Friday, April 30, 2004

Unkown by Nine. 04.29.30

Last night's game was over in the first inning, so it hardly seems fair to write a whole bunch of notes about meaningless baseball. I have few things about the game, a few random notes, and we'll see where we get. By we, I mean me.

1. It is really very difficult to sweep a doubleheader. Just doesn't happen often, even when the teams are distinctly mismatched. Yesterday, obviously, the Sox pulled it off, mostly again due to great pitching. A lot of ink has been dropped on this issue, but one person is going unmentioned. Praise has gone to Foulke, Schill, Francona, Theo, even Varitek -- but not a single word on Dave Wallace. Last year was sort of a wash for the Sox pitching coach, he took over mid-stream and didn't get time to learn the players and gain their trust. With the offseason under his belt however, he's got Embree throwing his best since San Diego, Williamson getting on top of pitches and using the bottom of the strike zone, and Ramiro Mendoza on the DL. All is right with the world. Obviously the staff's success is not entirely his doing, but this is a capital G Great pitching coach (check out the stats of his Dodger and Met pitchers), and he has definitely had more than a bit to do with this run. Remember Wallace.

2. Damian Moss's first inning was an extravaganza of bad pitching, but it wasn't entirely his fault. He was out there without instruction or guidance, and unless he was ignoring the advice of his catcher or coaches, he shouldn't be fully blamed. Dave McCarty and Gabe Kapler are fairly simple hitters to get out. Neither of them can hit curveballs, and they don't do anything with balls on the outside corner. Throw them anything other than low or inside fastballs and they're a right turn away from the dugout. So what does he throw them? McCarty: low fastball, Kapler: inside fastball. Result? Herculean line drives. If The Ninth can see this from his futon couch at home, certainly the fine Tampa staff can see it from the dugout. If Moss was told to throw the curves and waived it off or ignored it, that's his problem, but if, as The Ninth suspects, Toby Hall doesn't know what he's doing or the pitching coach gave no help, then Damian had conspirators. Bad pitches happen sometimes, so do bad ideas, but no idea is inexcusable.

3. Lowe had a nice curveball going last night. He's had one, in fact, all season. Seems to go to it when he's having trouble getting the sinker over. (I told you they wouldn't all be winners.)

4. I bet Lou Pinella loved it when Kapler bunted for a hit with a 7-2 lead and slid into first base. Annoying, vaguely disrespectful, and stupid. All Pinella favorites. That's how you get your tires slashed. By a 60 year old man.

5. The Ninth really has no intention of making fun of Don Orsillo on a regular basis. He's a pretty good announcer, keeps up with the Remdog, and seems like a very nice guy. But he talks about doughnuts a lot, and he's put on a few pounds recently, so he's an easy target. And how can you resist this 5th inning exchange:

Remy: How does Chinese food and doughnuts go together anyway, Don?
Orsillo: I can eat doughnuts with just about anything.

I mean what am I supposed to do, not mention that? I'm expected to just let that slide? He ate doughnuts and Chinese food together, talked about it on the air, and then added that he could eat them with anything? I have to do my job here folks. It's a task, sometimes a burden, and I get paid very very well for it, so I do it. If Orsillo talks about doughnuts, I must report it. I'm sorry.

6. As a counterpoint to our occasional criticism of Francona's bullpen use, the following took place in yesterday's Phillies v. Cards game. Kevin Millwood ably pitched the Phillies into the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead. For the bottom of the 8th, manager Larry Bowa called on Tim Worrell, their new and primary set up guy. No argument there. Problem is, Worrell had some pretty nasty hitters to face, and fairly quickly he found himself with Edgar Renteria on third and Pujols on second. Happens to the best of us. This is where it gets interesting. 8th inning, tying run on third, winning run on second, one out - Jim Edmonds coming up. Now Bowa has one of the best closers in baseball, Billy Wagner, freshly added to his bullpen, and ready to give his 98 mph heater a spin. Tempting choice. Instead though, Larry opts for Virtual Rheal Cormier, which wouldn't have been my move, but perhaps he felt 5 outs was too much to ask of his closer. Fine. So Cormier comes in and, lo and behold, gets Edmonds swinging - with a lot of help from the irresponsible side of Jim's brain. 2 down. Pretty good. Only one out away from getting through this jam. Coming up for St. Louis is Scott Rolen, who is off to a scorching start, followed by the left-handed Colin Porter. Cormier, being a lefty, would much rather face Porter, but because Reggie Sanders is sitting on La Russa's bench, he likely won't have that opportunity. But of the three hitters that Philly could possibly have to go through to get this last out (Rolen, Porter, Sanders) Rolen is by far the best, so you might as well put him on first. Bowa agrees, and holds up four fingers. Now we come down to both the nitty and the gritty. Bases loaded, 2-1 lead, two outs, bottom of the 8th. Reggie Sanders has been announced for Porter and is heading to the plate. Bowa will certainly replace Lefty Cormier, but with who? His 40 save-fireballing-slider off the table-15 K's in 11 innings closer? Or perhaps, because he's dillusionally obsessed with the fact that the little number on the scoreboard says an 8 next to inning line instead of a 9, he'll opt for his overweight, over-the-hill set up man, Roberto Hernandez? I fear I've ruined the surprise. It is of course Hernandez, because the 8th inning is a land only for men who set up, not those who dare to close. What's the result? On the first pitch he sees, Reggie Sanders slams a triple over the centerfielder's head, clearing the bases. Cards up, 4-2. Hernandez subsequently got out of the inning, but the damage was done. The game ended up in extra innings and was eventually won on a JimEd walk off, but that's not the point. Bowa had obviously made the wrong choice, but not because Sanders tripled, because it was wrong. Larry had the second best relief pitcher in baseball sitting in the bullpen watching as probably the 50 or 60th best coughed up the lead. Why? Because it was the eighth inning. That's it. When Philly reporters asked the manager if he considered going to Wagner, especially in light of the fact that Sanders was 0 for 13 with eight strikeouts in his career against him, he said: "Not even a thought, I'm not using him in the eighth inning. Unless we have a day off or something, he's not coming in the eighth inning. Ever. Day off or he hasn't pitched in four days, yeah." Honestly, have you ever heard anything so stupid in your life? Does he think Wagner's arm is going to fall off? It's one extra out. And what exactly is he saving him for? What is going to happen in the 9th inning that could possibly be worse that what is happening here in the 8th? Are there going to be four men on Larry? Could that happen? Maybe a monster will come to the plate and Billy Wagner will be the only person who knows how to kill him. The bases are loaded Larry. The Cardinals' best pinch hitter is coming up. This is it buddy. This is the game, whether you like or not. If you're not going to use your best arm just because it's the eighth inning, then you're going to lose a lot of games in the eighth inning. And you don't have to. If you do the wrong thing just because you think it's right, then you're both stubborn and simple, and that's not a good thing to be. Francona, as we all know, would've brought Foulke in. In fact, he would've had him in before any of this silliness got started. Maybe he overuses, and maybe he disregards proper rest, but there's a lot to be said for better safe than sorry. Wagner's arm won't fall off, and Keith's might, but if Boston loses a game in the 8th inning, it's gonna be with their best guy in the middle of the diamond. The way it should be. And if the fans of Philly and the guy who's signing Wagner's 8 million dollar check don't let Bowa know that, then they're in for more of the same. Have fun.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.28.04

The Red Sox are good.

