Monday, July 13, 2009

Better Before the Break

Remember the old days when the Red Sox would catch the Yankees after a long time of being in second. They’d drop the gap from 5 games to 1, or even 0. Without fail, it would be back up to 5 again within the week. Yet another example of how times have changed. It was the Yankees who finally caught the Sox just before the break. New Yorkers were back to their old selves. It was assumed that once again, the Yanks had caught the Sox from behind on their way to a title. Not this time. This time, the Sox pulled it together and closed out the half with three straight wins. The Yankees, meanwhile, fell back to earth. By the time the weekend was over, the lead stood at three games once again. It sure is fun.

Speaking of the weekend, the starting pitching looked great. I’d have preferred another inning out of Smoltz, but if that were my only complaint, I’d say things are going well with the rotation. Lester once again dominated the Royals at Fenway. He’s been pitching great lately, rounding back into a top of the rotation guy. Beckett proved he belongs there too. His complete game yesterday was another in a long line of dominating starts this season. Smoltz did his part with five innings of one-run ball on Saturday. Pretty impressive indeed. I know it’s against Kansas City. The opponent isn’t the pitcher’s fault. You can say they were supposed to pitch well against KC. That’s exactly what they did, in dominating fashion. If Beckett pitched 6 innings yesterday, giving up 4 runs in a win, it wouldn’t be all that great of a sign. But, he dominated when he was supposed to. That’s really all I can ask.

From the dominating when you’re supposed to department, Clay Buchholz will get the start on Friday in Toronto. Clay was doing everything he was supposed to do, by mowing the opposition down in Pawtucket. As a reward, he gets a spot start with the big club. It’s interesting to see a spot start for no good reason though. Francona said it was because Beckett and Wakefield are both supposed to pitch in the All-Star game Tuesday, and needed the extra rest. Although, simply starting the schedule after the break with Penny, Lester, Smoltz would have given them each at least an extra day of rest. It makes me wonder if it really a coincidence that this random call-up is against the Blue Jays. Is this a chance for the Jays management to see Clay up close and personal? Is this a showcase so the Jays can see what they’d get for Halladay? Is that too much for me to hope for? Maybe if Lars Anderson gets a call-up as well so Youk can rest up from the All-Star game too. Maybe Bard gets a save because Pap’s “resting.”

Unfortunately, a few players didn’t dominate this weekend when they were supposed to. The bullpen, which was the best in the league, couldn’t buy an out on Saturday. The most painful part was that I was at the park to witness it firsthand. It’s bad enough when the opposing pitchers give up hit after hit to lead to long innings. It’s downright lethal when the Sox do it right back. After the collapse against the Orioles, I wonder what was running through Smoltz’s mind as he saw his win almost float away. Even worse than all the runs? It started to rain, no wait…pour, for the top of the ninth. So now, not only has the game gone on much longer than it should have, but because of that I’m getting soaked. And, just for the kicker, Youk hits a meaningless homer in the 8th to eliminate the save situation. So I’m frustrated, tired, and wet and don’t even get to see Pap enter to a blaring “I’m Shipping up to Boston.” Thank goodness they won.

Let’s hope nobody gets hurt during All-Star festivities. It’s really the only thing wrong with the game, if someone goes down. It would be nice if the AL pulled out another win as well. After all, the game counts.

At least there’s no beach flag football.

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