March 02, 2018

A Perennial Rivarly Revisited

After three-plus months of dormancy, it feels so good to be back writing about baseball once again. An added bonus to this 2018 Red Sox season features a newfound enthusiasm for yours truly with regards to the once heated rivalry between the Sawx and the New York Yankees that has been quite lukewarm lately.

The long-awaited signing of J.D. Martinez signaled a new saga of contention between these two storied franchises. With the Yankees acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, they completed an intimidating three-headed leviathan, and the Red Sox were obliged to respond in kind. Stanton joins Aaron Judge, fresh off a record-setting home run rookie campaign, and mashing backstop Gary Sanchez. The mystique of this trio is echoed by a flame-throwing bullpen featuring Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and closer Aroldis Chapman. Conversely, Boston anted up for their answer to the void left by David Oritz in order to reignite the offense. Boston already boasts a prolific starting rotation, led by David Price and the whiff machine - Chris Sale, to go along with a core of talented youngsters which include the dynamic Mookie Betts, sweet-swinging Andrew Benintendi and the fearless Rafael Devers. 

Plenty of people on Twitter from both fanbases are already attempting to size up these teams to see who has the advantage. The nice thing is that we won't have to wait long to watch these behemoths slug it out for real. The Yankees come to town on April 10th for a 3 game set. This series is part of a meaningful 10 game homestand as all visiting teams are AL East foes. Boston will host the Rays in their home opener on April 5th to begin a 3 game series, and after the Yankee series, the Orioles land for a 4 game layover culminating on Marathon Monday. 

Now my zeal for this rekindling of "hatred" is tempered with a healthy dose of reality. Are we going to harken back to the days of the late 70s when Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson were punching the shit out of each other on a semi-regular basis? Nah...  In this age of "It's not me. It's them." as we were reminded by Dustin Pedroia last season, players are much too friendly with each other to hit that crescendo of loathing. Once the go-to guy for me on this team, I now find myself in the process of reconciliation with regards to Dustin after some very unfortunate comments last year. What I did appreciate was the fact that both he and David Price acknowledged that they could have handled things a bit differently with regards to their shortcomings (insert apology here), so onward and upward.            

One factor the teams from the 70s and present day do share is a bevy of talent which should make for very entertaining baseball. I fully expect both clubs to wrestle over the division lead throughout the season which looks like a two-horse race.

In order quell my thirst for this epic renewal, I turned to my copy of MLB the Show 17. By looking around my blog, it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of this series. I spent the better part of the winter creating classic rosters which can be found over on Operation Sports if you are into that type of thing. I downloaded the most up to date roster set and cued up round one of Yankees/Red Sox 2018.

Of course, it's no surprise that the game was played at Fenway nor was the fact that I gave the ball to Chris Sale. I pitted him against New York's young gun, Luis Severino. Both starters were marvelous and hits were at a premium. Sale was particularly brilliant going 8 complete innings and striking out 7 batters. The bigger story is who he struck out as can be seen by the Yankees' boxscore below (I set this game up in playoff mode, and the Yankees were the wildcard winners, hence the batting averages you see there). Severino also was dealing, striking out 4 of the first 6 batters he faced and matched Sale's total of 7. Severino gave way to that magnificent Yankee bullpen after 6 innings of work. Neither starter was charged with an earned run.

Boston broke through in the fourth on an unearned run. Raphael Devers punched a long single into the left-field corner to lead off the inning, and Xander Bogaerts sent a ball back up the middle to put runners on first and second. Both Devers and Bogaerts collected 2 hits apiece in four trips. Dustin Pedroia then came to the plate and poked a lazy fly ball to Aaron Judge. Judge then reared back and fired the ball wide of third base. When you check out the highlight reel below, it's also amusing to watch Severino backing up third on the play. He innocently watched the ball roll past him and into the Yankee dugout for a two-base error. This run would be all the Red Sox would need, but it got even better.

In the eighth, the icing on the cake was provided by the newly clad Red Sox, J.D. Martinez. Chad Green came on after Tommy Kahnle blanked Boston in the seventh, and Andrew Benintendi greeted him by drilling a fastball off the Green Monster for a double. It was Benny's second knock of the game, and he reached base in each of his 4 plate appearances. He went a perfect 2-2, took a base on balls and was plunked by Severino. Martinez then pulled a single down the third base line and the ball just curled over the bag for an RBI single to complete the scoring.

