The Battle for Second, Part III
Oh man, what a mess.
On Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox treated us to one of the worst displays of outfield play ever seen and some seriously horrible pitching didn’t help matters, as the Jays molested Boston 13-4. This is supposed to be the best defensive teams in baseball, but you would have never known it watching yesterday’s debacle.
With the Jays now sitting just a half a game back of Boston, second place in the AL East is on the line tonight.
I haven’t slept in days, so we’re again limiting today’s posts to observations from the ballpark:
- Big Papi went yard in the first and the place went crazy. After that celebration, it was really hard to wrap our heads around the fact that this was a road game. Ortiz now has 32 home runs on the road, tying him for the most ever by an American Leaguer. The record was first set in 1927 by some dude named Ruth. I think he used to play with the Sox.
- Kevin Youkilis made another great catch, snagging Vernon Wells’ sinking liner with a shoestring grab. He should have taken himself out of the game right then and there, because it got seriously ugly after that.
- Reed Johnson continues to impress, making a tremendous catch against the wall to rob Wily Mo Pena of extra bases.
- Lyle Overbay is simply killing the Red Sox, and everyone else lately. Everything he hits is hard. Youkilis robbed him Saturday on perhaps the hardest ball he’s hit in this series.
- Youkilis made a nice catch up against the wall, but he looked like he hurt his back again. With Youkilis clearly struggling, why the hell the Bosox aren’t putting David Murphy out there is anyone’s guess. Don’t they want to know what they have on their hands with this kid?
- After Youkilis’ catch against the wall, the trouble started. The next inning, he couldn’t track a ball that was smoked over his head. It was doubtful that anyone would have made that play, but Youkilis looked sluggish backpeddling on the ball. He then allowed a sinking liner to go right through his glove, a play somehow not ruled an error.
- The Bosox were obviously tired of allowing Overbay to smack the ball all over the field. In the third inning, he was intentionally walked with first base open but just one out. That’s respect that early in what was at the time a one-run game.
- Unfortunately, the strategy backfired when Bengie Molina, clearly sitting on starter Kyle Snyder’s curveball, smoked a line drive to centre for an RBI single.
- Speaking of Snyder’s curve, it’s fantastic, but is simply not complemented by a fastball hard enough to give hitters much to think about. Major league hitters are good enough to sit on his curve and adjust to his fastball, which tops out at 90 mph. Snyder can’t succeed as a starter without a harder heater or quality third pitch that will keep hitters from waiting on that curve. It wasn’t until the third inning that he finally showed a third pitch, uncorking a changeup. Snyder gave up seven hits and four runs in three innings, burning his last chance to impress the Bosox for a 2007 role.
- After Snyder was sent to the showers, Kason Gabbard made his return. He’s another in the endless list of Boston players who’s been out with an injury. Gabbard looked great, fanning two in a perfect fourth inning. The other out was a long fly ball to left centre that Youkilis was able to run down, but it sure looked like centre fielder Gabe Kapler’s ball. He does not have centre field range anymore.
- The lefty Gabbard even made left-handed hitting Overbay look bad, a seemingly impossible task these days. Overbay is batting almost .285 against lefties, but he looked overmatched in that at-bat.
- Next, it was Pena’s turn to screw things up in right field. Molina hit an easy line drive right at Pena that he somehow dropped and allowed to skip past him for a two-base error. With anyone else running, they make it to three, but luckily, Molina is only slighty faster my 95-year-old grandmother (assuming she’s running the bases with two 40-pound bags of potatoes, that is). Gabbard was able to pitch around Pena’s miscue.
- In the sixth, Pena couldn’t come up with a ball against the wall. Now this was no easy play, but he looked simply awful trying to corral that hit.
- Youkilis then got back into it, completely muffing an opposite field flare by Overbay that he allowed to skip past him when he tried to barehand it on a hop. C’mon. I know he doesn’t have a lot of experience playing the field, but anyone knows that when a lefty hits a slicing ball to left, it will skip to the right of the left fielder. This isn’t a new concept. RotoRob is fairly certain he could have made that play and half expected his cellphone to ring and for him to be summoned into the game by Terry Francona at that point. Alas, it did not happen. Instead, Youkilis’ screw up (again, not charged as an error), allowed another run to score en route to a four-run inning by the Jays.
- Brandon League is going to be one hell of a pitcher. He brings it at 98 mph but complements that with a seriously nasty slider. He struck out Mark Loretta with an 87 mph slider that was downright Brad Lidge-esque (that would be the 2005 version of Lidge, by the way). Expect League to emerge as a top set-up man next season.
- In the seventh inning, Wily Pena was doing his Wile E. Coyote impression again, screwing up a shoestring catch that was by no means easy, but he played it poorly, allowing it to skip past for a double. This is supposed to be the man that will replace Trot Nixon in right field next year, but the Boston brain trust must have been second guessing that idea after yesterday’s game.
- I was left craving a groundball pitcher a la Derek Lowe as Boston’s outfield was turning everything into an adventure.
- Lenny DiNardo came in and was simply firestarter. Now, he wasn’t helped out by his outfield, but DiNardo looked like he was tossing BP. Just awful. You have to wonder what his role will be next season after that bitch-slapping.
- In the top of the ninth, even though the Bosox are down by nine runs, what do the first two hitters do? Kapler swings on a 1-0 count, grounding it right to third base for the out. Then Alex Gonzalez does him one better by hitting a lazy fly ball on the first pitch. Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve always been taught that when you’re losing in the ninth — regardless of how bad the score is — you’ve got to take a few pitches.
- Murphy, Boston’s young outfield prospect, was probably the only person connected with the Red Sox that was happy about yesterday’s misadventures. Suddenly, he has to have moved up the depth charts in terms of Red Sox flyhawks. Youkilis has no business playing left field and Pena — who was actually in centre field on Saturday — looks like a DH waiting to happen.