12 September 2005

Tough Loss, Portland Moves On...

I could go on and on about how disappointing yesterday's Sox/ Yankees game was. I could whine about how a rainout makeup game has forced this team to play through a stretch of 30 games in 30 days, and Sunday the strain started to show. I could rant about how one inch to the right (Renteria's liner caught by Rivera) or one inch to the left (Damon's foul ball down the RF line in the 8th) may have meant extending the game. I could also complain about the decision to hit Nixon and Olerud against Rivera before Varitek, or the idea to allow Mirabelli to hit for himself in the 8th. I could really do a number on being dominated by Randy Johnson, who picked that day to have his first truly brilliant start of the season.

Of course, I could- and I think I will- go off on the fact that the difference in the game was a HR scraping the back of the wall off the bat of an admitted cheater/ steroid user who, apparently, has been embraced back into the fold of admiration by simply crawling out of the hole he dug for himself through his intentional malfeasance. The same player who was booed by his own fans and left for dead because he more or less deserved it- is being lauded and held up for praise because he's "done a little work in the cage" (wink, wink) and we can pretend all that other stuff is behind him. After all, MLB has nominated him for the 2005 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

It does suck that Giambi's HR meant the loss for the Red Sox, but one thing I refuse to acknowledge is that it in any way compromised or spoiled what I took as a positive from Sunday- watching Tim Wakefield throw his best game in a Red Sox uniform.

So, as a Red Sox fan who can see forest for the trees and a three game lead, I can sit back here almost 24 hours after the game and relish the fact that Tim Wakefield was nearly unhittable yesterday- against the greatest lineup not calling Boston home, Wake threw all 8 defensive innings, surrendering only 3 hits, 1 base on balls, an earned (earned?) run and a career-high 12 Ks. Wakefield had a Game Score of 83, which incidentally, was higher than Johnson's 81.

Truth be told as well, the only hard-hit ball of the day was Bubba Crosby's 3rd inning triple, a ball that was turned into three bases by virtue through combination of speed and instincts from Crosby and none of either from RF Kevin Millar. Wakefield had a runner at 3rd with one out, and simply struck out Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano to choke the inning off.

Even Giambi's HR wasn't well hit- a lazy 318-ft. pop fly off an outside curveball (no matter how many times Kay called it a knuckler) that had Jason out in front on his tippy-toes. Sour grapes or not, that ball was a pop fly in 29 out of 30 MLB parks, a well-placed pitch that had the misfortune of being aimed at one of the shortest fences in baseball. Such is life.

Thereafter though, he was nearly perfect- striking out the side in the 3rd, 5th and 6th, holding New York to only 3 baserunners past the first, never more than one in an inning. So Wakefield gets the loss in his greatest Sox start- surely the greatest I've ever seen him throw- but it was still brilliant. So I have that from yesterday, along with a 3 game lead in first place and two tickets to the Oct. 2nd game at Fenway against New York (yes, it is the last game of the year). So I can't be too upset.

The good folks over at Baseball Prospectus have been supplying us with "Postseason Odds" for a good while now, and now seems as good a time as any to break that down and take a look at where we stand on that.

Done by Clay Davenport, the odds are arrived at pretty simply- given rosters, schedules (strength of which; home/ road), and up-to-date performance, the remainder of the season is played out electronically a million times, and the odds are calculated as such from the results. It has been, in the past, a fairly accurate barometer this late in the season.

At this point, the remaining contenders in the AL appear to be Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Oakland. Though their lead is shrinking, interestingly enough, Chicago seems to be the one most likely to lock down a berth. That leaves the other five vying for three spots.

Here are BP's odds as of this morning:

Los Angeles___71.815%
New York______17.871%

New York_______9.645%
Los Angeles____1.875%

Los Angeles___73.691%
New York______27.516%

Keep in mind as well, even though a team like, say, Boston, is overwhelmingly more likely to make the postseason than, say, New York, it is a function of their higher chance at winning the division that they have a lower chance of winning the Wild Card than New York.

It's interesting to see how the chances fluctuate based on one day's worth of games. In fact, it appears Boston's chances of winning the division increased slightly even after losing to their only pursuers. This is probably because Cleveland won. Keep in mind as well, Cleveland has a large disparity in odds over the Yankees despite a slim 1.5 game lead because of Cleveland's remaining schedule (very easy and home-heavy) and their recent play (seven wins in a row).

Here is the National League:

St. Louis___________100.000%
San Diego____________96.181%
New York______________2.472%

Pretty amazing that St. Louis wins the Wild Card .00035% of the time, which means it happened 3 shots out of a million simulations. Pretty crazy.

WP- Chris Smith (1-0)
LP- D. Borrell (0-1)
HR- H Ramirez, B Moss, J West, S Youngbauer
Portland wins series 3-2

The Red Sox organization DID defeat the Yankee organization at one point yesterday in what proved to be an immensely satisfying and promising series win for the Sea Dogs in the Eastern League North playoff.

Wade Miller, in his first action since being shelved in August went the first 2 2/3 IP, surrendering 2 ER on 2 hits, 3 BB and 3 Ks. He was relieved by a scoreless Chris Smith, Denney Tomori and (most promising) Craig Hansen, in HIS first action since being shut down with a tired arm. Here is an account of Hansen's performance from SoSH poster longborgski, who was at the game:

I too was at the game and had not heard that Hansen had been activated, so it was a huge bonus to see him come out for the 9th. The Seadogs bullpen looks very good. My score card has this for Hansen's pitches--92, 94, 96, 95, 97, 96, 87, 96. Selfishly, I'd keep him with the Seadogs through this Akron series--at least Tuesday and Wednesday in Portland.

Guess who's arm's not tired any more?

In addition, apparently the enmity of these organizations extends down to the farm as well, including feelings of entitlement germaine to a certain organization; from MaineToday's game story:

"I thought it was going to be a lopsided win," Trenton Manager Bill Masse said. "But I thought it would be a lopsided win for us. We just seemed to run out of gas."
The other home runs gave Portland a 6-2 lead after six innings. Portland tacked on three in the eighth with four hits, including a suicide squeeze by Chris Durbin. Masse criticized the play.

"The suicide squeeze was classless, and I would expect nothing less from (Claus)," Masse said.

Claus did not understand the complaint.

"We had a five-run lead (at the time). Are you telling me that club can't get five runs in one inning?"

Sucks to lose, huh?

"I think everyone was on the same page today," Moss said. "We wanted to come out, play selfless baseball and just tear it up."

Moss, like the rest of his teammates, was dripping with champagne. It was a celebration that was in doubt after the Sea Dogs lost a heart-wrenching 3-2 decision Saturday night in Trenton.

"(Saturday) night, when we got on the bus, we were ready (for Sunday)," Ramirez said. "I'm so proud of my teammates. We kept our heads up."

Especially nice to see how Moss was able to finish strong this year, and at 21, it will be interesting to see how he grows with another season in AA. He wasn't as great as hoped over the course of the year, but if he can build on it next year at 22, he could be someone worth holding on to, ultimately.

So on Portland moves to the Akron Aeros, first game (tentatively) to be started by Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, Jon Lester.

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