Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sox squeak past O's, 2-1 

After a 90-minute rain delay, Curt Schilling took the mound and pitched seven innings of three-hit ball as the Red Sox nipped Baltimore by a score of 2-to-1. The only run Schilling surrendered was on a solo homerun by Luis Matos in the 6th. Schilling struck out four, while walking two.

As expected, Bruce Chen pitched a solid game, allowing 2 runs over 5 innings of work, but it was not enough. Baltimore's bullpen pitched 4 innings of 1-hit ball, but the Boston bullpen proved just as solid. Mike Timlin pitched a clean 8th inning, allowing a Nick Markakis single to left. Papelbon was called upon for the 9th, and did not disappoint. He disposed of the Orioles with 13 pitches -- a few of them clocked as high at 97 MPH. After Tejada flew out to center and Gibbons popped to third, Papelbon got Millar to K on a nasty low-and-inside splitter to end the game.

Jason Varitek had a hand in each Boston run, as he scored on Kevin Youkilis' single to left in the 4th inning, and forced Ortiz home on a double to deep right in the 6th.

When is the last time the Sox won two 2-1 ballgames in a single week? I'd take a look at Retrosheet for the answer, but I'm just not up to it right now. Let's just agree that it's been awhile. Am I upset that the Sox aren't putting up boffo numbers on offense? Hell no. There's nothing I love more than a 2-1 pitching duel. Over the past few years the Sox have always had the ability to win the 9-8 ballgame, but it was the 2-1/3-2 game that gave them fits.

4-1 baby!

Sox @ O's - Schilling vs Chen 

Hopefully the rain rolls through before the 4:35 start and we can get this one in. As we all know, Schilling looked terrific in his first start in Texas, and hopefully that continues today. According to Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald, Schilling started his first game with his fastball clocked at 90-92 mph, and finished the game with a sequence that went 92, 95, 93, 96. On SoSH, Schilling explained that this is the first time in his career that he has actually seen the velocity on his fastball rise as the game wore on.

To me, Bruce Chen is an anomaly. He posted a 3.83 ERA last season, and
set career bests in wins, starts (32), innings (197 1/3) and strikeouts (133). The lefty has never made 20 starts in back-to-back seasons, so it's impossible to predict how he'll fare this season. Chen has handled the Sox fairly well in his career, but this year's lineup is entirely different, so it could go either way. After Papi's miserable game last night, Tito may want to consider foregoing the DH today and allowing Schilling to hit for himself, as he's 1-1 career vs Chen (kidding, kidding).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sox rout O's, 14-8 

Quite the game last night. The Sox took my patience advice to the next level. Daniel Cabrera was a trainwreck, lasting only an inning and a third, issuing 7 walks. All told, he surrendered 7 runs and the was out of hand before it even really started.

Matt Clement cruised through the first 6 innings, before getting into trouble in the 7th. His statline doesn't do his performance any justice. Matt seemed upbeat in his postgame interviews and understands that despite a rocky 7th, he pitched an excellent game. What's funny is that during the postgame interviews, I realized that this is the first time I had heard Matt speak since last season. He really has become The Forgotten Man.

The offense churned out 16 hits and 14 walks (no, folks, that isn't a typo). Nixon crushed his second home run of the season and Manny Ramirez broke out with a 3-hit performance. Manny's first hit was particularly encouraging, as he took an outside fastball to the opposite field for a single.

The only Red Sox starter without a hit? David Ortiz.

Rudy Seanez spelled Clement in the 8th and quickly gave up 4 runs on 6 hits, making the game much closer than it ever should have been. I realize it's his first appearance of the season, but Seanez has not looked good at all, including spring training. Rudy needs to start focusing on his pitching instead of Ultimate Cagefighting or whatever he was doing over the winter.

Foulke was called upon for the ninth with the Sox up 6 and turned in a very encouraging performance. His fastball was sitting around 88 MPH and his changeup was at 75. He was getting the fastball up in the zone to where the hitters couldn't get around on it, while he was spotting the changeup low and away. He only gave up one hit, and put the O's away quietly to end a rather miserable evening.

Sox @ O's - Clement vs Cabrera 

I haven't been around this space lately, but now that the season is back full-time, so am I. So how great was the first series? Talk about putting your best foot forward. Schilling looked retro, and watching Beckett gave me goosebumps. It's only been three games, but you just know this season is going to be fun. Pitching and defense -- personally, I love it.

Per usual, a bit of controversy from the first series. The first -- Josh Bard. Personally, I'm just not as worried as most are. Yeah, he allowed 3 passed balls (4 if you count the one on a ball 4), but even Doug Mirabelli himself allowed 2 in his first start. The box score was ugly for Bard, but if you watched the game, you'd realize that Wakefield, himself, was pretty wild and Bard did have some pretty nice stops. Let the kid get comfortable and I think he'll be fine. Still, reports indicate the Sox may yet be looking for another backup catcher via trade or the waiver wire.

The second -- Papelbon vs. Foulke. In my opinion it was the gutsiest move Tito has made since becoming manager. The situation did give him a built-in excuse (Papelbon already warming in the 8th due to Timlin's struggles), but most of us over in the SoSH game thread were shocked to see Papelbon still warming as the 8th ended.

I certainly don't think Papelbon is 'the man' now, but I do think he'll see a lot more action in these 1-run save opportunities. Foulke definitely was a more confident guy in 2004 when he had a bigger MPH differential between his heater and change, and was spotting each perfectly. Since then, he hasn't been able to do that at all, so I think it's somewhat safe to say that he has lost some of his confidence. Why throw him in a 1-run situation just so he can possibly fail? Let him get his feet under him (literally and figuratively) first, then get him in the high-lev situations.
Expect Tito to throw the 3-run save opps in Foulke's direction.

I appreciate the way Foulke handled the situation and defused any such "controversy" that the media may try to create. As I've stated before, I still think Foulke rebounds and becomes the full-time closer by June.

As for this upcoming series, I'm very interested to see how Matt Clement performs. Thus far, he has become The Forgotten Man, and that could very well work in his favor. Suddenly, no one is relying on him to be the #2 starter that he was deemed to be in 2005. Relax, go out, throw your 200 innings and nail down 12-15 wins. From your #4 starter, that's money.

Clement squares off against flamethrower Daniel Cabrera tonight. Cabrera can get outs, but is wild, posting a BB/9 of about 4.9 last season. Sox hitters must be patient and wait for their pitch. In the past, the Sox have had success vs Cabrera, especially Alex Cora, who is 6-11 lifetime. Although I don't really read much into these small sample sizes, don't be shocked if Cora gets the nod tonight.

The forecast for Baltimore tonight calls for a chance of showers and thunderstorms, but first-hand reports from people in the Baltimore area state that it's clearing up and should be a beautiful evening. Let's hope. Sox are going bird huntin' tonight.

Update: The lineups have been released..

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