This gave Sale some breathing room. He came out to begin the ninth, but his stay was very brief. Brett Gardner led off the ninth by laying down a perfect bunt to the third base side which brought the tying run to the plate. I had Kimbrel warming in the pen at the beginning of the inning and sent him in to dose the glowing embers as he'd run the gauntlet of New York's fiercest hitters. Sanchez was the first to face the nasty Red Sox closer and touched him up for a single to put runners on first and second. Then Craig hunkered down and demonstrated what made him an all-star in 2017. Kimbrel overmatched both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton mixing in that blazing heater and spike curveball for a pair of punchouts. Didi Gregorius represented the Bombers last hope, but he only managed a weak ground ball to first to put a bow on a 2-0 Boston victory.

I couldn't have drawn this one up better as a startup to this epic 2018 season clash. Yeah, it's virtual, but certainly a very realistic outcome. I look forward to discussing more successes here when the big boys from these two clubs start playing for real.

November 19, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Cooper Catapults Sawx to Series Title

Cecil Cooper drilled a pair of homers and drove in 5 runs to lead the 1975 Boston Red Sox to a World Series championship with a decisive 10-3 victory over the 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers in my Sensational 70s postseason. Boston took the series in five games reeling off three straight wins at Fenway Park after leaving Los Angeles with the series tied at one game apiece.

Cooper was awarded MVP honors in this Fall Classic while Jim Rice was the overall offensive leader for Boston throughout their postseason championship run. An honorable mention shoutout goes to Luis Tiant as he authored 2 victories in the World Series, and also led Boston to a wildcard win over the 1979 Baltimore Orioles.

Cooper fittingly got things going early for the Red Sox in this series-clinching contest slashing a single to center and scored the game's first run on a Carl Yastrzemski sacrifice fly. Dodger starter Burt Hooten wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning allowing only the one run but it would be a harbinger of the misery that was to come.

Hooten got a reprieve in the second but it would be the only scoreless inning he would work as the Bostom offense began to flex their muscles in the third. Again, it was Cooper in the role of lightning rod as he started the inning off with his first homer of the game. Dwight Evans two-out RBI single pushed the score to 3-0. 

The fourth inning would be Hooten's last. He issued a lead-off walk to Rick Burleson and Denny Doyle made him pay with an RBI double to make it 4-0. The Dodgers lifted Hooten in favor of Rick Rhoden. This didn't phase Cecil Cooper as he broke the backs of the Dodgers blasting a two-run shot. He then touched up Rhoden once again for an RBI double in the fifth to give Boston a commanding 7-0 lead. 

Meanwhile, Red Sox starter Luis Tiant was cruising along keeping the scoreboard clean for the first five innings. Los Angeles finally got on the board nicking Tiant for 2 runs in the sixth, but the game was already in the bag for Boston. Tiant tossed a masterful 8.1 innings scattering 8 hits and three runs before giving way to Diego Segui to tidy things up.

It was a very satisfying ending for yours truly as my Sensational 70s season now draws to a close after 2 years plus in the making. Check out the final statistical leaders for the National League and American League . The final standings are here.

 I embarked on this dream season back in March of 2015 and played around 100 games with the Sawx before the playoffs even began. I probably would have been finished of this project a lot sooner, but I also was dabbling in some playoff mode scenarios with other classic teams, playing with other teams besides the Red Sox within my season, and producing and porting rosters which is quite time-consuming. I brought this season all the way over from MLB 14, and I encourage anyone dropping by to check out some of this season's highlights that I have been posting. I'm not sure if I'd ever play another whole season again, but I'll never say never. In any event, I got my fairytale ending. Redemption for the 1975 World Series defeat has been realized!

October 19, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Monday's Blunder Caps Red Sox Rally

Dodger's centerfielder Rick Monday "Buckneresque" moment in the bottom of the ninth has put Boston on the brink of a World Series title. With the bases loaded, Fred Lynn sent a routine fly ball toward Monday that clanked off his glove giving Boston a walk-off 6-5 Game 4 win (score displayed incorrectly in the above summary) over the 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers. The 1975 Red Sox now hold a commanding 3-1 series lead and could do something their real-life counterparts couldn't do against the Cincinnati Reds - capture a World Series on home soil.

