It’s only May 8th, but the Boston Red Sox are 7.5 games back on the
division leading Tampa Bay Rays, and 6.0 games back on the wild card
leading New York Yankees. With a record of 15-15 (and potentially 15-16 if
the rain slows down today and the Yanks hold on to win), and having only been
above .500 for two days in the first month and a bit, it’s pretty obvious to everyone in
the AL East that if the Sox want to compete, something drastic has to happen – and it
has to happen soon, or I might just start watching Major League Soccer instead.
You can argue that the Red Sox are starting to put it together. Having swept the
Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers with strong bats and strong
pitching. J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Beltre seem
to be coming together at the plate. Even David Ortiz has been smacking a
couple out of the park in the last week. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,
and John Lackey have seemingly started to come together. Daisuke
Matsuzaka is back from the DL and has shown signs of strength and weakness,
and even Josh Beckett had a great start to his game against the Yankees
last night, at least until he fell apart. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, they were swept by the Rays at home over a four game series. They
were even swept by the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway South, and are 2-4
against a team that has been amongst the worst in baseball not just this year, but for
a long …. long time – a team the Sox have beaten 15-17 times per season almost
every year in recent history.
Offense isn’t necessarily a problem. During the off-season, talk was about a
dominant pitching staff and defense, with a relatively weak offense. So far, it’s been
the other way around. The offense has given it’s fans an average of about 5 runs a
game. In the mean time, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, with 13 un-earned
runs crossing the plate. Furthermore, The Red Sox are 1-5 in 6 games they sent to
But why is everyone in Red Sox Nation worried about the future outcome of this
season? Yes, the Rays are 22-7. The Yankees are 20-8. The Blue Jays are 18-13,
2.5 ahead of Boston for third place in the division. But look on the bright side – it’s
only May 8th. Jacoby Ellsbury is injured, as is Mike Cameron. The
lineup is being shuffled continually. The pitching staff needs to find their groove. It
will happen. Eventually everything will come together and they’ll start to win again.
Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all proven aces. Buchholz and Dice-K are strong,
strong pitchers. Beltre will find his niche at the hot corner. Ellsbury will come back
and start causing hell at the top of the lineup. The 2010 Boston Red Sox are better
than the 85-win team they appear to be at the moment.
Let’s put this season in perspective. This time last year, the Yankees were 14-15,
4.5 games back of the leading Red Sox. But starting on the 13th of May, they won 9
in a row, ultimately ending with a 103-59 season and a World Series ring. Similarly,
the Red Sox started the 2009 season with a record of 2-6, and then went on a
13-game winning streak for a final record of 95-67 and a Wild Card championship. It
can still come together. There’s still time, but this is what needs to happen:
- Stop losing against the Yankees and Rays – In 8 games against these
two teams, they’re 1-7 … all at Fenway, where they seemingly can’t lose against
any other team as long as they show up for the game.
- Start Pitching Like You Mean It – The aces on the mound will come
together and start throwing 7+ innings per game. They’re too good for it to not
happen. Buchholz and Dice-K will add a good compliment to the three J’s, and
the bullpen will come back together, especially when Bonser comes back to put a
cap on his great spring.
- Improve Defense – Beltre has 7 errors so far this season (only 14 for
him through all of last season), so he needs to improve if we have a chance of
winning. But he’s not the only problem. Martinez needs to improve his throw to
second to intimidate potential thieves (although the pitchers need to help). The
offense needs to get healthy once again and do their thing.
- Get Back Ellsbury – Jacoby is well-known as one of the best lead-off
hitters in the game. Guaranteed to steal bases, walk, and hit at a .300+ clip, he’s
essential to a good Sox team (not that Scutaro isn’t doing a great job in his
absence). Darnell McDonald, Jonathan Van Every, Bill
Hall, and Jeremy Hermida are doing a good job in the absence of
Ellsbury and Cameron, but you just can’t replace those two players in any
Do that, and we’ll be fine. Besides, the Yanks will fall, right? 🙂 Burnett can’t go two
seasons without an injury, and Vasquez will be a beautiful Yanks disappointment this
At least one can hope, right?
