Monthly Archives: September 2013

This Week in Boston Baseballing, Sept. 20 – 26

The Red Sox won two of three at home against the Blue Jays over the weekend and then split a two-game set in Colorado that was bookended by two days off on Monday and Thursday. Boston has just three games left in the regular season against the Orioles at Camden Yards beginning tonight. The team will then have four days off leading up to Game 1 of the ALDS at Fenway Park on Friday, October 4.

Boston Clinches the American League East
On Friday night, the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays to secure the 2013 AL East crown. The Red Sox remain in a fight with the Oakland Athletics for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. As of Friday morning, Boston was two games ahead of the A’s for the best record in the AL. The team’s 96 wins is the most since 2007 and the team has a chance to at least match the 98 wins it had in 2004 with a couple of victories this weekend. A series sweep would give Boston 99 wins, a benchmark last achieved in 1978.

Red Sox AL East champs

Anyway, it would be fair to say that team owner John Henry is…uh, reasonably excited but maybe slightly jaded and underwhelmed by simple feats like merely “Winning the American League East.”

Sox ownership cheering clincher

Boston’s Run Differential On Par With 2004, 2007 … and 1950
The Red Sox enter tonight’s game with a run differential of +190, which is 10 runs better than in 2004 (+180) and 20 runs behind the 2007 team (+210) that paced the AL from wire to wire. The Gold standard for dominance, however, was the 1950 team, which had a run differential of +219.

Is The Playoff Rotation Set?
Boston will run out Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and John Lackey over the weekend against Baltimore. This could very well be the playoff pecking order starting next Friday, although things could certainly change between now and then.

Jake Peavy threw 110 pitches in his win Wednesday night in Colorado. There is a pretty good chance he’ll start one of the ALDS games and it might make sense to make sure it happens at Fenway Park, depending on how seriously the Sox deem his home/road splits since becoming a Red Sox. Peavy has thrown only 21 of his 64 ⅔ innings with the team at Fenway Park, but he went seven innings in each start and struck out 22 batters in those 21 frames. Who the Sox face may be a primary factor. One of Peavy’s home starts was against a potential ALDS opponent, the Detroit Tigers, on July 25. In that game, he went 7.0 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, 3 HR and 4 ER.

Ticket Demand for the Postseason Is Strong
According to TiqIQ, the average price for an ALDS ticket is $373. However, so far the lower-end resale market looks reasonable. Tickets for standing room only and bleachers range from about $100-200. (Pictured below, nearly 300 tickets for Section 36 are available for Friday night’s Game 1).

TiqIq Fenway ALDS

On Todd Helton Night, Will Middlebrooks Has His Own Todd Helton Night
Bobbleheads were doled out, family photos incorporating a purple-clad horse were taken, and the man of the hour even hit a timely first-inning homer. But Will Middlebrooks paced a vicious Boston attack that included 15 runs by hitting two home runs and collecting seven RBI. If the young Red Sox third baseman keeps this up for the next decade and a half, we may just be seeing WMB receive a commemorative horse in the shadow of the Green Monster someday.

Helton night ruined

Incidentally, why don’t the Red Sox incorporate horses into their on-field celebrations anymore? Watching Johnny Gomes kick beer cans into the stands is fun – if a bit dangerous – but, back in the day, watching players wave to the fans from the top of police horses always felt kind of classy.

Mo Vaughn on police horse

Red Sox Rookies Enjoy Some Good Old-Fashioned Hazing
Boston rookies Drake Britton, Brandon Workman, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Steven Wright and Brock Holt were photographed wearing Scottish kilts earlier this week.

Look kids! Team-building doesn’t have to involve sodomy!

Sox rookies in kilts

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This Week in Boston Baseballing, Sept. 13 – 19

The Red Sox swept the Yankees in impressive fashion at Fenway Park over the weekend. Their six wins in seven games against New York this month have helped to nudge the Yankees’ playoff hopes on to last rites. Boston wrapped up a three-game series against the visiting Orioles last night by winning 3-1 behind the strength of a John Lackey complete game two-hitter.