1. What service exactly does Don Zimmer provide the Devil Rays? He's on the field and in uniform for pre-game warmups, then, in what certainly must be a sight to behold, scurries back to locker room to change into street clothes. After that, he goes and sits in the stands with a grumpy look on his face. No communication with Lou, no chatting about strategy, just frowns and loose skin. Tampa thought this would take them to the next level?

2. Jason Varitek had a big night for the Sox, read about it in your local papers. Despite his recent slump, Tek has had a very solid offensive season so far. Contract year. Combine it with Mirabelli's numbers though, and you have some really impressive production. Red Sox receivers: .314 BA, .528 OBP, 6 HRs, 13 RBI, 15 BB. While any Boston-biased writer would like to turn this around, compare it to Jorge Posada's year, and gloat smuggly - it can't be done. He's having a great start. 8 HR, 20 rbi's. Oh well.

3. Paul Abbott was really moving for Tampa Bay last night, and, in the end, pitched a pretty tough game. Having allowed no hits going into the third, he walked Bellhorn, got Kapler on a fielder's choice, then, finally, gave up a single to Cesar Crespo. Judging by his face, he was not pleased. The best description is probably "I can't believe I just gave up a hit to Pokey Reese's backup", but it lacks the flavor of "Yeah, I stink, but this guy STINKS" that was lying underneath. There is no way he should have been thinking no-no, but you never like the first knock of the day to go to a guy you've never heard of. The Ninth hears you, Paul.

4. We have praised Manny Ramirez, Peter Gammons wrote a long piece, even the Boston papers have jumped on the wagon and given him a few pats on the back. How does Manny repay us? By hitting a towering fly to left, watching it head foul, grab a gust of wind, turn back into fair territory and bounce off the wall. All from the comfort of the right-handed batter's box. Awesome. Dale Sveum has covered for Manny by saying the ball was 30 feet foul. Yes it was Dale, but then it went fair, which happens sometimes. That's why we run everything out. We don't watch everything out. We don't hope everything out. We run. That way we're on second base when we're supposed to be. This doesn't take back the good that Manny has accomplished this season, but just run! Then people will love you.

5. More on Paul Abbott. Through the third he was throwing a ton of changeups, and having success. Lefties especially were having fits, but it was an able pitch against all hitters. Then, in the fourth inning, all of a sudden that changeup was staying up and being knocked around. Manny put one off the wall, Tek hit one over the bullpen, and Bellhorn ripped one for a double. What happened? Blister city. In the dugout between innings the trainer was working on Abbott's thumb, trying to bandage it up. Depending on how he grips the change, that probably kept him from throwing it effectively.

6. Curt Schilling owned Tino Martinez. He threw him 18 pitches and struck him out three times. In their last "battle" in the sixth, Schill used a classic righty power approach. First pitch: Fastball up and away, 0-1. Second pitch: Low and away split, 0-2. Third: Up and away gas, set up pitch out of the zone, 1-2. Now test yourself loyal (ahem) readers, what's next?

A - Inside fastball, ties him up with grounder to first.
B - Surprise curveball, swing and miss.
C - Low and away split, flailing swing and miss.
D - The Coming of the Lord.

If you guessed A, you're.....wrong! It was C, the old stand by of hard-throwing righties everywhere. Change their eye level by going up and down in the zone, keep the ball away, throw the heat by them, then let your last pitch fall off the table. Goodbye hitter. Gotta love it.

7. Today the Red Sox will play a double header, and Jerry Remy was excited about all the baseball in one day. Because he loves baseball. Don Doughnuts Orsillo was also pumped for Thursday's schedule. Why? Two free meals in the press room of course. One mozzarella stick burger at 12:30. Another at 5:45. What a day.

8. In the 7th, Lou Pinella lifted Abbott for Travis Harper, then immediately asked Travis to intentionally walk his first hitter. If a manager is going to call for the free pass around a pitching change, they will usually ask the out-going hurler to do it. There is the thought that asking a new pitcher to begin an outing by promptly tossing four straight balls is not the best way to establish rhythm. But this isn't rule, and Lou ignores it. How does Harper start after the IBB? Two more balls out of the zone. 2-0 to Varitek. He battles back to get the count full, but the damage is done. With 3-2 and the bases loaded, Harper has to rely mostly on the fastball to avoid walking in a run. Varitek is fastball hitter. Gets one down the middle, singles hard to right, Sox 3-0. Good luck, Tampa.

9. The one slightly disturbing thing about Francona is his bullpen use. We've discussed it before, but it bears monitoring. He seems to prefer using his best arms whenever they're available, even if an average pitcher would do. Tito's done it a few times with Foulke so far, summoning him with 4 run leads. It's a defensible position, but with a 5 run lead in the 8th against Tampa, Phil Seibel and Lenny Dinardo are adequate. Especially with a doubleheader the following day. Embree pitched the 8th, and then, when Boston added their 6th run, he went for Dinardo in the 9th. But he had Williamson warming. It's just not necessary, and there's no better way to ruin a good bullpen than running them into the ground. Just ask Houston.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Rain Out This

Sorry folks, rain out last night means nothing new today. Excited for Kim tomorrow afternoon, although I am a bit concerned about the low velocity reports. Check back tomorrow for some Nine by Nine good times and please, remember, don't go chasing waterfalls. Listen to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Yankee Way