Monday's error was his third of the series. His error in Game 3 led to an unearned run as he misjudged another ball off the bat of Denny Doyle. Doyle came in to count on a two-run homer by Cecil Cooper allowing Boston to get back into that contest.

Another common thread in this game was a second consecutive collapse of the Dodger bullpen. This time, closer Charlie Hough would suffer through a gut-wrenching rally by Boston after he cornered the Red Sox, retiring the first two batters in the ninth. Just as they did twice in Game 3, Boston orchestrated a two-out bloodletting which was capped by Monday's unthinkable miscue.

Dodger shortstop Bill Russell had a terrific game driving in Los Angeles' first 3 runs. Russell roped a couple of doubles and came across to score the Dodgers' fifth run in the ninth which appeared to be the terminal moment of the game. Russell led off the inning with a single, and broke for second on a hit and run dialed up by Dodger skipper Tommy Lasorda. Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn corralled the Davey Lopes single and double-clutched his throw back into the infield. It seemed Lynn was caught off guard by the scurrying Russell, and his offering was too later for a play at the plate. Boston was now down 5-3.

The bottom part of the Dodger order has been consistent contributors in the series. Number eight hitter Steve Yeager is batting .500 with 7 hits in 14 ABs. With Russell's 3 hit performance, he is now batting 6-15 in the nine hole. The Dodger offense has really done an effective job driving up pitch counts of the Boston starters and taxing the Red Sox bullpen for the past three games.

Hough was making his second appearance of the series as he had pitched a scoreless ninth in the Dodgers' 3-0 loss in Game 1. He set down Carl Yastrzemski on a pop-up and struck out Carlton Fisk. With Dwight Evans down to his last strike, Hough was unable to finish him off. Evans poked a single to right on a 1-2 count to give Boston a pulse. Sawx manager Darrell Johnson went to the bench and sent Bernie Carbo up to pinch hit for Rico Petrocelli. Petrocelli had just homered in the eighth to bring Boston within one run as the score read 4-3 at that juncture. Carbo delivered with a single to right. Rick Burleson made the score 5-4 with a single to left to bring Evans home and sent Carbo hustling to third. Denny Doyle whacked a floating knuckler to right center for the game-tying RBI. It was Boston's fourth consecutive single and forced Hough to give way to Al Dowling.

Dowling walked Cecil Cooper to load the bases, but it seemed redemption was forthcoming. Fred Lynn stroked a routine fly ball to center that Monday may have lost in the lights. By the time he regained the flight of the ball, he reached out only to see the ball glance off the thumb of his glove and find the grass. It was an incredulous moment at Fenway and quite ironic. Lynn failed to deliver the ball in a timely manner in the top half of the inning to allow an insurance run for Los Angeles. Now, his innocuous fly ball ended up to be the deciding factor in an unforgettable victory.

Dodger starter Doug Rau gave his club seven solid innings surrendering 3 runs on 6 hits leaving with a 4-3 lead. Boston right-handed sluggers Rice, Fisk and Petrocelli took him deep, but Rau was able to limit the damage as all homers were solo shots. After Petrocelli's dinger to start off the eighth, Los Angeles turned to Lance Rautzhan for another scoreless inning to close out the eighth. Rautzhan has pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in the series and has been the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal Dodger relief corps.

The Red Sox bullpen has not been starry either as they have been bailed out by their offense in the last two games. Jim Willoughby picked up his fifth win of the playoffs, but he has not been as effective in the World Series. Willoughby has tossed 3.1 innings, appearing in every game except the series opener, but has given up 6 hits and 4 runs making him the least effective relief arm in this series. In total, Boston relievers have thrown 11.1 innings and have an unsettling 4.86 ERA in the last three games.

Part of the reason for this could be the fact that Boston is not getting much length from their starting pitching. With the exception of Tiant's 8th inning outing in Game 1, Boston starters are averaging a tad under 5 innings over the last three games. If Boston wants to close the series out, they need an inning-eating performance from Luis Tiant who will oppose Burt Hooten in a rematch of Game 1.

October 14, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Doyle Dents Dodger Bullpen

Denny Doyle ripped a crucial 2 run single with the bases loaded in a four-run eighth as Boston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-6 to take a 2-1 lead in the Sensational 70s World Series. Cecil Cooper was a very able accomplice to Doyle's heroics as he brought the Red Sox back on even terms on two occasions driving in four runs.