Just thought I should share this with everyone.
I was on my way to Fenway today to catch the game, and as I was walking down the
street, a car pulled up beside me. I took a quick look, noticing the New York license
plates, the Yankees bumper stickers, and the Yankees hat adorning the balding
head of the driver. As he stopped, he rolled down the window, clearly noticing my
Beckett jersey, Red Sox ballcap, and associated face paint, and asked, “Hello Miss.
You must be able to tell me how I would be able to find my way towards Fenway?”
I gave him my, “Are you serious? What Sox fan in the world doesn’t know the
general location of Fenway within Boston” look, forced a fake smile, and cordially
replied, “Of course I do!”
After giving him my directions, he drove away abruptly, without so much as a tip of
the hat or a plea of thanks. In a situation like that, I typically would have been angry.
However, I retained the last laugh. Little did he know that my directions, instead of
sending him to Fenway, sent him in the general direction of the Bennington St.
waste depository :). I figured he would be more comfortable at home than inside the
confines of the enemy.
Welcome to Boston, jerk. Next time bring a map.
PS: I apologize about my hiatus … it’s been a busy couple months what with moving
and dealing with school and all that jazz. You know, life getting in the way and all.
But now that the season’s started and there’s things worth talking about, I’ll hopefully
be around more often, at the very least giving a weekly update … but hopefully more
often. Do keep reading :).
(I apologize ahead of time for the poor analogies and cliche sayings. Bear
with me, I’m crazy.)
Let’s consider for a minute that Major League Baseball is just one big game of
high-stakes winner-take-all Texas Holdem’ poker. Now, consider the AL East as a
hand, with each team as a different player at the table. Who wins the hand?
Arguably, you can look at the Red Sox as having a pair of aces in the hole. There’s
not much doubt in the baseball world that Jon Lester is arguably one of the
best young southpaws around, and we all know how baffling Josh Beckett‘s
stuff can be when you’re looking at it from the plate.
Here’s the problem. The Yankees have a pair of kings, and they picked up two more
Kings on the flop (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira,
Curtis Granderson). Okay, so Sabathia is an ace and Burnett is more like a
Queen, but just bear with me once again for the sake of the metaphor.
Not wanting to fold their hand, the Red Sox are desperately hoping for running aces
to take home the pot. Could you consider John Lackey and Daisuke
Matsuzaka as aces? Can we run the table for quads of our own? Can the
powerful Yankee hand be beaten?
Exit metaphor. Enter reality.
An article from The Hardball Times sparked my curiosity
regarding the subject. In the article, Kevin Dame looks at Beckett’s 2009
season visually. In his figure, he uses red to represent a quality start (minimum 6 IP,
maximum 3 ER), and blue to represent a non-quality start. Also, he marks the
amount of IP to the side, with the amount of ER per inning. Partial innings are
rounded down for sake of clarity (click on the image for the full size version):
Looking at the graphic, you can see that Beckett produced 21 quality starts in 2009,
as opposed to just 11 poor starts. However, the part of the graphic that perhaps
says more than the red / blue comparison is the IP and ER / Inning. in no start last
year did Beckett fail to make it into the fifth. Furthermore, he seems to be able to
prevent the big inning from ever happening against him. The problem? When things
go bad, the pain is chronic. Instead of giving up one big inning, he tends to give up
1+ run per inning multiple times throughout the course of a poor outing. Although,
even when this occurs, he seems to manage to keep his head on his shoulders and
pitch through it, taking one for the team. In my opinion, that’s what defines an ace
more than anything else, and thus Beckett gets my vote.
