Archive for the ‘ALCS’ Category

Don’t Stop Believin’

OK, now this is getting crazy. Boston looked lousy during games 2, 3, and 4 and 2/3 of game 5. Meanwhile, Tampa was playing like a team on a mission, trying to make up for ten years of futility. Suddenly during game 5, the switch was flipped, and like a modern version of Freaky Friday Boston began playing loose, youthful, carefree baseball, while Tampa turned into a  cautious, conservative baseball team that’s playing not to lose, instead of pushing the action and trying for the win.

So this brings us to game 7. Which version of these teams will show up?

thefoulline.com quick hits

  • Jon Lester vs. Matt Garza, game seven, winner goes to the World Series. This is the match-up Boston fans were wishing for and Rays fans were dreading.
  • Regarding the TBS technical difficulty that caused first-inning coverage of last night’s game to be preempted by The Steve Harvey Show: According to a theory by thefoulline contributor Dylan “Conspiracy Theorist” Hamilton, TBS, concerned that the Rays’ current losing streak has reminded much of the Tampa Bay fan base how much they prefer Steve Harvey to baseball, did it on purpose.
  • The Sox bullpen has looked fantastic. Okajima gets better every time he pitches and looks like the Oki of 2007. Masterson looked absolutely scared shitless out there, and then he proceeded to shut down the Rays 1-2-3 hitters. Then there’s Papelbon. Tired, sore, gassed from pitching two tough innings in game 5, he goes out throwing 90 MPH fastballs with good location and gets the save. In a word… awesome.
  • High definition television is not kind to Kevin Youkilis.
  • Coco Crisp is doing his best 2007 Jacoby Ellsbury impersonation. Coco did more damage to James Shields last night than any punch would ever do.
  • Dan the #1 Rays Fan: Hang in there. This is still better than watching the Rays of the past. There’s still a lot of baseball left.
  • Jason Varitek saved his job with the Sox next year with a huge home run and an even bigger throw out of Dioner Navarro. That’s why he’s the Captain.
  • Terry Francona is the best manager in Red Sox history. Although the 78 pieces of tobacco wrapped in Double Bubble that he is constantly chewing during the game is pretty disgusting.
  • Josh Beckett dug down deep last night and pitched his ass off for 5 innings. This guy is a competitor.
  • James Shields is a tough pitcher with a promising future, but his “Big Game” nickname may have been a little premature. Names like that get invented in the postseason.
  • Dustin Pedroia is going to blow up tonight. He lives for moments like this, and he’s been too quiet for too long.
  • During the 6th inning of game 5 in Fenway Park, did anyone really think we would be watching a game 7?
  • There is no moment better in sports than the MLB playoffs.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Thursday night’s come-from-behind win for the Red Sox was amazing, series altering, life changing and whatever other hyperbole that the national media is throwing around these days. So why is it that I feel like Teddy KGB, so unsatisfied?  Boston’s win to force a game 6 was dramatic, but it’s not like they just won the series. Tampa Bay still holds a 3-2 series lead with the next two games at Tropicana Field. Don’t get me wrong, I feel infinitely better that Boston was finally able to string a few hits together, and David Ortiz had some resemblance to his 2004 version, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played.

Going into tonight’s game, I really wish that Josh Beckett’s ERA was sub-10.00 this postseason. I also wish that James Shields threw his shoulder out in June when his left cross missed Coco Crisp by three feet. But I guess we’ll just have to deal with this match up. Shields is the one guy on the Rays staff that scares me. He didn’t get his “Big Game” moniker from his deer hunting ability. This guy is a stud that rises to the occasion and relishes the pressure.

Shields is going up against some guy that has a striking resemblance to Josh Beckett, but without the 96 mph fastball and the pinpoint control. There is obviously something wrong with Beckett. He’s going to need to channel his inner Curt Schilling and make the adjustment from strikeout pitcher to a control pitcher that keeps the hitters guessing. But Beckett is a fierce competitor. Whichever version of him shows up tonight is going to be pissed off and spitting nails. This will be fun to watch.

As for the hitters on both teams, now that Boston has seen how productive it can be when they get consecutive hits, I really hope that they try and do that again. It was fun to see them scoring runs again. The Rays, on the other hand, are obviously taking steroids and corking their bats. There is no way that they can hit that many home runs. I’m calling for George Mitchell to reopen his investigation.

But seriously. Rays players have to be thinking that they have just woken a sleeping giant. They had Boston on the ropes and let them back in it. It will be interesting to see if the Rays hitters are squeezing their bats a little tighter and trying for the long ball tonight while playing in front of the home crowd.