The game got off to an ugly start with a couple of errors leading to 2 unearned runs in the first inning. Rico Petrocelli dropped a Steve Garvey pop up in short left field in the first, and Garvey scored on a Dusty Baker single for the game's first run. It was the first of three errors made in this game by Petrocelli. Roy Cey chipped in with a sacrifice fly to bring Reggie Smith home giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Smith was an offensive catalyst once again with a 4-5 performance and is 7-10 in the last two games with a homer, a double, 2  RBIs and a run scored. In the series, Smith is batting .500 to lead the Dodgers.

Sloppy fielding by the Dodgers helped to quickly erase this lead. Boston took advantage of Rick Monday's iron glove in center as he misplayed a fly ball by Denny Doyle which permitted Doyle to reach second base. Cooper picked up his first two RBIs by pounding a ball over the left field wall to tie the game 2-2. 

The Dodgers put together back - to -back doubles from Steve Yeager and Bill Russell in the second to jump back in front 3-2. Los Angeles good fortune was fleeting once again as Boston again evened things up in the third. Cooper was in on this second uprising as he led off with a single and scored on a RBI single by DH Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz made it back into the starting lineup after sitting on the bench with the first two games being played in Los Angeles and was a factor going 3-4 in his return.

Boston manager Darrell Johnson had a quick hook on this day with Boston starter Rick Wise. Wise had been the Red Sox most reliable playoff starter, but after 7 hits and 3 runs in only 4 innings of work, Johnson turned to the versatile long man, Dick Pole. 

After Pole blanked Los Angeles in the fifth, he ran into trouble in the sixth. Ron Cey swatted a double to kick the inning off and was followed by a single by Rick Monday. With runners on the corners, Pole was lifted, and Diego Segui was called on to put out the fire. Segui had only been used for 1.1 innings in the postseason, but he rewarded Johnson's faith. Boston elected to play for two outs using Segui's forkball and got them after Dodger designated hitter Lee Lacy grounded into a double play. Cey came in to count on the twin killing to make the score 4-3. Segui worked around a Petrocelli error to hold the Dodgers off and then rung up another double play ball in the seventh. Segui was a stabilizing force delivering 2 clean innings for Boston.

Dodger starter Don Sutton relinquished the lead for the third time in the seventh as the duo of Doyle and Cooper struck again.  With two outs, Doyle poked a double to left center. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda had seen enough and brought in Bobby Castillo, and Cooper greeted him with a RBI single to tie the game 4-4. Sutton's stellar regular season has not carried over to the playoffs. He has yet to figure in a decision despite starting 3 postseason games. In 18.2 innings, he struggled mightily with a 5.79 ERA. Sutton has given up 23 hits, four of those being homers, fired 3 wild pitches and has walked 5 men.

The eighth inning was highlighted by yet another two-out rally by Boston, and an atrocious showing from the Dodger bullpen. Carl Yastrzemski roped a one-out double, and after a wild pitch and a passed ball charged to Steve Yeager, Boston found themselves in front 5-4. Dwight Evans ended Castillo's night with another double with Lasorda yanking him in favor of Mike Garman.Then the roof fell in. Garman walked Petrocelli and plunked Rick Burleson to load the bases. Doyle then slapped an inside curveball to right center to bring in two more runs making the score 7-4. One of those runs would be the game-winner, as the Dodgers mounted a last gasp effort in the ninth only to come up two runs short.

Since blanking the Red Sox for 4 innings in Game 1, the Dodger bullpen has taken a sharp decline. In 7.1 total innings, Los Angeles relievers have given up 12 hits and 5 earned runs for a gaudy 6.34 ERA, but in games 2 and 3 combined, the ERA skyrockets to 14.52. If the Dodgers have any hope of getting back into this series, the bullpen needs to right the ship quickly.

Cecil Cooper continued to make a case for World Series MVP as he's hitting a blistering .571 in the Fall Classic. Three of his 8 hits have gone for extra bases smacking a homer, double and a triple. Cooper has also driven in 5 runs. 

Denny Doyle has been a sparkplug at the top of the Red Sox order with four hits in thirteen trips. Like Cooper, Doyle has a hit in all three games scoring three times and knocking in two runs.

