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.