The Sox suffered two frustrating late-innings losses to Baltimore at home on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the bright side, the team hasn’t lost a game by more than three runs in more than a month (August 16, a 10-3 loss to the Yankees). When the team scores four runs or more, it is just about unstoppable. The Red Sox haven’t lost a game in which they have scored more than four runs since August 9 (a 9-6 loss in Kansas City).

Boston Clinches A 163rd Game …
The Red Sox secured a spot in the MLB postseason with the win on Thursday night. However, nine other teams will enjoy that privilege during the next 10 days. The real prize will come with Boston’s next win and/or the next Tampa Bay loss as the team’s magic number to clinch the AL East now stands at one.

… Now A World Series Favorite
The Detroit Tigers are projected to win the World Series more often than Boston, according to systems such as Cool Standings and Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds. However, on a public level, the action seems to be swaying toward Boston as the prohibitive favorite to come out of the American League. The Red Sox were listed at 2/1 on Bovada as of this morning.

The narrative structure is now pretty well solidified heading into October. A season that began with the team looking middling at best, a team many figured would be lucky to have a record above .500, is going to win 95-98 games and may have had one of the best regular seasons in two generations. But expectations will continuously be revised during the postseason as the team advances, if the team advances.

The 2013 Red Sox season has already been a sparkling success. But if Boston gets bounced in the playoffs, will the feeling of satisfaction amongst the overwhelming bulk of the fanbase be reflected in the post mortems written by columnists?

1-2-3 Koji Gives Up A Run
Koji Uehara’s perfect streak ended at 37 batters on Tuesday night, when Baltimore scratched a run off the closer in its 3-2 victory at Fenway Park. As Jonah Keri wrote Wednesday, Koji’s streak was the best run by a closer since 1960 in terms of opponents’ OPS allowed. Uehara allowed a combined on-base percentage and slugging percentage of .214. The next lowest number was .337 by Robb Nen in 2000.

Valencia triple over Victorino

Shane Victorino deviated just enough from the optimal path to this ball hit by Danny Valencia that it landed over his head for a leadoff triple in the Orioles’ ninth.

Shane Victorino’s Thumb Hurts
Due to a jammed thumb, Victorino was wearing what looked to be multiple pieces of padding/gloving on his right thumb during his final at-bat on Wednesday night. He gutted his way through it and wound up getting jammed inside on the final pitch, but his pop-up fell safely in no-man’s land in left-center field. Shane has been battling nagging pains all year and it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets a few games off. And there could be added upside to this thumb thing if it keeps Victorino from attempting to bunt 15 times during each playoff game.

When Supposedly “Grown Men” Deploy The Chemistry Argument
On Monday, WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan brought in NBC Sports blogger Craig Calcaterra to discuss to what extent team chemistry has contributed to Boston’s success this season. Sidekick Kirk Minihane and Calcaterra advocated tempering the impact things like some players saying “Hey, let’s all grow beards” actually has on winning professional baseball games. The subtraction of some less popular minorities like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and the addition of whiter-hued guys like Mike Napoli and Gomes undoubtedly had something to do with their predictable stance.

Calcaterra summed up his experience:

At one point they said that Adrian Gonzalez is magically no longer a team cancer because he’s back in California and players from California are happier in California. I pointed out that Jonny Gomes was from California but that didn’t go over too well because, you know, facts. I didn’t get a chance to mention that Gomes’ “wins everywhere he plays” only works when you cut out the bulk of his career spent in Tampa Bay with the Devil Rays.

But hey, just because they call it talk radio doesn’t mean everyone gets to talk. There are some folks who, when they invite someone on who doesn’t agree with their nonsense, change it to “only I talk” radio.

The chemistry argument is a convenient one for posers like John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, who have perfected the dumb art of talking about sports for a living rather than actually watching games and making analytical sense of the sport. They are paid to establish circuitous, pointless arguments that can be constantly revised by either side based on even the slightest bit of recent, anecdotal evidence. Sports talk radio is verbal bukkake, and Dennis and Callahan always seem to have their dicks aimed and ready.