Game 4 will see Boston's Reggie Cleveland, a native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, make his first postseason start. Cleveland served as a spot starter for most of the regular season compiling an 11-6 record with a 3.48 ERA. He will be opposed by Dodger lefty Doug Rau. Rau was 13-7 in the regular season with a dazzling 2.38 ERA, but has only started one game in the postseason. His only outing was a complete game win.against the 1979 Montreal Expos in Game 2 of their NLCS. Rau struck out 8 while only allowing five hits and one walk in the 8-1 victory.

Below the scorecard there are two highlight clips. The first one is the main scoring plays and the second one is the eighth inning single by Doyle as it was omitted from the main highlight reel. Highlights of Game 2 can be found here.

October 08, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Smith Walks Dodgers Off to Tie Series

Dodger right fielder Reggie Smith greeted Red Sox closer Dick Drago with a leadoff solo blast to left in the ninth to give the Dodgers a 5-4 walk-off win, knotting the World Series at one game apiece. The long ball was prominently featured in Game 2. Both of these offensive powerhouses flexed their muscles at Chavez Ravine combining for 5 homers and 29 hits.

After spotting Boston an early 1-0 lead on a RBI single by Jim Rice, Dodger ace Tommy John then settled in after that rough first inning scattering 6 singles over his next 6 innings of work. Los Angeles evened things up on a Rick Monday solo jack in the bottom of the second. 

The Dodgers then picked away adding runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh to take a 4-1 lead.  Steve Garvey drilled a bullet into the bleachers in the fifth and added a RBI single in the sixth to close the book on Boston starter Bill Lee. Lee couldn't really get into a rhythm as he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third and had traffic on the sacks in every inning except the first.

John gave way to the Dodger bullpen in the eighth after Jim Rice took him deep to center to cut the lead to 4-2. It was the second RBI of the game for Rice and his fifth homer which gave him the lead in both categories for the postseason. Rice has 5 round trippers and 12 RBI to go along with a .400 batting average.

Elias Sosa was the first Los Angeles reliever called upon by skipper Tommy Lasorda. Sosa was the top setup man for Los Angeles in the regular season with a 10-5 record and a 2.59 ERA, but he didn't have it on this outing. He issued a walk to Carlton Fisk,and Dwight Evans then followed with a two-run homer to left to tie the contest up at 4-4. Sosa promptly got the hook without having recorded an out. 

Al Dowling then came on and got Rico Petrocelli on a fly to left but gave up back to back singles to Rick Burleson and pinch-hitter Juan Beniquez. After giving a free pass to Denny Doyle to load the bases, Dowling was yanked, and Lasorda called upon lefty Lance Rautzhan to face Cecil Cooper and Fred Lynn. Cooper went down swinging and Lynn hit a lazy fly into foul ground on the third base side to end the inning.

Red Sox closer Dick Drago retired the Dodgers in order in the bottom half of the eighth, and Boston staged another uprising in the ninth with a two-out double by Dwight Evans. The Dodgers opted to intentionally walk Rico Petrocelli to go after Boston shortstop Rick Burleson. The move paid off as Rautzhan retired him on a grounder to second.

Reggie Smith's game-winning blast was his third dinger of the playoffs and allowed Lance Rautzhan to pick up his third win of the postseason. Rautzhan has become a weapon out of the Dodger bullpen tossing 4.2 scoreless innings. Smith has also had a tremendous postseason batting .458 and is now tied for the team lead in homers with Steve Garvey and Dusty Baker. 

This loss had to have left the Red Sox feeling this was a comeback victory opportunity that they let slip away, squandering two chances in the eighth and ninth to tack on runs.

The series now shifts to Fenway Park for Game 3. The probable pitchers for the games in Boston are featured below the scorecard and game highlights. For a summary of Game 1, click here.

Sensational 70s World Series - Probable Pitchers

Game 3 - Fenway Park 

Regular Season
Rick Wise (15-13), 3.35   vs   Don Sutton (12-8), 3.73 

Game 4 - Fenway Park 

Regular Season
Reggie Cleveland (11-6), 3.48   vs   Doug Rau (13-7), 2.38

Game 5 - Fenway Park 

Regular Season
Luis Tiant (15-9), 3.47   vs   Burt Hooten (15-5), 3.44