Thursday, April 14, 2005

Messterpiece Theater (W 8-5) Season 4-5

The Sox captured the rubber game of the series and their first series of the season, defeating New York 8-5.

After an uneventful and depressing game Wednesday, the Sox and Yankees returned to Fenway under the lights in the rubber game of the series. You never know when you'll get a pitchers' duel at Fenway. That didn't come tonight with Randy Johnson against Bronson Arroyo.

The Sox struck early with a two-run shot by Jay Payton into the centerfield seats, and the Yanks got a run back in the third. Edgar Renteria also got his first Fenway tater with a two-run Monstah job in the third. The fun got started in the fourth as wildness by Arroyo and 'three blind mice' umpiring by plate umpire Greg Gibson resulted in a two-out full count walk to Gary Sheffield that opened the floodgates to a four-run inning. Both teams objected throughout to Gibson's inconsistency. Ultimately Sox Skipper Terry Francona got tossed for arguing balls and strikes. It was Francona's first ejection of the young season.

The Sox tied the game in the 4th on Varitek's 3rd homer of the season into the Monster's Lair, and Arroyo was lifted in favor of Embree in the 6th.

Randy Johnson worked seven innings in tonight's game, leaving with a no decision. Those maniacs predicting the Big Unit would win thirty regular season games this year are working on a pretty tight schedule.

The Sox elected to bring in Foulke in the eighth in one of those Bill James 'key appearance' situations.

You never see this. On Jason Varitek's insurance two-run eighth inning triple, a fan appeared to graze Sheffield while both reached for the ball. Sheffield took a swing at the fan before throwing the ball in. The fan was ejected, and we'll see whether Yankee ass-kisser Bob Watson hands out a suspension, however token, to Sheffield.

You never see this, part deux. Absolutely fabulous screenshots comparing Derek Jeter's walkoff homer at Yankee Stadium to his inning-ending flyout at Fenway. Jerry Remy's analysis complemented the pictures perfectly.

Edgar Renteria complemented his first inaugural Sox homer with a left-centerfield wall shot to plate Damon with the go-ahead run on the hit-and-run in the eighth. Here's hoping that Manny will at least take a shot behind the runner. False hope. Damn. Predictably, Joe Torre elected to follow that up by walking David Ortiz.

Foulke had no command in the ninth, loading the bases and throwing over 50 pitches in two innings before finally getting pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra to foul out to end the game.

Sox profile. Jay Payton had two decent seasons in Colorado and San Diego with OPS of .866 and .761, not so bad for a potential fourth outfielder. During the past four seasons, he's had only 22 stolen bases, so he isn't a Dave Roberts clone. He does provide reasonable defense and a bit more offensive pop.

Sox notes. Arroyo's outing was the fifth non-quality start of the season. If scoring is about getting runners on base and bringing them in with power, then pitching is the converse. The Sox currently rank 12th in WHIP ratio, with a substandard 1.52 walks and hits per inning pitched.
Add the Sox ranking last in OPS allowed (.840) and it's easy to understand the early season struggles. Fortunately the pitchers have been stingier with runners in scoring position, with a 1.33 WHIP and OPS of .719.

Quality starts 4, record 3-1
Non-quality starts 5, record 1-4

Life's a Pitch. Sandy Koufax echoed the teachings of college coaches: "I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it." What he meant was that effectiveness can entail conservation of energy as hitters make poor contact against good pitches. Strikeouts aren't everything.

Peter Gammons of ESPN reports that Theo (Yoda) Epstein's speaking and endorsement money goes to charity. Kudos to the young GM Master.
Yoda would say "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

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