This article intrigued me to investigate further. Because of this, I was compelled to
make my own visuals for the rest of the Red Sox starting pitching staff in question
here. First, take a look at Lester:
Looking at Lester’s graphic, he produced more quality starts over the course of the
season than Beckett did. 23 to be exact (with a rain-shortened game holding him
from a potential 24th), with just 9 that were less than stellar. Once again, looking at
the IP and Runs per Inning shows a very glaring problem that Lester needs to solve.
Unlike Beckett who can seemingly get out of an inning, when things go bad for Lester
– they go really, really bad. Instead of preventing the big inning, he seems to
succumb to it. The 4’s, 5’s, and a 6 jump off the page, far too often. However, with
that having been said, when he’s hot he streaks, and he seemingly doesn’t give up
any runs at all. When he has a bad day, it’s a rarity, and aside from the beginning of
the season, they don’t occur in groups. If the season started in May, he’d have been
the hands-down ace of the staff last year. The best stat I see here is that, as a
southpaw, he should have problems in Fenway with the Monster looming, but
somehow he thrives at home. He gives up more runs on the road then he does at
Fenway. To sum all that up, I’d be happy to see him on the mound in any must-win
game, especially in front of the hometown crowd. That makes two aces.
Next is John Lackey:
Lots to look at here. First, Lackey was injured until May. Second, his first start of the
season isn’t included, as he was ejected after two pitches, and his last start of the
regular season isn’t included, as he was pulled after 2 innings to keep him fresh for
the post-season. Finally, the last three starts in the figure are from the postseason
against big teams from the AL East (for all you nay-sayers about his ability to pitch in
a division that lives and breathes baseball instead of just treating it as a casual
past-time). 18 quality starts to 10 otherwise. Perhaps the first couple poor starts
could be due to him getting into his groove after coming back from an injury. Who
knows. The biggest thing here is that he’s a work horse. He averaged between 6
and 7 IP per game last season, and pitched 1 CG (although he pitched a full 9
innings on three different occasions only to see it go to extras twice). Like Lester,
when he’s on, runs are hard to find, but when he’s not, they’ll come in bunches.
Expect the best of Beckett and of Lester in one package, but also the flaws of both.
Like Beckett, he’s not going to give in early on in a game – if he’s on the mound,
expect him to be there for the long-haul. It’s unknown how well he’ll do in Fenway,
but with a near no-hitter in his history there, the expansive right field, and an
upgraded Sox defense, you can expect him to be a third ace on the team’s staff,
provided he can stay healthy in 2010.
I don’t know anyone who screams “inconsistency” more than Dice-K. Note that I used
2008’s stats as opposed to his 2009 stats, as it shows his performance over the
course of a full season without significant injuries that could possibly dictate the
quality of his performance. No significant hot streaks, no significant cold streaks.
More often than not, he had a less than stellar start, but his record for the year was
18-3, and 3-0 in the post-season (seen as the last three games on the figure).
Anyone who follows his career knows that he doesn’t give in to hitters. This means
he issues a lot of walks, gets a lot of K’s, and deals with a lot of base runners and
high pitch counts, but somehow gives up very few runs. a good percent of the time,
he won’t last past the 5th or 6th inning, but he very rarely leaves while behind in the
game. With an average run support per game between 5 and 6, you can imagine
that that would equal a lot of wins, provided you have a bullpen that can clean up the
second half of the game, which the Red Sox have been able to do in the past.
Daisuke can be an ace, but he needs to be able to last deeper into games (aka
learning to pitch to contact). If the Red Sox training program has finally sunken in he
should be healthy, and if he has learnt the AL and can learn to pitch to contact, he
can turn the majority of his lackluster starts into quality outings. Long story short, I
would take any of the three men before him in a game to end a losing streak or a big
game in the post-season, but I wouldn’t be afraid to give Dice-K the ball if I had to.
Expect him to be the wild card of the staff in 2010 – either a luck-driven winner like in
2008 (which, aside from looking deeper into run support and other assorted stats,
looks like a fluke year), or just another pitcher in the rotation, like in 2007 (although
he still won 15 games as a rookie), and 2009.
