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.
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