The Turning Point
There’s no better way to enter the playoffs than on a hot streak, unless, of course, your opponent is reeling in defeat.
The ninth inning of last night’s game must have put a real damper on the spirit in the Los Angeles clubhouse. After reclaiming their lead in the ninth against the unhittable, untouchable Daniel Bard, the Sox were able to steal the victory away when closer Brian Fuentes unraveled with one out to go.
As David Ortiz walked to the plate in the ninth against a left-handed Fuentes, hearts were simultaneously dropping all over New England. Two outs, down one, no one on, and Ortiz hasn’t been able to touch lefties since 1945. The game was all but over.
Yet, somehow, Papi was able to coax out -or some would say, Fuentes was able to choke out- a four-pitch walk amidst the most dire of circumstances.
Watching from the comforts of my own home, I felt no less shielded from the impending disappointment than all the fans at Fenway. I closed my eyes on the delivery of the fourth pitch of the at-bat, knowing the all-too-likely outcome we’ve become accustomed to with Papi at the plate versus a lefty:
3-0 count, the reliever cruises strike one over the plate as Ortiz has the take sign on.
3-1, Fuentes calms himself, steps to the rubber collected and confident, and throws a fastball high and in, as Papi flails at the high heat.
3-2, the catcher gets up the courage to call a breaking ball on a 3 ball count, knowing that Papi is now adjusted to the heat. The closer nods and delivers a slider that starts off over the outside corner but ducks just away from Ortiz’s bat as it crosses home plate.
Should’ve been ball four. Instead, strike three and inning over. Game, set, match. Season.
I actually prayed on 3-0 that Papi would have the green light. I’d prefer dying quickly via a fly out, with a chance for a bloop single, than to be left to suffer a slow, predictable death by strikes.
Yet, sometimes, it seems, fate can be kind. The fourth pitch was a ball. Papi walked.
Fast forward through the box score: single, single, a VERY generous ball four to Nick Green on a 3-2 count (I’d like to see how “low” that was on Pitch f/x), and another nice piece of hitting by Alex Gonzalez to loft a single in front of Juan Rivera in right.
But there was more to it than that.
Excuse me for glossing over the details of the Red Sox glory, as it was truly an inning to remember, but I just can’t get over Juan Rivera’s complete lack of effort in right field on that Gonzalez single. I haven’t seen such blatant indifference since my senior year of high school after I got my acceptance letter from college.
We’ve all seen poor defense before. Forget the home run that bounded off Jose Canseco’s noggin. Never mind Trot Nixon tossing a fly ball into the stands on two outs.
Those were due to lack of talent and coordination (Canseco) or an honest mistake by a true dirt dog who plays the game right (Nixon).
But, how do you not dive for that ball? Rivera didn’t charge the fly and barely even stretched to stop it after it landed. A dive could have prolonged the game for extra innings, or, at the very least, saved the left fielder from coarse stares in the locker room.
So what if the team has the division all but wrapped up! Doesn’t momentum going into the playoffs mean anything anymore?
Maybe he just misplayed the ball. To be honest, I’d rather believe that. Rivera has been an excellent player to root for the past couple years, as he has battled injury to reclaim his starting role on the Angels as well as his status as a quality left fielder. I haven’t seen him much this year, as he plays on the West Coast and all, but I’ve always had respect for his game. For now, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt.
But that was one heck of a way to mail it in. If he resided in Boston, the tabloids would have a whole lot to say about it, division in hand or not.
So, about that indifference.
Nero playing the fiddle in Rome? We’re not at quite that level yet. A lame duck Senator in November? That sounds more like it.
With that poor display, the California Angels just got a lot less frightening.
Injuries Hitting at the Wrong Time
With seven consecutive wins (and L.A. adding three losses to the mix), the Red Sox are in great shape to take a late-season hot streak into the playoff months. Should the regular season end today, the Sox would play guest to Anaheim for the ALDS. That’s a nice little run to take into October.
Yes, momentum is very important… but health is more so.
With more aches and sprains coming across the trainer’s table, the Sox are battling yet another slew of injuries. While bumps and bruises should come as no surprise to anyone, as they tend to mount near the end of the year, they are now affecting some of the team’s most indispensible athletes
For the second straight game, Victor Martinez was forced to sit out due to a leg injury suffered during his great block of home plate in the Tampa Bay series. He is expected to be ready Thursday, though additional rest would help his long-term prognosis. As Texas has slipped even further back in the race with another loss to Oakland, he could afford one day off.
The new heart and soul of the Red Sox offense, Kevin Youkilis, sat out Wednesday due to back spasms. Back injuries can be unpredictable, so this type of injury could go away tomorrow, or require a DL stint if they don’t calm down. Here’s hoping for the former, though it looks like this isn’t the first time Youk has had to deal with this.
Jon Papelbon was also unavailable on Wednesday night, due to an injury suffered in the bullpen on Tuesday. Not to worry, though. He should be good to go for Thursday.
And, in lighter news, elder statesman Tim Wakefield is set to return on Monday, pending the results of a bullpen session Friday. Wakefield’s return will be a welcome one, as the once thin rotation is now brimming with depth again. Should he and Daisuke remain healthy through the next few weeks, there should be no reason to ever again revisit the Paul Byrd / Junichi Tazawa induced sleep tremors, night sweats, and teeth grinding.
Now, let’s take a breather and get ready for Baltimore, shall we?
There's no better way to enter the playoffs than on a hot streak, unless, of course, your opponent is reeling in defeat.
The ninth inning of last night's game must have put a real damper on the spirit in the Los Angeles clubhouse. After reclaiming their lead in the ninth against the unhittable, untouchable Daniel Bard, the Sox were able to steal the victory away when closer Brian Fuentes unraveled with one out to go.
As David Ortiz walked to the plate in the ninth against a left-handed Fuentes, hearts were simultaneously dropping all over New England. Two outs, down one, no one on, and Ortiz hasn't been able to touch lefties since 1945. The game was all but over...
The Turning Point