Close down the rotation with either Clay Buchholz, who can be good or bad
as history has shown, or Tim Wakefield, who can be healthy or damaged
goods, as history has shown, and you’ve got a formidable rotation. Add in the
potential starters in the minors, such as Junichi Tazawa and Michael
Bowden, and you have a solid back-up if the going gets tough. The market
might even see Cliff Lee and/or Brandon Webb up for grabs if the
Mariners or Diamondbacks aren’t looking like potential playoff contenders at the
trade deadline, potentially making the Red Sox rotationn even more potent, should
they go after someone.
To make a long story short, the Red Sox may or may not have the cards to beat the
Yankees, but when you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, the best thing you
can do is stick the barrel of yours in the face of your enemy and fire away.
I love the Red Sox with a fiery passion that will never cease. However, I despise the
Red Sox organization like an ice cream man driving around town honking his horn
when all the ice cream’s gone. The most recent issue? Random ticket drawing. I’ve
never agreed with the idea of putting tickets for high-demand games or seats up for
random drawing, but it’s really starting to get ridiculous.
I can respect the fact that the Red Sox are so highly adored to the point that a game
at Fenway is quite possibly the hardest ticket to get in all of professional sports
(aside from special events such as the playoffs and all-star games), but should that
give the team’s upper management the right to put high-demand games to the luck
of the draw?
We’re talking about a capacity of 37,400 (at night), and 36,984 (give or take, during
the day). That’s fewer seats than any other major league baseball stadium. With the
lowest seating capacity and (quite possibly) the largest fan base in the game, there’s
bound to be a demand for every game played at home, and there is. With a record
sellout streak getting bigger and bigger by the game, there’s no fear from the
management perspective of striking out monetarily. So, why have a random draw for
9, or in this case, 12 games a year? It’s pure lunacy.
Personally, I have access to season tickets, so it’s not a huge problem for yours
truly. However, for the last two years, my family has tried to pick up tickets for
Sox/Yankees games at Fenway (Monster seats or otherwise), only to find out they
had to see the rivalry at Yankee Stadium, where their money was happily accepted.
I’ve got a pair of tickets on the line saying they’ll be sitting on their couches back
home in Toronto when Manny stares the Monster in the eye once again. Anyone
want to take me up on that offer? … No? Didn’t think so.
What’s going to happen in 2011? Random drawings for Sox/Rays games? Random
drawings for all inter-league matches? Random drawings for all AL East opponents?
How far are they going to go with this system in the future?
I understand that part of the reasoning behind this ploy is to help avoid long lineups
and thousands of people at the ticket booths rejected and sent home 5 seconds
after the tickets go on sale, but isn’t that just the way the world works? Aside from
the Michael Jackson funeral service, I can’t recall any other event outside of sports
where tickets were subject to this kind of system, so why do we have to suffer? Even
if we’re talking of sports, I’ve never seen tickets for an original six match go into a
giant spinning barrel. I’ve never seen Lakers tickets subject to this. NHL and NBA
tickets are much harder to come by in big markets (say for the LA Lakers, or Toronto
Maple Leafs), where the fan base is just as large as the Fenway Faithful, with only an
eighth of the seats Fenway contains to provide for that fan base.
Now, we’re dealing with the Twins considering this approach for the Target Field
opener. What’s next? Is democracy going to fall this summer? Is the apocalypse
coming? Did the Mayans screw up and estimate the end of the world two years
late? With all due respect to Twins fans, is that necessary? Why is Twins
management doing this? Did the Red Sox brass get to them and say, “Hey guys,
we’re going to be there for your opener, and we’re bringing our fans … but they
don’t know how to buy tickets properly, so you’re going to have to provide a random
draw … it’s the only way they know.”, or do they just realize that if they sell the
tickets normally, there will be more Red Sox fans in the stands than Twins fans?