In case you haven't figuring it out yet, The Ninth is based in New York. Born and raised in Boston, the home office now resides in Brooklyn, NY, where I pursue the theatre career that will one day result in The Ninth: On Broadway. 99% of the time, this causes a more irritating baseball life. You get stuff thrown at you at the ballpark, curses tossed your way on the train, insults hurled at you from the newspaper. It stinks. Every now and again though, maybe once or twice a year, it can be a real boon. The last thing a New Yorker expects is to have "Th-uh-uh-uh-uh Yankees Lose" yelled at them John Sterling style from an open city window. No Yankee fan is prepared for a fellow subway traveler to look adoringly at the back page of their NY Post and laugh at the picture of Jeter striking out. Sure, they come to Boston or wander into the Riviera (the main NY Sox bar), they know what might happen. But if you can get them when they don't expect it, that's when it really hurts. After Game 1 of last year's ALCS, it seemed like maybe we would have that chance. Boston won commandingly, behind their #3 starter, and we all thought there might be something here. After the victory, The Ninth took to the local bars to see what a depressed Yankee fan looked like. Problem is, there weren't any. No one moping by the pool table, no one slugging back an extra J&B, no one crying on the telephone to their Mom. We cared, they didn't. It was annoying. As the series progressed you could feel the tension rise in the city, but let's be honest, it never got all that high. This was the battle of our lives, a chance to finally vanquish the great bully, and to them it was just another ear to flick. And I had to watch it all. When the Yankees won, as they always do, there was distinct relief, but no actual pleasure. "Hey look, we won again. Ha." If I'm gonna have my heart broken, I would at least like it to not be a casual event. But that's the way it is, for now. The little victories have kept me going though, they keep all of us going, while we wait and dream of how delicious the big victory will be. This weekend was a little one, but boy was it tasty.

The Red Sox won three games. Three out of three, in fact. In Yankee Stadium. A week after taking three of four in Boston. And hey, that's real nice. Rather win 'em them lose 'em. But at this point in the season, the teams aren't playing the way they will be and two-series dominance is basically anecdotal. But the good news is, the Red Sox seem to know that. Read any articles about players patting each other on the back? Anyone mentioning how difficult it would be for the Yanks to take the season series now? How about a decisive declaration of superiority? Nope. We get, from Manny Ramirez of all people: "The object here is to win the World Series, not to beat the Yankees. They're the ones who got the rings. We don't got nothing." A little bit of that Yankee non-challenge, no? Yeah we won, a lot, but who cares? This isn't the only thing we've got to do. Yankee kingdom isn't quite so calm. Cashman says they're "in an abyss", Jeter is getting booed, Torre feels it's "terrible". They're 3 games under .500 folks, after 19 games. Big whoop. Anyone really think this club is winning less than 95 games? So why the concern? Maybe it's the way they're losing. In the 6th inning on Sunday, David Ortiz popped a ball down the left field line between Jeter and Matsui. They both pursued at about 90%, looked back at one another, took a great last lunge, and let the ball drop for a double. A confused, unseemly, AAA error. Just about the last thing an old Yankee team would've done. They were precise. They never made mistakes, always got out of the inning, and when you screwed up, they made you pay. How many times did the '98 Yankees miss a cut off man much less a fly ball? Those were teams that knew they were better than you, hung around, and waited for you to prove it. This club isn't sure if it's better than Tampa Bay, and you can see it their play. Their days of waiting a starter out have gone on vacation. Three innings of shut down middle relief is taking a powder. Nobody looks like they're dying for the ball to be hit to them. Casual errors just didn't happen to the David Cone, Paul O'Neill Yankees, but they seem to come up over and over to the Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi ones. Chances are, in a month all this stuff will be a distant bad memory for New York. They are awfully good players. But you know what? I'd be worried too. But I'm not. I'm sitting by my window, clearing my throat, waiting and hoping.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.21.04

1. The Ninth had the good fortune of attending Game 3 of last year's Division Series against the A's. Ted Lilly vs. Derek Lowe, Trot Nixon home run etc.. Since then, I have been terrified of Ted Lilly. He seems to be just the type of lefty that Boston has trouble with: sneaky fast, nice change-up, solid control, good presence. On that day he was almost entirely unhittable, and didn't fluster when the Fenway crowd turned on him. Were it not for Rich Harden, the Sox would never have made it to Game 4. Not good times when he was traded to the AL East. Mark The Ninth's words, at some point this season, he'll beat Boston in a big game.

2. NESN did an interesting breakdown on Wakefield following Pedro. They split the screen and followed both pitchers' balls at the point of release. Martinez's fastball reached home plate a solid two counts before Wake's, and obviously had quite a different path. It was clear to see that having to face one and then the other would cause a major timing problem. Were they pitching in the same game, it would be deadly. Still hard to say with certainty however that this holds true on back to back days. They then interviewed Frank Catalanotto, who endorsed Francona's strategy and promised it was quite "unfortunate" for them that Wake was now #2. He said the key to the knuckler was waiting as long as possible to swing, and, coming after Martinez, that challenge would be increased. Nice piece, and seems logical, but The Ninth remains unconvinced.

3. Oh Toronto Behind-Home-Plate Waitress, why have you forsaken me? In the 7th inning last night you mistakenly allowed a man to converse with you for an extended period, on camera, for the world to see. It was like a dagger into The Ninth's internet-fueled heart. I know you do not love the Stripe-Shirted Man as you could love I. What qualities could he possibly possess that The Ninth lacks? Restraint, maturity, gainful employment? I respectfully request that you admonish the Stripe-Shirted Man publicly tonight, making it clear to all viewers that is he is nothing to you. Loud and demonstrative. Thank you, and good afternoon.

4. Offense Mirabelli, hu? What was more shocking, him hitting his second home run of the season to right field, or him going deep again in the 4th? The whole thing was just unreal. And Doughnuts Orsillo mentioned he was watching Ted Lilly film before the game and preparing to take the ball the other way. Shocking. Two years ago, Dougie did nothing more than pull inside fastballs out of the park once a month, now he's driving it the other way. Could he perhaps be improving? Good for Douglas.

5. Even though these games with Toronto are pretty tight and theoretically dramatic, they're kinda dull. There's never the real feeling that the Blue Jays could actually win one of these games, and the crowd doesn't seem particularly concerned. Toronto has yet to win a game at home, and it's not hard to figure out why. With homes like that, who needs homes.

6. David Ortiz is swinging too hard and pulling off the ball. Ever since his quick home run start in Spring Training, it's looked like he's fallen a bit in love with the round trip. His results this season have been pretty good, but the last few games you can see him trying too hard to slug, and popping pitches up. The best remedy though came in the 8th when left-hander Santos came in. Good lefty hitters know that the only way to hit a southpaw is to stay in hard against them and not let the shoulder fly open. Plus, Ortizzle had added incentive as Valerio had knocked him down with chin music the night before. So David stayed on the ball, fell behind in the count, but then doubled hard to right. Well done.