Up a touchdown in the 7th inning. Champagne on ice. The smell of the World Series in the air. Only to blow it.  This has the potential to crush the confidence of a young ballclub. This is a must-win game for Tampa. With a potential game seven match up of baseball’s best story, Jon Lester, vs. headcase and chronic spitter Matt Garza. This is the biggest game in the history of Tampa Bay baseball. Again.

The Rays are still in the driver’s seat, but they have to be keeping a close eye on the rearview mirror.

I Believe

364 days ago I wrote a post called “Keeping the Faith, Part 2.” At that time Boston was in a 3-1 hole to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, and they were getting ready to face CC Sabathia in game 5. One year later, I find myself in a similar position, full of hope and optimism and sitting in front of my laptop. Can Boston make another comeback and crush the hopes and dreams of Rays fans everywhere? I not only hope so, but I’m going to give the reasons why.

  1. Scott Kazmir is pitching tonight. Why would Joe Maddon do this? He is either hoping that Kazmir rebounds from his last several poor performances and pulls out a win, or he’s that confident that “Big Game” James Shields will be money in game 6 at Tropicana Field to win it in front of the home crowd. Whatever the reason, I giggled a little when I saw Kazmir as tonight’s starting pitcher. This series is at least going back to St. Pete.
  2. The Red Sox have played horrible baseball. This the all-or-nothing, backs-to-the-wall scenario that shows a team’s character. Like Gene Hackman said in The Replacements, “winners want the ball.”  The Red Sox are the defending World Series Champions. Let’s start acting like it.
  3. 1986, down 3-1 to the California Angels in the ALCS. 2004, down 3-0 to the NY Yankees in the ALCS. 2007, down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. They’ve been here before and have won. They will do it again.
  4. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. There is no way in hell that these guys throw another crappy game like their last time out.
  5. Big Papi actually got an extra-base hit last game. The offensive flood gates are officially open.
  6. There is no way that the Rays can keep up with their 8 home runs a game pace. MLB is going to start charging them for lost baseballs.
  7. Dice K is a ninja. The Rays won’t know what hit them.
  8. Jason Varitek got the hole in his glove stitched up, so no more inning-extending passed balls.
  9. The Sox only have to win three measly games. A three game winning streak is nothing. They’ve done it 16 times this season.

So now you can see how obvious it is that Boston will rally back and win this series. I almost feel bad for the Rays…

Go Sox!

Love to Hate

Let me start by saying that I hate the Rays. With the exception of Evan Longoria, who is obviously a superstar, and Carlos Pena, who goes unnoticed as the Rays’ team leader, I hate every player, coach and manager on that team. Is it sour grapes because they’ve won the season series with Boston? Maybe. But unlike the national media, I do not see these Rays as the darlings of the league. I find them utterly unlikeable, and I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.

Maybe it stems from their stupid name. What exactly is a Ray? Does it mean a ray of hope for a team that had sucked for so long? Is it short for x-ray, to describe the transparency of the fair-weather fans that are suddenly so eager to jump aboard the bandwagon? (Dan excluded, of course.) Whatever it means, it’s a stupid name. Sure, Red Sox is not the manliest name, but at least I know what it means.

Maybe it’s because of Jonny Gomes and his endless string of cheap shots. Or Carl Crawford’s gangster neck tattoo. Or maybe it’s because Gabe Gross looks like he should be selling life insurance instead of patrolling right field. Maybe it’s B.J. Upton’s never-ending wad of chew that never leaves his left cheek. Or Dioner Navarro’s stupid kiss to the dugout after every hit. I even hate Joe Magrane and Dewayne Staats. I hope that they both suffer from non-cancerous polyps of their vocal cords.

I may not like these guys, but I am not going to discount their success playing in and winning the hardest division in baseball. These guys just find every conceivable way to win, and it drives me absolutely nuts. I’ve watched a lot of Rays baseball this year, and I’m pretty sure that they have never lost. This team is giving me nightmares.

Now, being the stubborn Sox fan that I am, I still like Boston’s chances to go to back-to-back World Series, and here’s why. First of all, Boston has a ton of postseason experience. Normally this would be a bigger advantage, but unfortunately Tampa has proved to be oblivious to pressure. Secondly, Boston has the best scouting department in the majors. They have consistently prepared Boston for every postseason opponent the last several years. They can pinpoint another team’s tendencies and weaknesses and exploit them. Thirdly, Boston has not played their best baseball… yet. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim handed the Red Sox this series on a silver platter, with their shoddy fielding and ill-advised suicide squeezes.