What I’m saying here is quite simple. Why not, as an organization, try to make a
profit off of those games? Instead of randomizing a draw and making all your die
hard fans hope reluctantly for the best, why not just raise your ticket prices for those
games? Personally, I’d rather deal with even a 10% hike in ticket prices for those
games than having to hope for Lady Luck to be on my side. It may not work for
events like the WBC, but it works for the all of the All-Star Games in major league
sports, and it certainly works in the playoffs. If you have fans, they’ll come to the
ballpark, even in a recession, and even with higher ticket prices. But these random
draws are getting ridiculous. Tickets should be first come, first serve, regardless of
the size of your venue, or the event you happen to be holding. I thought that’s how
Capitalism and fairness worked.
How do you celebrate the holidays?
Do you gather with family?
Maybe a little champagne?
Perhaps you’d rather some beer?
Do you clean up for your guests?
Do any baking?
Partaking in a Christmas feast maybe?
Did you get all your shopping done on time?
Time to put away our differences …
And enjoy each other’s company!
Enjoy your holiday, wherever you are! Feel free to share what you plan on doing,
where you’re going, or perhaps what you’re hoping to get for Christmas.
Merry Christmas & God Bless Us, Every One!
The Yankees are reportedly close to trading Melky Cabrera among others for
Javier Vazquez, from the Braves. Who’s the winner in this deal? Quite possibly the
Red Sox. While Vazquez is a healthy pitcher, and makes a decent #4 in the Yankee
rotation, I can’t help but think that Melky was a better asset for them, not only for
right now, but also the long run.
Vazquez is seasonally a 10-15 game winner who gives up a decent amount of runs,
but is someone who tends to always stay healthy, and eats up innings like a
homeless guy invited to Christmas dinner. But who will the Yankees throw into the
outfield this season? They have Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Granderson
is arguably one of the best center fielders in the game, but Swisher is ranked as average and for some crazy reason is the only Yankee that can’t hit it out of the right field vortex, although defensively he can play anywhere in the outfield, or at first base. Who mans
left field? Does this now mean that they’ll go after Damon if he’s willing to take a pay
decrease? Maybe they give Brett Gardner a chance, or they resign Xavier Nady?
Regardless, I can’t help but think Melky was the best option they had in the outfield
for this coming year, and as a spearhead of the team for the future. Not to mention,
he is/was a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium.
So what does this mean for the Red Sox? With the Yankees bolstering their rotation
further, it gives them a chance to turn Chamberlain or Hughes into a set-up man /
future closer. Getting someone like Vazquez gives them some more flexibility with
their rotation. When the Red Sox signed Cameron and Lackey, they increased their
defensive ability and improved their pitching staff to the point that it was potentially
better than the Yankees. Now, they could be considered equal, meaning the
Yankees have the upper hand with a strong offense. With Jason Bay now with
seemingly no market value, does Epstein put an offer of $60MM / 4 Years back on
the table? It’s obvious Bay is waiting for something from the Sox or another team,
because he clearly doesn’t want to play in Citi Field. And if Epstein was to resign
Bay, it gives him the flexibility to deal Ellsbury to the Padres. As much as I’d hate to
see Ellsbury go, if it means the added power of Bay and Gonzalez, I think I’d
get over it rather quickly. Maybe Vazquez going to the Yanks will push Theo to go
get both Bay and Adrian Gonzalez.
The suspense is killing me …
Yes, I know it’s the off-season. Yes, I know the Yankees won the World Series this
year. Yes, I know Papelbon blew up in the ninth and led us to an early exit in the
ALDS. Yes, I know we’re all depressed and hoping for a better result in 2010. But
why not celebrate a bit? Time to cheer up and look at the best playoff plays / games
involving the Red Sox over the past decade.
