Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Round Trippers at the Trop

That wasn’t Scott Kazmir last night. I don’t know who it was, but thankfully it wasn’t Kazmir. Maybe his mind was on his home and family in Houston. Maybe he’s a 24-year old who didn’t know how to handle the most meaningful game he’s ever pitched. Maybe the Sox just caught him on an off night. Whatever it was, the Sox are now in a virtual tie for first place in the American League East.

I asked before when the Rays would mentally fold-up camp. When would they think to themselves that making the playoffs is one heck of an accomplishment and leave it at that? I’m guessing pretty soon. Having your ace blow up in a crucial game doesn’t scream winning the division. If Beckett can go out tonight at show them what a real ace does, that might be it. They had a great run, and are almost assured of a playoff spot. Sooner or later, they’re going to realize it.

A side story is, once again, Dice-K. He won yet another game moving his record to 17-2. An .895 winning percentage. Are you kidding me? Some people will point out that he, again, only went 5 innings. I would think that last night, it was more because of the 12-1 score than his poor pitching. When was the last time a 17 game winner was the #3 starter in a playoff rotation? If the Sox have the chance to set up the rotation to Beckett-Lester-Dice, watch out Chicago. Unfortunately, right now it’s Lester-Dice-Beckett…there’s some work to be done.
I love the catwalks in Tampa. The radio calls of “and he’s settling under it…and…it hit a catwalk for a home run!” are just too much. I know some people claim it’s a little bush league. A real stadium wouldn’t have a playoff game decided by a catwalk. But, is it ok if a playoff game were to be decided by a ball off the ladder? What if a World Series game was decided by a ball clanking off a foul pole only 302 feet from the plate? (Oh, wait…that already happened) Sure, it’s quirky, but all ballparks have their quirks. I like it that way. It’s one of the many things that makes baseball better than football or soccer.

One of the problems with trying to define “clutch” is that it’s hard to find a definition that applies in all times. Some of the criteria tossed around include, after the 7th inning in a 1-run game, etc. The “late and close” theory. But, would anything be more clutch than Ortiz’s home run in the first inning of last night’s game? Here are the Sox visiting the team leading them in the division. They’re facing the other team’s ace in a building they haven’t won in all year. The first two guys walk. Can you imagine if the Sox squander that chance? It would be crushing to have a chance against Kazmir in a big game and waste it. Not only does Ortiz capitalize on the gift walks, he stakes the Sox to a quick 3-0 lead before Tampa even bats. Now, instead of having the upper hand, the Rays need to look at making up three runs against Dice-K, the 16-game winner. If that’s not “clutch”, I don’t know what is. (The same argument could be made for Ortiz’s home run in game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. It may have been the first inning. But, it was after a runner being thrown out at the plate, and gave the Sox a quick lead in a must-win game. Clutch.)

This could be a fun couple of weeks.

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