These guys are ready to fire on all cylinders. Jon Lester is an Ace, Papelbon is pitching lights out, Jason Bay and J.D. are coming up with huge at-bats, and there is no way in hell that Dustin Pedroia has a repeat performance of the ALDS.  I also see Josh Beckett knocking off the rust and regaining his form from past postseasons. This is a team that is ready to take off.

Boston wins this series in 6.

You May Be Right

A wise man once wrote, “If the Rays are still in first place after the All-Star game, I’ll eat my shoe.” OK, maybe it wasn’t a very wise man, but since this bold prediction, I have learned two things: The Tampa Bay Rays are the real deal, and my size 10 New Balance give me indigestion.

To my credit, I was talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, who for 10 miserable years have been described using phrases like league laughingstock, perennial loser and cellar dweller. Did anyone realistically think that this team was going to contend this year?  No one has ever doubted their young talent, but I was thinking a .500 record would have been a very successful year for these guys. Now it looks like they are going to win 100 games. Stephen King couldn’t have written this script.

Over the course of this season, I have watched this team find every conceivable way to pull out a victory. One night it’s a walk-off home run, the next night the opposing pitcher hits a Ray with the bases loaded to walk in the tying run. They lost arguably their two best players for a month, and they kept on winning. It borders on being surreal. They say that it’s better to be lucky than good. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, this Rays team is both.

Tampa Bay had the best record in the league during Spring Training. Who cared? Those games don’t mean squat.

The Rays swept the defending World Champions early in the season… obviously a fluke.

The Rays lead the AL East at the All-Star break. Big deal, 82 games left to play.

The Tampa Bay Rays now have a five 1/2 game lead in the AL East with only 46 games remaining… Gulp.

Now of course, being a Red Sox fan, I am not willing to concede the division. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played, including six games against each other. I’m predicting that the Boston Red Sox will come back and win the division.

I have to be right once this season, right?

2007 Red Sox year in review

Coming into spring training in 2007 the Boston Red Sox were a very different team than the one that finished in third place in the AL East. After a very disappointing 2006 season, the Sox made a huge splash in the free agency market, landing notable players Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and the biggest prize, Dice K Matsuzaka. Boston had set a few goals in the offseason to improve team speed and starting pitching and bolster an inconsistent bullpen.

With a bunch of new players added to the roster, there were a lot of questions concerning the 2007 Red Sox in spring training. With Jonathan Papelbon set to join the starting rotation, the Red Sox had open tryouts for the closer position. Guys like Joel Piniero, J.C. Romero, and Mike Timlin all took their turns trying to close, all with out success. Curt Schilling came in to camp looking heavy and out of shape after an offseason of promoting his video game company. Josh Beckett was a question mark after his disappointing first season in the American League. Boston gave the starting second base job to an untested rookie in Dustin Pedroia, even after he failed miserably during his 2006 September call-up. Of course Manny was being Manny, going back and forth on wanting to play for the Red Sox. And it seemed like David Ortiz had something hurting from day one. It was hard to predict how this team would do. This was a team that had the potential the play in the World Series or suffer the same fate as the 2006 team.

We all know what happened next. The Red Sox jumped out to huge lead in the AL East behind some great early season pitching by their starters, and Jonathan Papelbon jumped back into his closer role. Even though new starters Lugo, Pedroia and Drew were struggling miserably the first months of the season, Terry Francona kept running these guys out there, giving them every chance to turn things around. Despite the poor performances by these players, the Sox kept winning, eventually increasing their lead in the AL East to a whopping 14 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.

There were times during this season that I really thought I was in Bizzaro World. Big Papi went from a home-run crushing powerhouse to an on-base percentage machine. Manny Ramirez stopped hitting home runs and seemed to ground into a thousand double plays. Mike Lowell went from a career .280 hitter to the Red Sox MVP and team leader in clutch hits and RBIs. Kevin Youkilis turned into the best defensive first baseman in the American League, committing zero errors at the position all year. And Japanese import Hideki Okajima went from Dice K’s security blanket to an All-Star set-up man.

Going into the All-Star break, the Sox had finally started to get some production from Pedroia and Lugo. Beckett was pitching the best baseball of his career and Boston was holding the best record in the major leagues. Then things began to change for the worse. Schilling’s lack of offseason conditioning finally caught up to him, landing him on the disabled list for six weeks. Manny strained his oblique muscle and began the longest oblique-muscle rehab in the history of baseball. The New York Yankees started playing great baseball, eventually cutting the Red Sox lead to 1 1/2 games.