Nixon Begins the Tradition – The Red Sox found themselves involved in a
pitcher’s duel in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics after losing
the first two games in Oakland. Facing Rich Harden in the bottom of the 11th inning,
Trot Nixon came through with a two-run walk-off homer, setting off the Fenway
faithful and keeping the Sox alive to play another day, starting a tradition of
comeback wins the Red Sox became accustomed to for the remainder of the decade.
Ortiz Walks to New York – Everyone thought Anaheim was about to steal the
show in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS following a Vladimir Guerrero grand slam in the
7th inning that tied the game 6-6. The game went to the bottom of the 10th, where
Mr. Clutch himself hit a two run series-ending home run over the monster to give the
Red Sox a chance to get their revenge against the Yankees.
Beckett and Pedroia Lead the Way – After a huge comeback series win
against Cleveland, Beckett began the 2007 World Series by striking out the first four
batters he faced in Game 1, and Dustin Pedroia hit an 0-1 count over the Monster
for a lead-off home run. Beckett went on to shut down the Rockies with 9 K’s and
just 1 ER over 7 IP, while the Sox offense never gave up the lead, going on to win
Lester Solidifies His Place as a Fan Favorite – After beating cancer, Jon
Lester came back to the Red Sox in 2007 and eventually went on to beat the
Colorado Rockies in the clinching game of the World Series. While not the most
dominant performance of his career and certainly not his most memorable outing, it
is without a doubt the most important game this young lefty has pitched thus far in
his career, making him a fan favorite in Boston long before he pitched his no-hitter.
And now, for the countdown:
10: Dice-K Hits the Jackpot
2008 ALCS Game 1 – Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched brilliantly on the road in
2008, going 9-0, and he continued that tradition in Tampa against the Rays. In a
pitching duel against James Shields, Dice-K carried a no-hitter through 6 innings,
ultimately striking out 9 over 7+ IP, while Papelbon sealed the deal in the 9th, leading
the Red Sox to a 2-0 shutout. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were unable to hold
on to the series lead, and lost to the Rays in 7 games.
9: Beckett Keeps the Series Alive
2007 ALCS Game 5 – The Red Sox entered Game 5 at Jacob’s Field on the
brink of elimination. After ex-girlfriend Danielle Peck was invited to sing the national
anthem (supposedly to try to get Beckett off his game), Beckett took the mound
against the Cleveland Indians and their ace, C.C. Sabathia. After giving up an early
1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Beckett settled in to strike out 11 Cleveland batters
over 7 shutout innings. Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Indians in the 9th, and the
offense routed Sabathia to a 7-1 win, with Beckett at the helm, to keep the dream
alive and take the series back to Fenway.
Regarding Danielle Peck’s Anthem performance:
“She’s a friend of mine. It doesn’t bother me at all. Thanks for flying one of my
friends to the game so she can watch it for free.”
– Josh Beckett
8: Miracle Comeback
2008 ALCS Game 5 – Down 7-0 and facing elimination at home, Pedroia
knocked a single to RF on a 3-2 count with runners on the corners to put the Red
Sox on the board with 2 down in the 7th. The next batter, Ortiz, wrapped a 1-0 count
around Pesky’s Pole, scoring Pedroia and Coco Crisp alongside himself to bring the
Sox within 3 runs of the Rays. In the top of the 8th, Papelbon shut down the bottom
of the Rays lineup in order, and in the bottom half, Jason Bay worked a 4-0 walk
against Dan Wheeler, allowing J.D. Drew to blast a hanging curve over the short
porch in RF. Crisp continued the rally later in the inning with a lengthy at-bat,
blooping a single into RF to score Mark Kotsay from second. Justin Masterson came
in to pitch the 9th, giving up a single and a walk before cleaning up the mess with a
ground ball double play to get out of the jam and kill a Rays rally. J.P. Howell retired
the first two Red Sox hitters in the bottom of the 9th, but gave up an infield single to
Kevin Youkilis, and an intentional walk to Bay. Drew arrived at the plate, and for the
second time that game, came up big with an RBI single over Carlos Pena’s head to
complete one of the biggest post-season comeback victories in the history of the
game, sending the series back to Tampa for Game 6.
