November 11, 2016

Classic Baseball - Bernie's Blast Bounces Boston

I'm taking a foray into some classic playoff baseball and dusting off the 2007 Red Sox world champs for another title run. I've pitted them against the 1998 New York Yankees, the initial edition of the juggernaut that went on to win three consecutive titles.

In the first game of their ALDS series, the visiting Red Sox took a 3-0 lead thanks to 3 solo blasts with two coming off Yankee starter David Cone. One of those shots came from famed Yankee basher David Ortiz, and the other two coming from a surprising source in Julio Lugo, the polarizng shortstop. Boston got a strong outing from 20 game winner Josh Beckett. The only blemish on an otherwise stellar performance was a 2 run homer by Jorge Posada in the seventh which was his final inning of work.

In the eighth the bullpen collapsed with Manny Delcarmen allowing a lead off double to Derek Jeter, the only batter his face. After Hideki Okajima came on, Jeter stole third but was cut down by Kevin Youkilis on a sharp ground ball. It looked as though the Red Sox might escape unscathed until Bernie Williams took an outside fastball to right center to complete a stunning 4-3 comeback.

The Red Sox will now turn to rookie Jon Lester in Game 2 as he will duel Yankee post season ace Andy Pettitte.

November 07, 2016

The Sensational 70s - Sawx Perfect in September

The final push for the AL East crown is underway, and the Red Sox are serving notice that they will be a force making things a bit uncomfortable for the division leading Yankees. Boston has won all four series in this final month of a Late 70s dream season that began back on MLB 14. I started this season a little over a year and a half ago. Between the pace of life and spending 3+ months creating classic rosters for MLB 16 along with bringing this season to the new title, there have certainly been gaps of inactivity, but I pledged to finish this season. Now, I can almost smell the finish line as well as top spot in the division. Avoiding a one game winner take all in a wildcard scenario is my mission, and things are taking shape.

Baltimore had also been in the running for the AL East title for much of the season but are now fading thanks in part to the Red Sox taking care of business, snaring 2 of 3 from the O's at Fenway. After winning the opener, Baltimore fell 7-6 and 4-2 which pushed Boston's record to 9-3 in September. Included in the those nine wins was a seven game unbeaten streak that saw the Red Sox sweep a three game series from New York in the Bronx. Below are the highlights of the Sawx past two wins against the Orioles.

Boston now hits the road for the final time in a 10 game swing through Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. In their first stop against the Royals, they will take on a team battling for their playoff lives. Kansas City are locked in a first place tie with the White Sox and with the Orioles and Red Sox running away with the wildcard spots, taking the Central Division crown would be a must to ensure playoff baseball for either of these teams.

In the National League, the Dodgers have the NL West sewn up. The Reds also have a firm grasp on top spot in the NL Central, but the playoff version of musical chairs continues in the NL East between the Expos, Phillies and Mets. With the Brewers imposing their will in the wildcard dance, one of these 4 teams will be left holding the bag when the music ends after the regular season schedule is completed.

After the road trip, Boston will end the season with a 6 game homestand facing the lowly Rays and then will play a huge three game set that may have an enormous impact on the playoff  picture as the Yankees visit for the final series of the regular season.

August 24, 2016

Giving the Rays a Devil of a Time

I'm not gonna lie to ya. Watching games from Tropicana Field is brutal, and many of the locals seem to share that notion as they stay away on a regular basis. The ones that have ventured to this abomination of a baseball stadium haven't had much to cheer about the past two games unless they are Red Sox fans of course. There appeared to be a groundswell of Sawx fans on hand last night in the  2-1`victory that saw Clay Buchholz circa 2013. His performance warranted as loud an ovation as I've ever heard in a visiting ballpark, and I was quite happy to join them from a much more pleasing locale - my couch.

Clay is trying to buck the bullpen, and he has been looking good. Since replacing Steven Wright in the rotation he has delivered a sparkling 16.2 IP/ 5 ER/ 2.70 ERA in three starts. A divide still exists on the validity of these numbers as many, like yours truly, are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Whispers of sticking Drew Pomeranz in the bullpen have erupted which I think would be foolish. Pomeranz has also been surging in August with his outings becoming increasingly longer, and he has a longer track record of success in 2016. Still, Clay has proven to be a valuable asset as backing for the rotation with no answers available on the farm (see Henry Owens).

So who said Boston couldn't win close games? On this 7-2 road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed 4 victories by narrow margins:in 3-2, 3-2, 2-1, and 5-3. Much of this can be attributed to the fabulous pitching they have been getting. The starting rotation has logged a 2.69 ERA for August, and closer Craig Kimbrel has been brilliant going 5 for 5 in save opportunities and limiting the opposition  to a parched .071  BA. The eighth inning remains a sticking point, though, as Matt Barnes can't seem to get his head out of his ass. Kimbrel had to come on in the eighth in Saturday's 3-2 win in Detroit, and Barnes allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in the opening game of the Tampa series. Barnes now owns a 6.34 ERA in the second half of the season.

The fact that Farrell left Price in the eight in Monday's 6-2 win at over 100 pitches told you all you needed to know on how confident he was in that eighth inning situation. Price had lowered his ERA to the lowest point it had been since his Opening Day start, and  he is hitting stride. In his past 6 starts he has a tidy 2.36 ERA. Andrew Benintendi saved the day in said inning with an incredible catch in left, robbing Steve Souza  Jr. of a 2 run homer to keep the score sheet clean for Price. Boston was able to tack on 3 in the ninth thanks in part by a two run homer by Xander Bogaerts. So when you look at Barnes unsettling effort, that game could have easily gotten away from Boston. Bogaerts dinger was his 15th which is the most by a Boston shortstop since Nomah clubbed 28 back in 2003.