7. The Boston bullpen is quickly becoming exceptional. Embree and Williamson look like top-flight set up men, and Foulke has been a constant. Malaska and Timlin have made nice contributions as well. Last night Embree was brought in to face a few lefties, and made Catalanotto look silly. On 3-1 Alan blazed a fastball on the outside corner. Frank felt it was ball four, and went to toss his bat. Umpire Brian Gorman disagreed however, and called a strike. With gusto. 3-2. The next pitch was fouled off, and then Embree went back to the outside corner, again on the borderline. This time Catsy Toss-A-Lot was sure he had walked, and tried to heave the bat. But once again, Gorman struck, and rang him up. Frank argued, lost, and looked foolish. Rejoice.

8. When David Ortiz sprints he looks like a toy soldier with too many batteries. Extra voltage makes the arms go fast.

9. Quick Pats Note -- Corey Dillon was huge, and look for more surprises. Whatever New England does this weekend, it will be the last thing we suspect. It's the Belichick way. Moving up will be explored, as will slipping down. Everyone's talking about youthful linebackers, but The Ninth feels a big time receiver is in the works. Supposedly that's where the draft depth is, and therefor they'll be the best value. If they can get Sean Taylor though, they will. Nobody trades more picks than Billy, so at the least, it should be exciting.

You may not see the Ninth again 'til Monday, doing some shows in DC. Sox are a lock for the sweep tonight, and Pedey on Sunday should be a good time. Til then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.20.04

1. It really is too bad they scheduled that funeral at the Sky Dome the same time as the baseball game. People were mourning the dead, others were watching a hockey game -- it was very distracting for the actual baseball fans. Oh wait, there were no actual baseball fans. Don't worry Blue Jays, I'm sure they exist, they were just otherwise occupied. Hey, at least you aren't the Expos. Go Maple Leafs!

2. Pedro was on top of his game last night, and so was Jerry Remy. In fact, the Remdog was so thorough in his analysis that there isn't much left for The Ninth to say. Martinez and Varitek clearly agreed on a different game plan, starting with many more fastballs, and then going to the offspeed stuff later in the game. This is something Pedro used to do consistently several years ago, not even touching the change up until the second time through the order. If your fastball has enough life, it's a dandy of a plan, and last night it did. He was most often at 88-89, but had a 90-91 every inning or so. And the ball was moving and hitting precise spots, so that's all you need. You could tell Pedey was working it after each inning, when he would walk simply and carelessly off the mound, without expression, as if he had just tired of that location and wanted to see what the dugout was like. "Yeah, I just shut you down, again, but really I am interested in those new cushions on the bench. Yawn." Great to see from Martinez, and great to hear Remy break it all down for the viewer. I'm not sure anyone could've called the game better.

3.Manny hasn't gotten a great deal of notice so far, as his numbers are typical Ramirez, but he is doing a lot of special things. There is a spirit, a joy, a pleasure in his play that Boston hasn't seen much. Without notice, his level of hustle has increased drastically, especially on the base paths. Watch him tonight -- he's running out every grounder hard, busting his tail from first to third, barreling in to break up double plays. He made one bone-head error this weekend, but he's made a couple of nice grabs too. And he's talking to the media, joking around more, showing his sense of humor. Maybe he was always like this and we never knew, or perhaps something's changed. Maybe after the waiver experiment Manny finally accepted that he's in Boston for good? Not sure, but Sox fans love a character, especially one who plays hard. Ramirez could be a big time favorite if he keeps this up. And the hitting is good too.

4.Oh Toronto Behind-Home-Plate Waitress, The Ninth loves you so. Your beauty resonates through cameras, across borders, and beyond expectation. You have a kind soul and a gentle spirit, I can see it in your every gesture. And you're attentive upon orders of food and drink. You, Behind-Home-Plate Waitress, are not just another pretty face, you are a skilled Customer Service Representative. May God smile kindly upon you. And you, in turn, upon The Ninth.

5. Roy Halladay had a great Ace performance last night. His stuff looked pretty good, but Boston was hitting him around. In six innings, he gave up 9 hits (3 for extra bases), one walk, made an error, balked in a run, and still only gave up three runs. The Sox threatened constantly, but were never able to break it open. That's big-time pitching. You're not particularly effective, but you don't let the other team finish you off. A lesser pitcher wouldn't have made it out of the third, but Halladay gave his team a chance to win.

6. Pedro's first real challenge came in the 6th when a Johnny Damon misplay put Reed Johnson on third with one out. Although Martinez had been excellent so far, he had not had to work out of trouble yet - and now a fly ball or grounder scores a run. So up walks Catalanotto, an established Red Sox killer. Pedro starts him off up and in with the fastball, strike one. Follows with the obvious and filthy low and away heat, strike two. Beautiful pitch, on the corner. 0-2, does he waste? Not with a pitch count. Martinez pounds Frank with another high fastball, and gets him to pop up. Runner can't advance, Catalanotto tosses his bat, Pedro wins again. Vernon Wells is next, sees nothing but low and away fastballs, and doesn't have a chance. Ground out to third. Inning over, the runner never moves. Pretty good stuff.

7. Remy and McDonough love getting on Manager Carlos Tosca for not moving his runners around more. It seems like every time Sean and Jerry do a Toronto game they point out how few stolen bases or bunts the Blue Jays have. Now especially they feel he should change things up, as his team is having trouble scoring runs. First of all, if you believe an idea is right, why would you change it just because it's not working at the moment? You research something thoroughly, come up with the best answer, and stick to it. Obviously "big ball" worked just fine for the Toronto offense all of last season, why abandon it after 12 games when your hitters are slumping? As The Ninth likes to say, it's not the idea's fault it isn't working. S&J went on to wonder if Tosca's static strategy might put his job security into question. Hey guys, whose idea do you think this stuff is? Carlos was a lifetime mediocrity as a minor league manager, and all of a sudden he has a long-term big league contract. Is that because Ricciardi loves the way he looks in a cap and stirrups, or because Carlos will do exactly what J.P. tells him, without a major-league ego getting in the way? If you think Tosca is calling the shots on the field for the Jays, you're crazy, and if you think Riccairdi has any intention of firing a guy just for doing what he tells him, then you're bald and crazy.

