06 April 2006

Beckett, Papelbon, and Hurley...

Pretty interesting development there in the 9th inning last night, huh?

First though, let me say that this was a fantastic game- great pitching, a big HR for the Sox to put them narrowly ahead, some nailbiting, and then a win. That's the best way to do it.

Beckett started out shakey- he seemed to be working slow, missing his spots a bit with the fastball, and wasn't getting the curve over for strikes. He gave up a 2B to Wilkerson to lead off the game, a wild pitch to move him over, and an infield single to Michael Young to make it 1-0 before he'd recorded an out on the season. Even when he was getting outs through, say, the first four innings, they were getting hit kind of hard, and were wrapped around hard hit singles after long-pitch count at bats. He was near 70 pitches after 4 IP.

But soon thereafter, he seemed to kick into high gear- starting, I thought, after the long at bat with Wilkerson ending the 4th that ended in a strikeout, and a pumped up Beckett. His pitch counts by inning after that:

5th- 6
6th- 10
7th- 12

His final batter was maybe his best of the night- facing Michael Young, he dropped a beautiful curve on the inside part of the plate for a strike looking, poured a 96 MPH fastball over the outside corner for strike two, then went high and outside for the check-swinging strike three. Pretty impressive. He got a LOT better as it went along, which is what you like to see.

Now, at the same time, Kameron Loe looked just as good. He was pounding the strike zone, getting double plays when he needed them, and, to say the least, keeping the ball on the ground. I have to say, my perception of Ranger pitching has changed a bit after this series. It's certainly not going to be good- but in that park, Loe is ideal, and Padilla is someone I earmarked myself as potentially having a bounceback year. His raw numbers probably won't looks too special in Ameriquest, but he should be serviceable. I also think Joaquin Benoit in short stints is a decent idea. He was getting it up to 95 in both appearances.

But, Loe left ONE pitch too far up, Trot was actually able to elevate it, and we took a nice one run lead. Even though it was clear to me watching that every flyball that WAS hit last night seemed to be dying out there (uncharacteristically) Josh "Speech Impediment" Lewin seemed to want to convince us that Nixon's HR was wind-aided. Whatever. I am a little worried that EI has decided to step up the non-NESN feeds this year. It'd be really awesome if we could pick our feeds at some point in the future. I'm guessing that's like, three years away.

Timlin looked a little rusty with his control, but his velocity was there. Sending Teixeira was a total mistake, however. That ball got to Manny fast, and the alternative was to hold Teixeira and have the bases loaded with one out. Instead, D'Angelo Jiminez grounded out with runners on first and second and two outs.

So, OK- I'll talk about this stupid "closer controversy" thing. First of all, I'll just mention that Papelbon was the magnet last night, and I am the steel. Just pouring 96 MPH fastballs over the outside part of the plate, he struck out Barajas and Wilkerson without batting an eye. Pretty awesome.

Here's the thing though- there's one of two reasons why Papelbon was used there last night- either because Papelbon has been declared the "relief ace" and will, independent of the time in the game, be pitching the highest leverage innings and the most crucial relief spots, with Foulke protecting larger, later leads (optimist) OR, that Francona was simply acknowledging that before Foulke is given the ball in situations like last night, he needs to round himself into shape with appearances in situations like his first of this year (realist). Papelbon being the first alternative. Either way- give Francona a ton of credit on that decision. It's one he didn't make at all last year.

I'm actually rooting pretty hard against Papelbon being the "closer," because I think it would be a tremendous waste of his talent coming in an inning at a clip protecting 2 and 3 run ninth inning leads. In shorter stints, Papelbon's ability to throw and spot 95 MPH rising fastballs should be reserved for the one run leads, the tie games with runners on- the most important spots in the timeline of a given game. Whether that comes in the 6th inning, the 9th inning, the 15th inning- whatever. Foulke can largely do the same and soak up the majority of the saves when healthy. But ~70 IP out of Papelbon is a waste, to me. If I had my choice, he'd be used somewhat like Scioscia uses Scot Shields, who threw over 90 IP last season.

