Thursday, August 4, 2011

Through the Beer Goggles: Another Walkoff

With Sadie Sloe Gin out for the night rehearsing with her new awesome band Sadie Sloe Gin, I sat down with some beers and the landlord of the Sexy Boston Sports lair Adam Boyce and watched the Boston Red Sox take on the Cleveland Indians. This is what I observed through the beer goggles…

Top first inning: For those who don’t know, Tim Wakefield is taking the mound attempting to win his 200th game. He is the active leader in career wins with a 16 win advantage over Roy Halladay. He is still 7 short (185) of the Red Sox career record of 192 wins held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens so he is going to have to go on some kind of streak to get that record this year. He sets the Indians down 1-2-3 and the knuckleball is dancing.

Bottom first inning: With two outs, Adrian Gonzalez strokes one of his patented line drives to center. It’s interesting how he has been more “Ichiro” than “Pujols” since the All Star break. It must be the Home Run Derby!!! Kevin Youkilis follows that up with a nice double to right and David Ortiz drives the not-so-fleet-at-foot-duo in with an opposite field single to beat the shift (are Gonzo, Youk and Papi the slowest 3-4-5 hitters in the league right now?). It looks like the team could have a field day against Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco, but Carl “The Rally Killer” Crawford flies out to deep left (although it was a nice piece of hitting and about 3 feet away from being a wall ball).

Top fourth inning: Indians rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis leads off with a homer to right field (right field has been getting a work out in this series) and has now homered in all three games of the series (and one before that for four games in a row). I’ve been awfully impressed with Kipnis and fellow rookie Ezequiel Carrera (another player along with Shin Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera stolen from the Seattle Mariners) this series. Kipnis for his bat and Carrera for his speed and timely hitting. Kipnis is listed at 5’11” (to which Dustin Pedroia calls, “bull shit”) and starts his stance with a Cal Ripken-like bat hold parallel to the ground. He was one of the Indians top prospects headed into the season and it seems like he could be a centerpiece for them. Carrera will never hit for power, but his speed could translate to solid centerfield defense and he knows how to get on base. The Tribe even the score at 2-2 with a Cabrera single followed by a Travis Hafner double.

Bottom fourth inning: An Ortiz walk, a Carl “Captain Clutch” Crawford double and intentional walk of Josh “Second Coming of Dwight Evans” Reddick load the bases for Marco Scutaro with one out. The only thing you cannot do in this situation is hit an easy grounder to an infielder. You can get a hit, walk, fly out to the outfield, pop out or strike out. Just don’t hit a grounder to an infielder. Scutaro grounds it to short, but luckily beats the relay throw and avoids the double play and Ortiz scores. Sox up 3-2. Jacoby Ellsbury strikes out to end the threat. God he’s a bum.

Top seventh inning: Wake looked a little shaky in the sixth and Francona had Aceves warming up, but he is sending the 45-year-old back to the mound. On cue, rookie third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall drills a double to left. Before the inning started I questioned the move of bringing Wake back even though he only gave up 2 runs and threw a reasonable amount of pitches. With Wake I think 6 innings has to be his limit this year even if he is pitching well. The bullpen is too good and he is too unpredictable to allow him to go further. After a groundout, Chisenhall takes third on a wild pitch. And this is a huge reason why you don’t leave him in a close game like this. The tying run is so perilously close and he can easily score on a passed ball that I think you need a more traditional pitcher here. Wake gets Lou Marson to strike out for the second out of the inning, but gives up the game tying double to Carrera. Now Francona decides to amble out to the mound, to a loud chorus of boos, to take Wake out of the game. He is no longer in position to get the all mighty win and the crowd knows it. It’s a move that should have come at least a batter earlier, only he makes an even crazier move bringing in Randy Williams. Going into this game, Williams has an 8.53 ERA. I take to Facebook, which I rarely ever do, to express my frustration with the move. It’s not entirely clear to me why Williams is even on this team. He is a 35-year-old journeyman lefty with limited experience who doesn’t really specialize in shutting down lefties. The Sox have a good lefty in Franklin Morales already so why is Williams necessary? Better yet, why is he being trusted to protect a tie game with the go-ahead run on second? Of course, after giving up a walk he strikes out the red-hot Cabrera to end the inning.

Top eighth inning: Williams is back out again!!! If my hair were long enough to grab I’d be pulling it out right now, so instead I’ll just get another beer. And just like that, I’m wrong again. Williams gets the 1-2-3 wrapping up a very effective inning and 2/3. His ERA is still 7.04 so I think I’m still right. Just because the gamble paid off doesn’t mean it was right.

Top ninth inning: Francona finally rights his wrongs and brings in Jonathan Papelbon to protect the tie game. Even though it is not a “save situation” you want to bring your best reliever into the most important situations of the game, and this definitely qualifies (though the same could have been said about the 7th and 8th). As he should, Pap blows through the bottom of the Indians order, 1-2-3.

Bottom ninth inning: Somebody else must have made the decision to bring Pap into the ninth inning because Francona is back to his dumb ways. With lefty Tony Sipp on the mound, Francona decides to bring in Darnell McDonald to pinch hit for the lefty hitting Reddick. This happens even though Reddick is hitting well against everybody this year (including 2 hits and a walk this game) and McDonald is hitting terribly against everybody. Like Williams, I have no idea why he is on this team. There has to be a better solution. Luckily for the Sox, Manny Acta fears the mighty McDonald and brings in side arming righty Joe Smith to get the advantage. I know Smith from my days at Brooklyn and have a really funny story about him that I can’t share in this space. When healthy, he has been dominant against right-handed hitters, but he struggles against lefties (keep this in mind). He gets McDonald and Scutaro to ground out weakly. Then Ellsbury comes to the plate. Instead of pulling Smith for closer Chris Perez, Acta lets him pitch to the All-Star lefty. On an 0-1 count, Ellsbury drills a ball to deep center for the game-winning, walk-off home run, the second night in a row he has ended the game in the final at bat. Heidi Watney sprints down the third baseline to get the interview and the team swarms Ellsbury at home plate doing their best to concuss him for his efforts. Maybe Francona was using a little gamesmanship in sending McDonald to the plate, hoping to get Smith into the game so that Ellsbury would have a chance to be the hero again? Nahhhh. Either way, another exciting game in what has been an exciting series and exciting matchup this year. If the Indians can beat out the Tigers for the AL Central this is the Sox likely first round matchup. Despite all the major advantages on paper, the teams have been evenly matched so this could be another series for the ages like the ones in 2007 and 1999. Erik Bedard gets the start tomorrow and I will definitely be watching through the beer goggles.

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