This Week in Boston Baseballing, September 6 – 12

The Red Sox followed up a stirring comeback victory in New York last Thursday by slugging their way to wins in the next two games, ensuring a series victory against the Yankees. Boston forced Mariano Rivera into a second blown save of the series on Sunday afternoon, but the Yankees fought back in the bottom of the 9th to salvage the finale.

The Sox won their three-game series in Tampa Bay and have a 8.5-game lead over the Rays in the American League East. The Magic Number now stands at eight games. Boston is three games ahead of Oakland for best record in the AL and home field advantage in the playoffs.

Koji Extends His Perfect Streak to 34 Batters
Koji Uehara picked up a win in Boston’s 10-inning victory Wednesday night. The reliever has now recorded the equivalent of a perfect game plus an additional seven hitters. Eight out of every 10 pitches thrown during the stretch have been strikes.

The World According to Carp
Mike Carp’s grand slam over the center-field wall gave the Red Sox the 7-3 win on Wednesday in extras. After sitting on the bench as a spectator for four hours, Carp swung at the first pitch he saw from Fausto Carmona and ran hard out of the box, thinking triple…

Mike Carp thinking triple

…right up until the ball cleared the fence.

 Carp grand slam

Clay Buchholz Returns
Boston’s three-game set in Tampa Bay began Tuesday night with Clay Buchholz taking the mound for the first time in three months. Buchholz struck out six batters and walked only one in five innings, throwing an efficient total of 74 pitches. David Price pitched eight innings and struck out nine for Tampa, but the Sox were able to scratch out a couple of runs thanks to a Mike Napoli double and a Johnny Gomes single in the fifth.

Buchholz k's Molina

With the Sox maintaining a comfortable lead in the AL East over Tampa, it was likely one of the last impactful wins the team will have this season. Buchholz made a strong case in his first start back that he can go head to head with the league’s best pitchers.

Jacoby Ellsbury Has a Fractured Navicular Bone
Ellsbury will shed his walking boot and take the next week or two to let the bone finish healing on its own. Jacoby is expected to return before the end of the regular season to “regain his timing” at the plate leading into the playoffs. Or, if you’re Ellsbury’s agent Scott Boras, he is expected to return in time to *cross fingers* pad counting stats in lieu of his pending free agency.

Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe Bump Fists
With NESN color commentator Jerry Remy out for the season, various former Red Sox are being brought into the booth to fill the void. During the first game of Derek Lowe’s three-game tryout in Tampa, Pedro joined Lowe to reminisce about the 2004 World Series team.  

Pedro and Lowe fistbump

D-Lowe was very solid in providing insightful assessment of Buchholz’s return. But he still sounded a bit shell-shocked at times over the last three days by his abrupt retirement from the game. Earlier this year, Lowe pitched 13 innings out of the bullpen for the Rangers. He was able to maintain a self-deprecating good humor about how quickly things ended. On Thursday night, he jokingly pointed out that three of the AL Wild Card contenders – the Yankees, Indians and Rangers – were all recent former employers competing for a playoff spot minus his services.

The Red Sox Announce Dollar Beard Night
You know it’s been a rare season when the Red Sox need to resort to a minor league-esque marketing gimmick to get fans to show up at Fenway Park to watch a team that is flirting with 100 wins.

Sox Dollar Beard Night

This Week in Boston Baseballing, Aug. 30 – Sept. 5

Boston swept its three-game set against the Chicago White Sox last weekend and then took two of three from Detroit. The Sox capped off the week by handing the Yankees a demoralizing defeat in the first game of its four-game series in the Bronx. New York battled back from a 7-2 deficit to take a 8-7 lead before Mariano Rivera, who looks like he could pitch another 10 years, had a rare blown save.