7: Nancy Drew Solves the Case of the
2007 ALCS Game 6 – Hot on the heels of a dominant Beckett performance in
Game 5 to keep the series alive, the Red Sox came back to the Fenway faithful for
Game 6, hoping for another big win with Curt Schilling on the mound. Facing
another dominant pitcher in Fausto Carmona in the bottom half of the first inning,
Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz worked the bases loaded with none out off two singles
and a walk. Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell followed up with a strikeout and flyout,
respectively. With the disappointing bat of J.D. Drew coming to the plate, Red Sox
Nation assumed the early rally would be stifled by Carmona and company.
Suddenly, Drew went from being one of Boston’s most disappointing players to being
a fan favourite in a matter of seconds by bashing a high fly ball to deep center field,
giving Grady Sizemore the best seat in the house to watch the beginning of a 12-2
Red Sox rout. In a game that was so far out of hand that even Eric Gagne was
allowed to pitch, Drew drove in a total of 5 runs and the Sox won while facing
elimination once again, forcing a Game 7.
“And with one swing, he erased an entire season filled with frustration, both for
him and these fans here at Fenway.”
– Joe Buck
“[Boston] is not an easy place to not do well, especially when you’re coming in
with some of the fanfare that JD [Drew] came in with but, if he wants to drive in five
again tomorrow, I think he’ll leave on a good note this winter.”
– Terry Francona
6: Angelic Performance
2007 ALDS Game 1 – Everyone knew Beckett could pitch in the postseason.
His Game 6 performance against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series solidified him
as a legendary Yankee killer. However, no one could have expected him to solidify
his post-season dominance against the Angels in arguably the most exciting, and
best, outing of his career. Locked in a pitching duel against John Lackey, Beckett
faced just 31 batters in a complete game shutout, striking out 8 over 108 pitches. In
a battle between two aces, Beckett won the war, and the offense supplied him with 4
runs, although he only needed the 1.
“Man, let me tell ya, some of the innings I watched on T.V. on the screen we have
downstairs … Even on T.V. [Beckett] looked filthy … I mean, he was right on.”
– David Ortiz
5: Ramirez Pulls Off a First
2007 ALDS Game 2 – Mike Scioscia clearly preferred to see Manny at the
plate in Game 2 over Big Papi. I guess he felt Papi was Mr. Clutch, and Ramirez was
slumping. To a degree, he was right. As a result, his pitching staff walked
Ortiz four times (twice intentionally), and took their chances with Ramirez. Prior to
the 9th inning, Ramirez went 0-2 with two walks and a K. However, after Francisco
Rodriguez gave up a lead-off single to Julio Lugo, and intentionally walked Ortiz one
last time, everyone knew something special was coming up. Manny hit the 1-0
pitch over the Monster and out of the park for his first ever walk-off hit in a Red Sox
uniform, giving the Red Sox a 6-3 win, and a 2-0 series lead.
“When you don’t feel good and you still get hits, that’s when you know – you are a
– Manny Ramirez
4: Mr. Clutch Does it Again
2004 ALCS Game 4 – The Red Sox managed to manufacture a run in the 9th
inning to stay alive, but it was up to Papi to ensure there was a Game 5. In the 12th
inning, Paul Quantrill took the mound at Fenway. After a lead-off single by Manny,
Ortiz knocked a Quantrill pitch into the Yankee dugout, walking off for the second
time in just 9 days, and winning the game for the Red Sox, setting up a chance for
Pedro Martinez to relinquish his pride in Game 5.
