by these four pivotal games.
Instead, we are treated to the battle for second place in the AL East. Whoop-de-freakin’-doo!
Disappointed, but undaunted, as the soldiers that we are we were still compelled to head down to the Rogers Centre and do our part to cheer on the Bosox. Out came the Red Sox jerseys and caps. I swapped in my Bosox shoelaces into my shoes. (Well, truth be told, I hadn’t actually switched back to my regular shoelaces from the last series in Toronto. A friend of mine had needed an extra pair of shoelaces — you don’t want to know why — so I gave him my regular ones.)
We enjoyed last night’s 7-1 romp by the Bosox, and are heading down shortly for game two, with Sunday and Monday still on tap. So needless to say, my time is limited this weekend, so I will curtail my post to quick observations from last night. Let’s get to it, as there’s a street dog with my name on it waiting for me:
- Ted Lilly, until recently a major pain in the neck for the Bosox, looked sharp to start, getting the Bosox in order in the first. He then began to have major control problems in the second and really racked up his pitch count quickly. Although he pitched well — if not for a key error by Lyle Overbay, Lilly would have escaped with much less damage — by the time there was one out in the fourth, he had already thrown 100 pitches. He was racking up the Ks, fanning four straight at one point, but John Gibbons, perhaps fearing he’d have to lay another beating on Lilly, seemed hesitant to pull him. In what could very well be his final start as a Jay in Toronto, Lilly was allowed to throw 122 pitches over 5 1/3 innings in what essentially was a meaningless game (not for Lilly, though, pitching for a contract next year). I did find it humourous when, for the second straight start, the entire infield converged on the mound when Gibbons did finally emerge with his hook to take Lilly out (so to speak). The RotoWidow and I had a good chuckle over this.
- When David Ortiz came to bat in the first inning, I felt compelled to give him a standing ovation, given his record-setting exploits Thursday. I wonder if he noticed the one guy in the stands giving him his props. I am a pretty loud clapper.
- Kevin Youkilis does not exactly strike fear as a cleanup hitter behind Ortiz. But man, he knows how to get on base, battling back from 0-2 to draw a leadoff walk in the second that started a Bosox three-run inning.
- Mike Lowell cashed Youkilis with a two-run homer, but really, he should have been out. Three pitches earlier, Lowell fouled one that Overbay couldn’t corral right in front of the steps to the Bosox dugout. It was not an easy play, but an error was given, and all three runs that scored later were unearned. Lilly said thanks to the scorer, no doubt. Anyways, after getting a second life, Lowell fouled another back and then ripped another foul ball straight back. I turned to the RotoWidow and said “man, he was right on that one.” So it was no surprise when Lowell parked Lilly’s next offering over the left field fence for a two-run shot.
- Lilly started his control problems after that. He began pitching high and tight on a couple of hitters and walked Wily Mo Pena on four straight pitches. Pena, by the way, made his return to the lineup after missing a couple of games with hammy issues, but how disappointing. With Manny out doing his Manny thing, I was hoping to see Pena lose one. However, after getting that walk in his first PA, he proceeded to strike out looking three straight times. The man never even put a ball in play. C’mon Wily! No one is paying to see you take walks or watch third strikes. Swing the damn bat.
- Troy Glaus is playing through knee problems for the rest of the year. It’s admirable, but it is just painful to see how much he’s labouring around the bases.
- On the only run the Jays scored, a potential double-play ball skipped past Dustin Pedroia. Yeah, it would have been a tough play to make, but he would have had plenty of time to turn two and end the inning. If you want a job next year, kid, you better make the plays. Something tells me your .183 average isn’t going to guarantee you playing time.
- Youkilis was also making his return to the lineup after missing a pair because of his back. In the third, he swung and missed at strike three and was in obvious pain. But he stayed in the game. Will he and fellow Jewish Red Sox Gabe Kapler take today (Rosh Hashanah) off? Hell, I’m not, why should they? Of course, I’m sort of the anti-christ. But we’ll leave that for another discussion on another forum.
- Lowell had looked so good on Lilly’s offerings, fouling several straight back (which always tells you a player is right on the pitch) in addition to smoking the home run. But in the third, he got absolutely vapour-locked on a 75 mph curveball for strike three. You could see his knees buckle. Baseball is a humbling game. Hero one inning; looking like a fool the next.
- Lilly allowed the first two batters to get on in the third, and then struck out the side to get out of trouble. Impressive. Even Gibbons was probably ready to smack…er…pat him on the butt…er…congratulate him after that showing.
- Lilly had seven Ks through five. Nice work, but too bad about that pitch count.
- In the bottom of the third, Youkilis, playing left, and Kapler, in centre, had a moment. They completely butchered a flyball, allowing it to drop between them. Both were calling for it, but they both watched it drop. That’s what you get when you have a first baseman and a part-time player trying to man the outfield. Of course, regulars Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp are both out. Crisp’s finger is screwed up again, and Manny apparently feels like giving the finger to the rest of the 2006 season.
- Julian Tavarez was shaky to start, giving up six hits through three, but he only gave up one more hit after that and managed his second career complete game. Where was that all season? Tavarez was simply brilliant, keeping his pitch count way down and letting his record-setting infield do its thing. It was fitting that he induced a double-play ball to end it.
- Kapler had two hits, but so did not impress me. He looks lost at the plate much of the time, taking very weak swings in less than two-strike counts. Ugh. Of course, as I’m writing disparaging notes about him, I look up to see him stroke a nice single to left to load the bases up as part of Boston’s big four-run sixth.
- The fan beside me was bemoaning the loss of Shea Hillenbrand (apparently Jays’ fans like malcontents who destroy team chemistry), and had nothing good to say about Jeremy Accardo. I tried to explain that Accardo has tremendous potential and will prove to be a steal, but considering he was at that very moment giving up three straight hits that led to another two runs, my argument seemed shaky. Still, I do believe in this kid. He has a live arm, and that’s a tough thing to teach. Once he harnasses it, look out.
- I know he stole a base last week (sign one of the Apocalypse, no doubt), but Bengie Molina continues to amaze me with his lack of speed. In the bottom of the fourth, he hit a slow, high chopper to Lowell that was somehow turned into a double play. Molina is the only major leaguer that would have been doubled up on that play. Hell, Johnny Pesky, about to be honoured on Wednesday with the official renaming of the right field foul pole for his 87th birthday, would have beaten that out. I mean now…not when he was a star player back in the 1940s.