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.