While on the subject of great defense, Mookie Betts showed that he has more to offer than a lightning quick bat. In the bottom of the eighth Kevin Kiemaier's rocket down the right field line found its way to Betts in foul ground. Kiemaier foolishly attempted to take third and was gunned down by Betts. In a 2-1 game late, he was already in scoring position, but we'll take stupid baseball. Tampa manager Kevin Cash also had me shaking my head on  Logan Morrison bunt attempted with a runner on first in the fourth. Morrison had previously owned Buchholz, and to make matters worse, Leon picked the runner off first as he strayed on the attempt. In effect, Tampa's idiocy allowed Boston's defense to shine.

Boston has also become a very solid road team with a record of 33-27. The only other AL team better than five games over .500 on the road is the Blue Jays. With 22 games remaining away from Fenway, Boston needs to continue these winning ways

To the Twitter feed:

August 22, 2016

Sawx put on the Spot

Boston fielders had little to do in the first two innings as Henry Owens was offering a special - a walk or a strikeout. The strikeouts were going at a little better than two for one as Owens had walked 2 batters and struck out 5. 

Fittingly, the ground gave out under Owens after his four walk of the game. Control has always been the burr under Henry's saddle, but this one was an intentional pass to load the sacks with two out in the third. He had to pick his poison as he could have either pitched to Miguel Cabrera or J.D Martinez. The choice was Martinez and he punished the Sawx as he had been doing throughout the series driving in two for a 2-0 lead. It seem Justin Upton was just finding his range against Kimbrel when he came inches of tying Saturday's game. He made no mistake against Owens as he took his 2-0 offering out of the yard to make it a 5-0 game. Upton came back to haunt Owens again in the fifth. In another good hitter's count, Upton drilled a 3-1 pitch over the wall for his second three run homer, giving Henry a snowman in the earned run column to complete the day for him.

Spot starts from farmhands usually spells disaster for Boston. Check out the tweets below, and the first one was before Owens' start:

The offensive highlight was Andrew Benintendi's first homer as a pro as he hit a two run job in the seventh to bring Boston halfway back in a 10-5 loss. Andrew now has 7 multi-hit games in 18 appearances, and he also added a triple for a 2-4 day.
Had a bit of fun with these two storied franchises on MLB 16 the Show. I fired up all time versions of both teams and saw the Red Sox come out on top 5-2 at Comerica Park. I had Roger "The Rocket" Clemens matched up against Hall of Famer Harold "Prince Hal" Newhouser who starred for both the Tigers and the Indians between 1939-1955. Clemens went the distance in a the win, scattering 10 hits while striking out 8. His counterpart Newhouser lasted 5.1 innings allowing 9 hits and 2 runs. 

Jim Rice was responsible for the damage on Newhouser's watch with a two out bases loaded single in the third that scored two runs. Detroit answered back on Ty Cobb's solo shot in the fourth. The "Georgia Peach was a perfect 4-4 on the day. Alan Trammell added his own solo dinger in the sixth to tie the game.

Boston would put the game out of reach in the seventh. With one out, Ted Williams doubled off the wall in center off Detroit reliver Mike Henneman and was immediately driven in by a David Ortiz single. Jim Rice would then follow up with a two run homer to give him 4 RBI on the day. Rice's homer bounced Henneman from the game hanging the loss on him. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in only one inning of work. Plenty of fun was had with lineups like these. In the highlights below, check out Tiger great Al Kaline pegging Jim Rice at home

August 21, 2016

Porcello, Pomeranz Pick up a Pair

It's official - auditions are on for the 8th inning job. After Pomeranz's fantastic, rain shortened start, Farrell wasted no time in reacquainting Heath Hembree with the high leverage winning side of things with Boston ahead 3-1. Heath obliged with a quick clean sixth and you'd think John would get him out of there feeling good about himself. But...nah. Instead, he leaves Hembree long enough for J.D Martinez to tag a moonshot of him to narrow the lead to 3-2. Ziegler then came on and saved Farrell's misguided notion, ending the seventh inning with a strikeout and groundout.

The eighth on this night belong to Matt Barnes, and it seems Farrell still may have his help wanted sign out for this juncture of the game. Barnes regressed into his erratic phase,walking two batters which forced Farrell to call on Craig Kimbrel for the 4 out save. Craig got it by the narrowest of margins as Justin Upton almost made him pay with a deep shot to dead center. The ball missed clearing the center field fence by inches putting the tying run on second. Kimbrel got Casey McGehee to chase a wicked breaking ball for his 22nd save.

It was a very nice win for Pomeranz as he seems to be turning the corner. In the month of August, Drew is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. In four starts he has pitched 24 innings and given up 19 hits. He has struck out 20 batters and only walked 9. He is starting to shake of the "6 inning" label, and Boston will need him to pitch deeper, especially until they sort out their bullpen.
David Ortiz's two run shot last night was the last bit of scoring Boston was able to manage as Detroit pitching retired the last 15 Red Sox batters after his round tripper. David is having a terrific series in Detroit batting 6-8 with 2 HR and 4 RBI. On the road trip, he is mashing at a 10-18 clip with 3 HR and 7 RBI and is enjoying a 7 game hitting streak. The longest current hitting streak belongs to Dustin Pedroia. In the last 11 games, Dustin is 20-49 with 9 runs, 5 doubles and 8 RBI.

Below are some tweets on Rick Porcello. Rick was magnificent yet again in the 10-2 drubbing on Friday tying J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays for a shared lead in the AL in wins with 17. He snapped Boston's 4 game losing skid against the Tigers on his first start in Detroit since being dealt to the Red Sox. The Tigers had swept Boston in Fenway back in July, and they faltered in excruciating fashion thanks to the "Tazawa Teardown" in the series opener.