3: Third Time’s the Charm
2004 ALCS Game 5 – Pedro Martinez was less than stellar, giving up 3 runs
in the 6th and giving up a 2-1 Red Sox lead. The Sox rallied in the bottom of the 8th,
starting with Mr. Clutch’s lead-off home run off Tom Gordon. Later in the inning,
Jason Varitek hit a sac fly to CF, locking the game in a 4-4 tie. Zeroes across the
board until the 14th inning, where after walks to Damon and Ramirez, Ortiz dropped
a 2-out single into CF off Esteban Loaiza, walking off with a win for the second time in
2 games, and the 3rd time in 10 days.
2: God Helps Out His #1 Fan
2004 ALCS Game 6 – The miraculous comeback victories in games 4 and 5
were brilliant, but they meant nothing if the Red Sox couldn’t win the next two games.
Those two walk-offs by Ortiz meant nothing if the Yankees stole the momentum at
home. The Red Sox’s World Series dreams relied on Curt Schilling and a severely
injured right ankle. Was Terry Francona crazy to put Schilling on the mound for
Game 6? Apparently not, because with God on his side, Schilling gave up only a
solo home run to Bernie Williams in the 7th. When all was said and done, he struck
out 4 and gave up just 1 run over 7 innings. Ever since, there has been a debate
throughout baseball regarding whether or not his ankle pains were legitimate, or
whether the blood found on his sock was merely a ploy for a good story. However, in
the most important game of his illustrious career, there is no doubt from anyone on
either bench that night in the Bronx that what he had going on was not only real, but
nothing short of divine intervention.
“Tonight it was all God. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone. And I
prayed as hard as I could. I didn’t pray to get a win or to make great pitches. I just
prayed for the strength to go out there tonight and compete, and he gave me that. I
can’t explain to you what a feeling it was to be out there and to feel what I felt.”
– Curt Schilling
1: The Beginning of the End
2004 ALCS Game 4 – Red Sox fans the world over were depressed. They
were ready to give up. Surely the Curse had won again, right? The Red Sox went
into the 2004 ALCS with something to prove. They were knocked out of the 2003
ALCS by Aaron Boone and the Yankees, and they were adamant that they weren’t
going to let the Bronx Bombers have their way once again. However, the Yankees
took the first two games of the series, putting the Sox in a serious hole, against one
of the best teams ever assembled. They returned to Fenway for Game 3 with hopes
that home turf would give them the spark they needed, but were ousted 19-8. In
Game 4, they fell behind early once again, thanks to an Alex Rodriguez 2-run shot in
the 3rd. 2-0 Yankees. After finally rallying to a 3-2 lead, the Red Sox defense gave
it up the following inning, when the Yankees scored two more. 4-3 Yankees.
Mariano Rivera came out of the ‘pen for the bottom of the 9th, which almost certainly
marked the end of another unfortunate Red Sox season. Mariano ended up giving
up a walk to lead-off batter Kevin Millar, who was replaced for a pinch runner – Dave
Roberts. There was only one reason for bringing in Roberts in this scenario – get to
second, and find a way to get home from there. Everyone in the ballpark knew he
was going to attempt to steal second base. However, that meant Rivera knew as
well. Rivera tried two pick-off attempts, nearly beating Roberts to the bag the second
time. On the first pitch to Bill Mueller, Roberts took the opportunity. Running for his
life, he narrowly beat Jeter’s tag. Mueller then shot the ball up the middle, driving in
Roberts to tie the game and the rest, as any baseball fan knows, is history. During
the short time Roberts was with Boston, he pulled off the greatest stolen base in Red
Sox history, and maybe the most significant stolen base in the history of the game.
Not only did that stolen base spark the Red Sox to win the World Series and end an
86-year drought, but it also effectively marked the end of the Babe’s Curse.
“When we called upon him to do something that maybe seems as minor as
maybe trying to steal a base, you end up seeing … we win a World Series. In my
opinion, that is the number one biggest play.”
– Terry Francona
“The greatest story ever told.”
– John Henry
Thanks for a great decade, Red Sox! Let’s start it all over again in 2010!