8. Again in the 7th, a bad play by Damon put a Toronto runner on 3rd with one out. Hey Johnny, that turf, it's bouncy. The ball bounces. Anyway, Phelps was on third, and Pedro had another challenge ahead of him. He nibbled to Erik Hinske and ended up walking him on a full count. Martinez's first freebee of the night. He got ahead of Kevin "Can I Get My Paycheck In" Cash 0-2, but wasn't looking too sharp. Pedro made the Toronto catcher look bad earlier with sharp heat and nasty curves, but here in the 7th, he seemed to be losing steam. He went to the cutter to save velocity, but Cash got it up and sac flied the run in. Not scorched, but got the job done. An over-zealous throw by Kapler moved Hinske to second, then Hudson blooped another 0-2 cutter into center for an RBI. Annoying. So Pedro was up to the first battle in the sixth, but didn't have quite enough to slip out of the second one. He got Reed Johnson to fly out and end the inning, resulting in two runs, one earned. One out of two ain't bad.

9. This series has the beloved Pedro, Wakefield, Schilling 1-2-3 punch for which Terry Francona was hoping. The Ninth will be looking closely for an indication that this makes any difference whatsoever. Not sure what that indication might, but I'll be ready. If any of you see anything, let me know.

Monday, April 19, 2004

One By Nine, 04.18.04

Okay, yesterday was a tough one. The kind of game that is sort of over in the third inning, you feel compelled to watch, but notice around the 5th that neither team seems entirely interested in scoring more runs. And truth be told, The Ninth sensed this development and took a well-earned nap halfway through. So I could either give you six crummy notes about a depressing game, or put together one good one. Let's do that.

1. Terry Francona is getting ready to lose two games for us. Handing em over like they're hostages. We'll get to yesterday, but Monday's starting Red Sox lineup features Cesar The Great, Dave McCarty, and Gabe Kapler. Nine players, three backups. All starting on the same day. This was a Jimy Williams favorite, and it was as obnoxious then as it is now. You feel players need rest? Fine. You want to keep everyone in your lineup fresh? Sounds good. All your guys are major-league ball players? Ok, I guess. But why does it have to be all at once? Granted Francona's somewhat restricted by injuries, but if you're going to start McCarty, shouldn't it be with your best arm on the mound? Then by Monday you'll have some rested players, and you can fill your injury holes with Crespo and Kapler and not lose much. But to put in all these benchers at once is just suicide. Especially with the Brown vs. Arroyo matchup. Going into the series, this game was the worst one on paper for Boston, and now Francona's put them further in the hole. Isn't it clear to Terry's players that he is sort of throwing in the towel on this one? I'm sure Bronson felt great when he saw the lineup card this morning. "Hey sorry Bronnie, just didn't think I should waste starters on certain 'L', know what I mean?" Realistically, what chance does Boston have of winning this game? They're outmatched on the mound and are fielding a weak 9. They could win, but it would be a distinct surprise. That should not be the case for two fairly even clubs. This game counts just as much as the one on September 25th, please don't give it away. Especially when you did that yesterday.

It can not be argued that Derek Lowe lost Sunday's game for the Red Sox. It also can not be argued that his inability to retire Yankee hitters was largely due to his 10 day layoff. And why did he have the big delay? Well, Tito of course. Lowe was scheduled to start last Tuesday, until the rains came. Then, with the second rain out, Francona and company decided it was best to reshuffle the whole thing. Instead of throwing Derek on Thursday, with a more manageable 7 days rest and having Pedro and Schill on 6 days, he changed it and pushed Lowe back. Why? So Wakefield could pitch between Martinez and Schilling. A knuckler between two flamethrowers is sure to give the opponents fits, right? Well maybe, but hasn't everyone noticed that Pedro isn't really a flamethrower anymore? It's not like you're seeing 95 mph gas on back to back days with 45 and 38. In fact, Derek Lowe throws every bit as hard as Pedro does now, so how about separating him and Curt? And does any hitter really come to the park on Tuesday thinking about what he saw on Monday? Doubtful, but I'll leave that to experts. Assuming that Francona is correct about the value of Wake's placement though, shouldn't it have been done at the beginning of the season? You're going from scratch on April 4th, why not start your bald-headed schemes from the get-go? Even with off-days and rain outs, it's never easy to reshuffle a rotation, as we saw this weekend. Start the brilliance in Game 1, benefit from it immediately, and avoid problems down the road. It keeps him out of situations like this Sunday, where you're putting a starter in a position to fail. Derek Lowe's rustiness lost Boston the game on Sunday, and Francona created that rust out of thin air. For the sake of an idea. Right now, that idea owes us one game.

His other idea is losing by 3 to the Yankees in the 3rd.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.15.04

Good to be here, great to be here. Oddly, we can do without baseball for several months over the winter, but if three days pass during the season without a game, we get a little Omorosa in the head. But last night, the boys were back, and so is, therefore, Nine by Nine. On with it:

1. One thing straight off: Yes, Arroyo stunk, and good Lordy why is Phil Seibel on this team, and Bill Mueller's ball really should have dropped --- but this game was lost by Pedro Martinez. If your #1 can't hold onto a 7-4 lead against a mediocre team, then maybe he's not your #1. Tony Maz touched on it this morning (first good article he's written in a month), and God bless him for it, but Pedro was lousy. His fastball was clocking regularly in the LOW TO MID 80's on the NESN gun last night, which did seem a bit slow, but the O's were having good rips. Towards the end, he got it up into the high 80's, but come on. High 80's is below average for the ladies, and he has to dial it up to get there? On top of that, his control was not there. Rarely if evah did he hit his spots, often missing by a foot or two. This season, he's been great, good, and stinky. So how can we make any definitive statements? No idea. The Ninth will say however that the the home run ball is a concern. Yard work is extremely rare against Martinez, and in the past, when it comes in bunches, has usually indicated an, ahem, injury. Not saying that's the case now, but it should be put out there. 7 home runs all of last season, 4 already this season. When Pedey has done that before, it's usually meant a 15 day visit. We'll see...

2. It's incredibly annoying to stay up 45 minutes later than you intended just to see an extra inning failure. You keep thinking it will be worth it once Ortizzle cranks one out, but then he strikes out and you consider brushing your teeth. Barring the wind killing Bill Mueller's game-winner-to-be and Luis Matos making a maddeningly good grab, it would have been a fun night. At least Arroyo ended the suspense fast.