Thanks to Tampa Bay’s struggles in Anaheim and Oakland, the Red Sox were able to increase their lead in the AL East to 6 ½ games. Boston’s lead over Detroit for the AL’s best record stands at three games. Despite the loss to Boston last night, the Yankees have seen their playoff odds increase 6.0 percentage points to 10% during the past week while Tampa’s West Coast slide has dropped its odds from about 86% to 74%, based on the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds page.

Boston Wins in 10 Innings In New York
The Red Sox appeared to be on their way to a fairly comfortable win Thursday night before the Yankees exploded for six runs in the 7th inning. If this game had been played a week ago, Boston may have lost. The Sox scratched out a run in the ninth off Rivera thanks to a two-out single from Mike Napoli, who was lifted for pinch-runner Quintin Berry, a speed-first guy who is a luxury that can only be afforded on a 40-man roster. Berry promptly stole second and moved to third after the throw short-hopped Captain Jetes and wound up in shallow left field.*

quintin berry takes 3rd

*Dennis Eckersley did his best John Madden in Super Bowl XXXVI impression by initially questioning why Berry would be stealing second base with two outs in the 9th inning. You can almost hear the instant NESN producers were in his ear and good old Eck quickly did the right thing by mentioning Dave Roberts.

The Yankees provided to final two blunders of the night: Alfonso Soriano insisted on stealing every base possible against Craig Breslow, leading to his pickoff trying to steal third with one out in the ninth. And with the game in the balance, Joe Girardi brought Joba Chamberlain in for the 10th inning. If Joe Girardi promises to continue using one of his worst relievers in high-leverage, late-innings spots, Boston fans ought to start routing for New York to sneak into the playoffs.

girardi is disappointed

Boston Peppers the Fenway Stands During Eight-HR Night
The Sox hit dingers all over the park on Wednesday night. Daniel Nava’s two-run home run in the 6th inning, one of eight home runs hit by the team, chose a hefty fan’s face as its landing pad. Sure, this poor woman getting a face-full of beer thanks to the jackass sitting next to her got all the attention. But the fallout for this guy over the past couple of days has probably been a lot worse…

David Ortiz Collects His 2,000th Hit
Big Papi doubled off Al Alburquerque on Wednesday night during a 6th inning in which the Red Sox batted around and scored eight runs to turn the rubber game against Detroit into a blowout. Ortiz would later hit a homer in the 8th inning to pace the Red Sox’s 20-4 victory.

Boston Makes Some Roster Moves
During a season in which the Red Sox have remained relatively healthy as a team throughout, the September roster moves were exactly what a fan hopes for – marginal acquisitions and call-ups that add depth rather than address serious holes. The Red Sox acquired utility infielder John McDonald from Philadelphia in one of those “ depth” moves that probably spells doom if the player actually sees any at-bats in October. As part of September roster expansion, the Sox also recalled youngsters Rubby de la Rosa and Ryan Lavarnway. Matt Thornton and Brandon Snyder were also activated off the disabled list.

Lester Outduels Scherzer
Jon Lester faced off against Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer on Tuesday night and came away victorious, 2-1. Lester allowed one run, struck out nine batters and walked none while Scherzer walked three Red Sox and gave up two runs. The game will undoubtedly be pointed to later this month by advocates of Lester as Boston’s Game 1 playoff starter (if the Sox have the luxury to align the rotation). The whole decision could hinge on who has the best Angry Face on the team:

lester angry

Boston Herald Photo

lackey angry espn

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Buchholz Sets A Return Date?
Clay Buchholz made his last rehab start on Thursday night, throwing 71 pitches and striking out five batters in 3 2/3 innings. Clay could be back on the mound for Boston as soon as Tuesday night, assuming the Red Sox are keeping him on a relatively normal throwing schedule.

Theo Decides to Give Daniel Bard Another Whirl
Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein claimed Daniel Bard off waivers Wednesday after Boston designated the embattled right-handed reliever for assignment.

USA Today Names A ‘Minor League Player of the Year’?
They do. And this year’s winner was Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts joins some fairly lofty company – Andruw Jones (twice!), Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton as well as former Red Sox Gabe Kapler (1998) and Josh Beckett (2001).