Anyway, my guess- Foulke gets into a few handful of games with 3+ run leads, performs well, and starts to close out some more sweat-free games, with Papelbon as the squeaker guy.

You can expect the rockheads in Boston to just take the ball and run with "controversy," but maybe the best part about it all was how Francona handled it- he anticipated the situation, told everyone up front about how they would handle it, and everyone handled it. Here was Foulke's quote after the game:

"When I get my stuff together and earn a spot, so be it," he reasoned. "As long as we win, that's all that matters. I could be throwing the ball better, and Pap's throwing the ball great. (Francona) is the manager of the Boston Red Sox, not Keith Foulke's dad. He's going to do what's best for the team, not me."

Foulke's a pretty funny guy. Lost in all the bostondirtdoggery, but still true.

Now it's on to Baltimore, and let's win there!

Of course, while watching Beckett turn on the juice in Arlington last night, I taped LOST on the other TV, and had it waiting for me when the game ended. Great episode, if not kind of short on new things to talk about. It was entitled, "Dave."

This was, I thought, a better character piece on Hurley than the one earlier in the season, which I liked a lot as well. It centered on Hurley's time in the mental hospital, why he was put into the mental hospital, and his mental state on the island. Turns out that Hurley was the straw across the camel's back on an overcrowded deck years in the past, which subsequently collapsed and killed three people. Hurley got depressed thereafter, was committed, and started to "see" an imaginary friend, Dave, who he's now seeing on the island as well. The Dave apparition on the island tries to convince Hurley that the entire experience, from the point that he closes the door, so to speak, on the original Dave hallucination in the mental ward to right then and there, was a creation of Hurley's mind. That he never got better, never came home, never won the lottery, never crashed in a plane.

Meanwhile, his new ladyfriend Libby talks him out of this conclusion, comforting him when he needs it. We finally get the big reveal at the end of the episode- turns out Libby was in the mental ward way back when with Hurley the whole time.

The meatiest stuff from the episode, however, came from the interactions with Henry Gale, now known to be a liar and likely part of whatever band of outsiders is roaming the island. Here are some of the more compelling parts of their conversations-

  • When Sayid asks Gale how he came across the real Gale, he says he was part of a likewise marooned search party, and found Gale in the balloon with a broken neck. Sayid then pulls out a note Gale wrote to his wife on a $20 bill, detailing his plans to make a signal fire on the beach. Fake Gale's been trapped in a lie, and Sayid nearly shoots him as a result.

  • When Ana Lucia presses the issue, Gale finally breaks down and tells them that there's no telling what they will do to him or the Losties if he tells. Then, in the most significant quote of the episode, Gale says, "...if HE finds out." This seems also to refer back to "Maternity Leave", when we see the un-fake-beareded "Zeke" come to Ethan Rom and tell him that if Claire wasn't ready soon, that "he" would have their heads, in so many words.

    Ana mistakes this "HE" to be, in fact, Zeke- "you mean your leader- the guy with the beard." Gale laughs- "him? He's nobody!" Very interesting.

  • Gale claims to Locke to never have entered the numbers in during the recent Lockdown when Locke was stuck under the blast door, and that after some ominous noises, they automatically reset themselves to 108, with nothing happening. Locke seems not to want to believe him, and there's no reason to specifically believe anything Gale says at this point. That being said, there isn't a reason known for his lying about this. Gale also prefaces this all with the quote, "this place- this place is a joke!"

  • A really interesting little aside is when Locke mentions that Gale and his people have been here for "God knows how long..." to which Gale responds, "God doesn't know how long we've been here, Mr. Locke. God can't see this island any better than the rest of the world can." Notable in what that could suggest past Gale's melodrama, and for the fact that he didn't correct Locke in referring to "them" as "your people."

  • Previews for next week look fantastic. Everybody ready to get re-acquainted with Mike and Walt?

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