3. Mark Bellhorn's walk total is really miraculous (12 BB in 38 plate appearances), and he does have the great Oakland eye, but let's give Pokey some credit. Face the guy who put out 26 dingers two years ago or the one who couldn't put a dinger in an '88 Ford? I'd walk Bellhorn every time too if I saw Captain Defense in the on-deck circle. How many times has Reese come up with the bases loaded this year? Off the top of my head, I say four. Is that just random chance, or pitchers doing everything they can to get him to the plate. Last night he popped out on the first pitch with the sacks full. This is going to be a problem.

4. Boston did a great job of working the pitch count. It took a bit to bear fruit, but, in the second, Damon worked a full count with the bases loaded and eventually singled in two runs. Billy Mueller, the next hitter up, got a fat fastball and shot it past the pole. Three run homer. After Ortiz grounded out two pitches later, Sidney Ponson had thrown 51 pitches. In two innings. That's five innings worth. As the season progresses and pitchers have a bit less stamina, that should pay big dividends.

5. Melvin Mora plays third like The Ninth makes out. Awkward, confused, and with my eyes closed.

6. Francona seems to prefer multiple pitchers for an inning each over one or two guys for longer stretches. Last year, Grady rarely lifted a guy in the middle of the inning, but Tito does it all the time. Will brief daily work tire an arm less than deep outings once or twice a week? Only time will tell. Last night, with a runner on 3rd and two down, Francona replaced Timlin with Foulke, even though he had plenty left in the tank. It was a better match-up, and his closer is his best reliever, but it marks a departure. One thing is for certain, when games go extra innings, the Sox are at a disadvantage. All our best arms are used up, and Franky Castillo is drunk in the corner. Again.

7. Does any Boston reliever get more ugly swings than Scott Williamson? His control is a little erratic, which probably helps, but boy can that slider/splitter/cure combo make people look bad. In one inning last night he got 5 embarrassing lunges, three by Luis Matos. Fun to watch.

8. In the 4th, Ponson threw Damon an outside fastball, just like last week. What was the result, loyal readers? A single past the third baseman. Big surprise. Sidney Ponson does not read The Ninth, if, in fact, he reads at all.

9. Boston is not ready to play the Yankees. The good news, they're not ready for us either. Vazquez will be tough tonight -- he's nastier than most realize. Schill and Mussina is going to be a hoot tomorrow though. Honest Prediction: Series Split. Hopeful Prediction: Series Split, Tim McCarver found dead in his hotel room.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Otis My Man Smith is back with the Pats. Very exciting. I'm very excited.

Sox game is rained out tonight. Bummer. Lowe on Wednesday, Pedey on Thursday -- weather permitting.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.11.04

Let's get right to the big stuff....

1. With two runners on and none out in the bottom of the 10th, Francona allowed Jason Varitek to swing away. Instead of bunting and getting runners on second and third, Tek grounded into a double play, effectively killing the Sox rally. The thought here, as is often the case with Bill James Baseball, was to avoid giving up outs. You only get 27, and in general, the best way to score runs is not to hand any back to your opponent. The key letter here though is 'S". No, the one after "run". Runs. Right. In every inning up to the eighth, it handicaps an offense to sacrifice runners over. The best way for lineups to thrive is with multiple run innings, and it's progressively harder to do that with each out on the board. After the 8th inning however, for the home team, multiple runs make no difference. You need only to be one ahead, not four. Had Boston wanted to break the game open, Tek should have swung away. If he bounces into a double play, so be it, you gave your team the best chance. Breaking it open in the 10th inning doesn't mean anything though. One run = victory. Get that runner to third, move the infielders in, and win the damn baseball game. Even if Varitek had singled through the hole, it still would have been wrong. Bunt when you need one.

2. Toronto G.M. J.P. Ricciardi might have the biggest nose in baseball. Just saying.

3. The Red Sox had 1 hit through 6 innings yesterday. Hello Tigers. All of Boston seems to be waiting for the offensive explosion that we witnessed last year, but this is a very different lineup at the moment. The April 2004 Red Sox are weaker in THREE spots than the September 2003 ones. Nixon to Kapler, Walker to Bellhorn, Garciaparra to Reese -- that's a third of the lineup. And big drops in quality too. Add Damon to Crespo, and you're almost talking half. It's quite possible that once everyone is healthy this team still won't produce like it did last year, but we really can't evaluate that now. They're just missing too much.

4. Link-based humor: Do you think Terry Adams has to ask dead people if he stinks? They look the same you see.

5. Francona likes to keep things interesting. In the 7th, he had Kapler on first, 2 out, and decided to hit McCarty for Reese. The Ninth is all for getting Pokey out of the batter's box whenever possible, but this wasn't the best time. One on, two out is hardly a peak scoring chance, and against right-handed pitching Diamond Dave slugs a dynamic .405. All of a sudden he's going to rope a double off the wall? Nope. The chance of his producing a run in that situation was not such that he should have appeared in the game. And once he came in for Reese, Francona was stuck. With only one backup on the bench, when Pokey left the game Crespo would be in it to stay. No one else could play the position. The shortstop could only be hit for once then. Wouldn't you rather wait for a decisive moment to hit for your worst player? (The Ninth asks a question it already knows the answer to.)

6. Either the Red Sox staff has a different notion of "injured" than they used to, or this is one feeble team. Ramiro Mendoza, Scott Williamson, Mike Timlin, Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon. All have been unable to play at some point this season because of mild strains, creaky limbs, or ouchie ouches that have been described as "not that serious", but "worth a few days off". Obviously Nomar and Trot really needed some time. The rest of these guys might be getting babied though. Damon, Willy, and Mendoza have all said they could play. Sure, better safe than sorry, but these games count too, and we really need those guys. Bobby Jones almost lost the game yesterday because Francona wouldn't go to Williamson. Could he really not pitch, or was it being overly cautious? I know what'll make me sorry, losing a game I don't have to.

7. More on Dave McCarty. In his second at-bat of the game, he found Cesar The Great on 2nd base with nobody out. I was shocked as you were. Bottom of the 9th, Boston down one, this is the game. McCarty's job here, his absolute must, was to move Crespo over to third. Groundball to second, groundball to first, fly ball to right -- job done, pat on the back, someone else drives him in. Problem is, you almost never see an outside pitch in this situation, and it's hard to push the ball the other way. McCarty was facing Ligtenberg though, who relies on a slider that most often cuts away. So there's a chance. On 1-0, Dave gets that slider on the outer half. Perfect pitch to shoot to second on the ground. What does he do? Swings for the fences, because he's, you know, a real power threat, and misses. Oy. 1-1. On 2-1, Ligtenberg improbably throws another slider away, and the always keen McCarty takes the pitch for a strike. No Dave, don't want to go after that one -- you might accidentally do your job. The count later goes full, and sure enough, McCarty gets another pitch away, but off the plate. He lunges for it, tries to pull, and misses entirely. Bad approach, bad results, bad play. And this guy pinch hit for some before? Thank goodness for Bellhorn.

