25 April 2006

BOS 8, CLE 6

WP- Keith Foulke (1-1)
LP- Guillermo Mota (0-1)
SV- Jonathan Papelbon (9)
HR- D. Ortiz (9), M. Ramirez (3), B. Broussard (2)

I like Terry Francona. I really do. But despite a nice win tonight, it was easily one of his worst games as a Red Sox manager. I don't have NESN, so I haven't heard his explanation, but Schilling was left in to throw 133 pitches tonight, even after a good deal of his first 6 IP were high-stress innings. Through those 6, he sat at 110 pitches. With the 9-1-2 hitters coming up and a slim one run lead, bringing him back this early in the season was borderline indefensible, but allowing him to give up a 2B, a 1B, a rocket that lucked into a DP, and then a BB was borderline insanity. If Schilling is tattooed next time out, or comes up lame in the next couple days, it's on Francona.

With a runner on first and the game now tied, Francona makes a smart move in going to Foulke against the LHH Hafner. Foulke throws two absolutely nasty changeups to strike out Hafner, and the Sox are out of the inning. In the bottom of the 8th, now with a three-run lead, Francona stayed with Foulke. After getting Victor Martinez on a lazy ground ball, Foulke got Broussard to pop up on a catchable ball to Willie Harris, who dropped it (too bad Stern needs those ABs in AAA). With Broussard on 2B, Foulke struck out Ronnie Belliard before leaving a pitch too far on the plate to Aaron Boone, who smoked a 2B- the first ball hit hard on Foulke in the game. Now Francona has the quick hook- yanking a hot reliever to go a guy that's struggled pitching with runners on over the past two seasons.

After walking Casey Blake, Timlin some how snuck a meatball sinker past Sizemore (in a horrible AB) for strike three, narrowly avoiding the damage.

There was no reason to stay with Foulke through 133- if Tavarez can't give you an inning to save your ace's arm, we're in deeper shit than a lost game in April. But if you have to yank Foulke there, despite great looking stuff, why can't you ask Papelbon to get four outs? Why not let Timlin work himself into shape starting innings?

Still, hard to look the gifthorse in the mouth tonight. When Ortiz was walked intentionall in the 8th by Guillermo Mota, bringing up Manny with 2 on, 2 out- it was so relieving to see him come through. For someone who watches a TON of Red Sox games, and who's seen thousands of Manny Ramirez ABs, I can tell when he's right and when he's wrong without hearing results. It's just the way his swing and stance operate. I won't say I know what's wrong when it's wrong, or what's right when it's right- but I know. Tonight, and for the last 3-4 games, Manny has looked really, really on- going the other way with ease, head down, not guessing late.

Plus- Lowell had a really nice game (3 for 4, RBI, BB, R), Youkilis continued his really strong start (2 for 3, BB, RBI). Best of all, to me, was Foulke, who was really mixing up his change tonight, making a tremendous hitter like Hafner look ridiculous. Papelbon nails, as usual.

I also felt like Schilling was really, really strong. He was legitimately victimized by Bruce Dreckman's zone early on, even moreso than Westbrook. The zone was postage-stamp small, so Schilling was adapting and getting smacked around. Westbrook had 6 BBs in 5 IP, but he had himself to blame. With the exception of maybe one, Westbrook was throwing balls that would have been called by anyone, regardless of zone size. His zone grew as the game went on- really inconsistent- and it seemed like Schilling got by late by going instead with splitters for swings-and-misses/ poor contact, which worked. Schilling's fastball was live, hitting corners (though not called), and he was getting some decent sized missed bats, too. 8 Ks.

Meanwhile, however, JT Snow is superfluous, Willie Harris is awful (why not Mohr?), Wily Mo Pena's getting no ABs, and Alex Gonzalez better never make an error- he can't hit a lick. I still think Gonzo's a Pedroia hotstreak from pine-ville, but we'll see. I'd be fine with a 240/ 320 line (am I repeating myself?). Loretta too, after a hot start, is starting to legitimately struggle, but he's picking his spots right (big 2 out, 2 RBI hit tonight).

They need to work Tavarez in a bit more too. He'll take some innings off Foulke, Timlin and maybe even Papelbon's plate (in a roundabout way).

It's nice to read and see a strong "pro-Clemens signing" sentiment among most Sox fans. I think it's tough to deny that failure to sign him would not only rob us of a weapon, but strengthen one of the Yankee's only weaknesses- pitching. I'm not writing Houston completely off, but I keep reading that McLane doesn't want to spend the money, and is content avoid the situation. Who knows. But giving Yankees pitching depth would be fucking terrible. I can't think of anythng worse, honestly.

Pretty simply, there's not much room to claim that Roger Clemens would not be better than one of David Wells, Lenny DiNardo or Matt Clement. Once you acknowledge that, it becomes a big boon to sign him if at all possible. In fact, in a best-case scenario, Clemens takes DiNardo's spot, Wells is traded to a pitching hungry team for a low prospect, and DiNardo reclaims the long-man role.

Seeing Clemens pitch in Boston again would be incredibly exciting, I'll admit. He pitched for the Yankees- so what? So did Luis Tiant. So did Wade Boggs. Ted Williams had no qualms about that legendary Williams- for- DiMaggio trade that never came. Even if it irks someone a little to think of it, I can't believe anyone would rather their team be worse in favor of avoiding an irksome memory. Plus, it was so long ago- and he'd be signing with us, picking us. Anyway, personally, I'm not one for hating a player for stuff like that. The Yankees aren't really a boogeyman for me in that way.

It's the perfect scenario. I could understand maybe not like it if he was going to cost a prospect, or would require more than a year to sign. But it won't. So let the new WEBB and GULF ads near the Monster pay for it, as ugly as they look. Then, wipe your hands of it, and he's off the books.

No idea what he'll do. Depends what he wants- money? Then he'll probably be a Yankee. Prestige, a good story? Then it'll likely be the Sox (passing Cy Young as franchise win leader). Close to home? It'll be Houston/ retirement. Plus this:

Curt Schilling
Roger Clemens
Josh Beckett
Tim Wakefield
Matt Clement

would be almost unfair. Clemens' 2005 season, at 42, was absolutely unbelievable. Consider first that the NL Central, with Wrigley Field, Great American Ballpark, Minute Maid Park as pronounced hitter's parks, and PNC, Miller Park and Busch being basically neutral, is a tremendously offensive friendly division. Consider that with the lopsided schedule, Houston faces Chicago (Lee, Ramirez), St. Louis (Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders), Pittsburgh (Bay), Cincinnati (Dunn), and Milwaukee (Carlos Lee) a majority of the time. All that considered, Clemens STILL did this:


He lead the MLB in ERA, ERA+, H/9IP and VORP among pitchers, and was second only to Pedro in WHIP. At 42.

PS- if anyone has or knows of where I can get a copy (digital or otherwise) of the rebroadcast of Clemens' 20K game against Seattle in '86 from Monday night on NESN, email me, etc.

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