8. Mark Malaska pitched like heck, but he's not much of a fielder. After being called to clean up the Bobby Jones Special (8 pitches, two walks, no outs), Malaska got a bouncer back to the mound for the easiest double play in the book of double plays. But he double clutched and threw late to second, so they only got one. That's really a play you have to make. But he pitched brilliantly and got out of it. The Ninth, while somewhat annoyed, is intrigued.

9.Ortizzle. For Shizzle.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.07.04

No more dilly-dallying...

1. If any of you found your alternate sports channel fast enough to catch last night's National Anthem, boy did you get rewarded. The Boys and Girls Club of America Chorus was in attendance, and they sang our hymn loud and proud. It was, without a doubt, the worst rendition of the National Anthem The Ninth has ever heard. 10 teenagers belting out their tone-deaf, horrifyingly off-key notes with such zeal and enthusiasm that they must have been enjoying how bad it was. It was almost like they were doing it on purpose. Players' faces had the lovable "this is unbelievably funny but I might be on TV and it is our National Anthem so I really shouldn't laugh" expression. Schilling especially. But why were they so bad? It's not like the kids were "special", or "troubled", or something -- unless I missed an important intro. They were just, you know, poor. Poor people can sing just as well as non-poor people, can't they? They couldn't find some destitute children who can carry a tune? The Ninth feels that the unfortunate should be held to the same level of artistic integrity as the well-off.

2. On the second pitch of the game, Johnny Damon rifled a double down the left field line. Oddly enough for a lefty, Damon loves the ball low and away, and has great success shooting the pitch down the third base line. Next time up, Johnny gets the same location and does essentially the same thing. What's amazing however is that the Orioles continue to pitch him this way. Damon got outside fastballs his next time up, and his next, and then again on his next. What's his final line? 5 for 5. After his fourth hit through the left side, Tejada threw up his hands in disgust. Why? Because he had no idea why his moron battery kept pitching Damon away. Uh guys, he's getting a hit every time.

3. Two outs in the first after Damon's lead-off double, as Mueller went down on a weak K and Ortizzle fouled out to 3b (don't worry Nomar, keeping it warm for you). The count goes full to Manny and you can feel him wanting that RBI. The Sox have not been good with two outs so far, and Ramirez wants to fix this himself. It's noble, and a great quality for your best hitter, but the pitcher would just assume put him on - so he should probably let that happen. But Manny is pressing, and gives away the at-bat. Ainsworth throws a slider away and out of the zone, and he lunges for it, tapping ball four out to second base. You gotta trust the rest of your lineup if you're going have to good at-bats, and this time around, Ramirez did not.

4. In the top of the second, as a result of Damon's second hit to left, Bellhorn scored on a play at the plate. The announcers attributed this to a crummy play by catcher Lopez and the informants happenstance of the ball and runner arriving at the same moment. But this wasn't really the case. Javy got the ball a few seconds before Bellhorn made contact, and seemed to have a solid grip on it. The major kudos should go to the runner, who slowed up and slid his knee directly into Lopez's glove. Bellhorn popped the ball out, and forced the safe call. Had he tried to slide around or barrel him over, he would've been out. Tommy point for Mark.

5. I've always like Rick Bauer. Reminds me a lot of Derek Lowe. That relief appearance last night was the kind of thing that gets you a spot in the rotation a few months down the road.

6. When DLowe has trouble, it's almost entirely mechanical. The warning sign for him is when the ball moves side to side, instead of up and down. The major thing to look for is the pitch that slides across the plate, away from the right-handed hitter, and ends up in the dirt somewhere in the lefty batter's box. It has slider action, but it's actually a sinker gone awry. Lowe's front shoulder flies open and it drags the ball across with it, putting it on a lateral plane instead of a vertical one. You might recognize it from Jeff Weaver, as it was what his sinker almost entirely became last season. When you see a lot of those, it means there's a mechanical problem. There were a bunch last night, but his results were okay.

7. Do you think Bobby Jones and Bruce Chen every get each other's mail?

8. An unprecedented second Nine by Nine note for Johnny Damon! What an amazing play on Segui's potential home run ball. Somewhat reminiscent of his spectacular Green Monster leap at Fenway last year. Had this ball gone out, Derek Lowe's pitching line would've been 6 IP, 5 ER - pretty lousy. Because Johnny made a brilliant play, he can leave the game with a pretty 2 ER allowed. That's a difference of four and a half ERA points. Not bad.

9. How uninspired is the left side of the Oriole infield at the moment? Sure, errors are being made, but they look a bit listless. Balls are going through holes without a dive, runners are beating fielders to the bag, hands are being thrown in the air. Looks like a competition of the bad attitude club. What's gonna happen when they're 10 games below .500?

Just a head's up -- Nine by Nine is unlikely for Friday. Will probably miss the game. And weekend postings will be few and far between. Sorry gang. Daddy gotta live a little too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.06.04

Second Edition of Nine by Nine. I will try to have these up by noon every weekday, but sometimes paid employment trumps.

1. Curt Schilling, Curt Schilling. Not that it was a surprise, but Schill looked dominant. The ease with which he can throw 95 mph is amazing, and to put it low and away consistently to lefties and righties both, well, have fun opponents. It'll take a while to watch him with real clarity, as a lot of his offspeed stuff looks alike. The splitter is pretty easy to pick out, but the change has similar action -- and the sliders and cutters are very hard to separate. Even the Remdog was having a bit of trouble last night. That probably makes life even harder for the hitter. Myaa haaa.

2. The NESN tech crew, who regularly read and (ahem) financially support The Ninth, took our advice and added the MPH gun to the screen yesterday. Problem is, the readout kept insisting that Curt Schilling was throwing 57 miles per hour. When Frank Castillo dreams, it is of 57 miles per hour.

3. Against Oriole "pitching" yesterday, the Sox accrued 8 walks, but only scored three times. That is, you know, not good. It's great that they're getting the hitters on obviously, but if you receive 10 free baserunners, a game is a mortal lock; with 8 however, the Sox were far from convincing yesterday. It seems logical that that will improve, with good RBI men abound. Let's hope logic conquers all.

4. Doughnuts Orsillo brought up an interesting fact in the 4th inning yesterday: "The last time Baltimore had three or more lefties in their starting rotation," he said between bites, "they were Arthur Rhodes, Jamie Moyer, and Sid Fernandez." Hard to believe. One is still a top-flight starter, another has been one the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball the last few years, and the last is, well, Sid Fernandez. There was something lovable about El Sid. He seemed to only be good when he was over-eating. His few attempts at going slender resulted in worse and worse pitching, so he gave it up. Went fat and became an All-Star. But his career essentially ended at 34 while Moyer keeps going and going. Sort of sad.

5. A shout out to the scouts. Two Pitching Lines: Pedro: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K --- Schilling: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. If you look at these two lines in the newspaper or, say, on a computer, they look pretty similar. Statistically, Pedey and Schill had very comparable days. Anyone who saw both games can tell you however that that's not the case. Pedro was good, but never really controlled the game. Schilling was a force, and only found himself him real trouble once. If these were high school games that you were scouting on the internet, you would have no way of knowing that. Granted, statisticians have more sensitive measuring tools than a simple pitching line, but this may be a simple example of the value of a pair of eyes.

6. Did you notice the guy sitting behind the right-handed hitters wearing the St. Patrick's Day Sox jersey? Waiving constantly? First of all, whoever was going to see you probably saw you the first time you waived. An hour and a half ago. Second of all, a green jersey? Based on a holiday? You know they make those as a marketing ploy to trick fans into buying something new and different that isn't really new and different, right? And you bought one. And now we all know it. Good work. Don't worry, your Easter jersey is in the mail.

7. Few things are more beautiful than seeing three hitless, scoreless innings of relief in the box score. Embree looked sharp again (The Ninth feels a big year coming), Timlin pulled it together, and Foulke must have been faking in Spring Training. Fastballs on the corners, solid velocity, and nasty changes and splits. The accuracy was twice what he showed Saturday afternoon in Hotlanta. He's going to be fun.

8. Is there a bigger aesthetic whiplash in baseball today than going from Javy Lopez to Jay Gibbons? Javy is a very attractive gentleman, if a bit swarthy. Someone even made a wallpaper of him for crying out loud (I'm not sure I would let anyone see you looking at that). Jay Gibbons, on the other hand, is the Larry Bird of ugly. Literally. Couldn't we throw Palmeiro between them to make the progression a bit more gradual? It hurts my neck.

9. Hey Pokey, this is Donnie Sadler. Have you guys met?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Nine Reactions, 04.04.04

First of all, a big thanks to Baseball Musings and Only Baseball Matters, two top-notch baseball blogs that listed The Ninth over the weekend and got us some quality exposure. Thanks much, and I hope you new visitors liked what you saw.

Second of all, now that the season is under way, The Ninth will begin posting much more frequently. The hope is to put up reactions the morning after every game my alarmingly scant social calendar allows me to watch. These items will be quicker and less zippy than The Ninth's usual, award-winning posts, but hopefully will provide good daily info that can't be found everywhere else. So check back early and often. Now, for opening day....

1. Pedro's fastball looked essentially the same as last season's. The precision wasn't there, but the velocity showed no noticeable decline. Martinez's main problem was no curveball and only the occasional changeup. It's tough to get any team out with just a two seam and four seam fastball, especially if those pitches are topping out at 91 mph. Does The Ninth believe Pedro could have thrown harder if he wanted to? Absolutely. Is The Ninth getting tired of saying it? Little bit. And going home before the game has finished, Pedey? Not good.

2. NESN's new graphics and visuals were a little overbearing , but fine overall. Nice to see the relievers history against the expected hitters. Why however they found room for a Red Sox logo (Oh, I'm watching the Red Sox!) in the upper-right corner and not the MPH readings is unknown. That's going to change, right?

3. Jerry Remy brought up his objection to the lefty infield shift. "It's too risky," he said repeatedly, "to use with runners in scoring position." While we all love the Remdog, this particular argument has one crucial flaw: it makes no sense. Either the play works or it doesn't. Moving the SS to the right of second base either hurts, helps, or leaves unchanged your chance of getting the lefty out. If it helps, do it, if it doesn't, don't. "Risky" has nothing to do with it. Just because the play could result in the scoring of a run, that doesn't make the strategy any less sound, does it? (The Ninth asks a question it already knows the answer to.) That being said, I am concerned about how the shift limits a pitcher's approach. A fastball away to a hitter with ANY ability to go the other way is asking for trouble against the shift. Sure, if you can pound Palmeiro in, the extra infielder is a great idea, but as we saw last night, something outside is just too easy to flick by the lone third baseman. The Ninth is certain that there is great statistical evidence to defend the shift, but it seems like only the most pull-crazy of hitters wouldn't dribble a grounder to SS if he got the chance. And pitching him anywhere other than on the fists gives him the chance.

4. Kevin Millar had consistently good swings last night, but only had one hit to show. Everything he struck was hard, on the line, and up the middle. Look for him to get hot. Ortiz, on the other hand, looked a little shakey. He's diving in a bit, and jamming himself on pitches that are over the plate. He might have a cold start.

5. Pokey sure hits like a gold glover, doesn't he? Everybody praised the idea of getting some pure defense in the infield, but it's easy to forget what .240 really looks like. Bunting with runners on 2nd and 3rd? Ouch. The sad part is, that might have been his best chance to get 'em in. One easy out can really change the scope of a lineup.

6. The way that Johnny Damon swings and throws, do you think he's actually right-handed and no one's told him yet?

7. The bullpen looked pretty solid last night. Timlin was the victim of some bad luck wind and a bizarre fit of wildness. Embree had the gas and showed off a slider that apparently he's finally learned in his 34th year of existence. Could be a positive development. And Williamson, whew. When he throws strikes he will be very tough to hit. Tougher than Foulke? Hard to say.

8. When did Oriole fans start chanting "Hey, You Suck" at regular intervals during the game? I don't remember that happening before. It's horribly unpleasant, and doesn't make much sense. You guys know you're the Orioles, right? Eric Dubose is your #2 starter. Is that what we sound like with "Yankees Suck"? If it is, then we should stop immediately.

9. Anybody have any doubt that Curt Schilling would have been pitched better than Pedro last night? So why is he the #2 starter exactly?

Bonus 10th Reaction That is Mostly Just for Boasting: The Ninth predicted the following line for Pedro Martinez: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. His actual results were 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Pretty impressive. At 5 pm today I will be throwing a party in my honor. I predict no one showing up.