All these things turned into a blessing in disguise. Without the injuries to Schilling and Ramirez, we may have had to wait another year before seeing rookies Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury take the league by storm. If the Sox didn’t get beat up by the Yankees at the end of the season, they may not have learned the resilience to never give up when the playoffs rolled around. With this team, it seemed like they seized every opportunity and dictated their own fate.

The Sox eventually won the AL East and with a healthy roster and the playoffs starting, the Red Sox looked to be a team of destiny. They buzzed through the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, sweeping them in three games behind the pitching of Beckett and the offensive rebirth of Big Papi and Man-Ram. In the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, it was time to jump on Beckett’s back again. It was also time to put our faith in the future as Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis carried the offense, helping Boston to rally from a 3-games-to-1 deficit and advance to the World Series.

In the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, it was men against boys. Boston got solid contributions from every player in the lineup. Every game someone new stepped up to be the hero for the Red Sox, eventually leading to a four-game sweep and the second World Series title in four years.

The Boston Red Sox came into the 2007 season full of question marks. Would Manny be back? Who would be the closer? Will Dice K live up to expectations? Could Boston finally dethrone the Yankees? As these questions were eventually answered, a new one popped up.

How many World Series can the Red Sox win in a row?

It ain’t over ’til it’s over

I hate Dane Cook. I don’t think he’s funny. But I agree with him, there is only one October. I also like to think that there is only one November, one April, etc., etc. The Major League playoffs is the one event in all of sports that consistently delivers. What’s so great about the playoffs is you can never count a team out. No matter what the game count is, until you’ve won four it’s still anybody’s game.

Behind solid pitching and an offense that can score in bunches, Boston rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit to knock off the Cleveland Indians. It’s easy to compare this team to the 2004 World Series Champions. Both teams never say die and play hard until the final out.

In game seven last night, Dice K may have quieted the critics for a little while at least. Dice K came out of the gates smoking. He pounded his fastball and kept the Indians off balance with his off-speed stuff. The first three innings he was awesome. The fourth and fifth innings, Dice K allowed a couple of baserunners but was able to minimize the damage. He performed well last night. Let’s hope his new-found confidence will carry over to the World Series.

Speaking of confidence, is there anyone playing with more confidence than Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis right now? Pedroia is the Little Engine That Could. This guy goes up to the plate and just lets it rip. His two-run home run was the difference maker last night. He followed that up with a bases-loaded double in the eighth. Pedroia thrives under pressure. Not too bad for a rookie.

Youkilis is scary. The way he looks. The sweat constantly pouring off his head. The intensity that he plays with every game. Youkilis was the one guy in the Sox lineup that was consistent through out the ALCS. He batted .425 and had four home runs. These two guys have been the catalysts in rejuvenating the Boston offense. As the stage gets bigger, these two play better.

What makes this victory so special is not only the way the Red Sox came back, but the competition they did it against. The Cleveland Indians are a great team. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They have a great lineup of young talent that never quits. They are a classy organization with passionate fans. They will build off this loss. I’m sure they’ll be back in the playoffs for many years to come.

The Red Sox are firing on all cylinders right now. The starting pitching has come around, featuring two of the best playoff pitchers of all time. The Sox offense has been scary, with everybody contributing. And the bullpen has been lights out. They will be facing a Rockies team that has won 21 out of the last 22 games. Of course, all of these wins came against the Junior Varsity that is known as the National League. Let’s hope the eight days off and the four inches of snow in Colorado have cooled them off.

The Red Sox Win the Pennant!!!!

The Red Sox are going to the World Series!!

More to follow…..

Worth the wait

They say good things come to those who wait. Boston fans remained patient even when down three games to one. After being outplayed by Cleveland for three straight games, the Red Sox have battled back and have forced game seven.

Curt Schilling pitched a gutsy game last night (7 innings, 6 hits, 2 ER, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks), improving his postseason record to 10-2. He got into some trouble early in the game but was able to execute his pitches and get out of the jam. I’m not sure what I think of the 90-mph-fastball-Schilling. He doesn’t have that extra gear to blow the pitch by the hitter. I find myself on the edge of my seat when he tries to pitch inside to lefties. It seems he either gets the batter to pop up or hit a monster home run to right field. But to his credit, he has come to grips with his new style of pitching. He knows he’s not the strikeout pitcher of past seasons, so he relies on out-thinking the hitters. He was just what Boston needed last night. A big performance from a big game pitcher.

While we are still on the subject of waiting, there was a J.D. Drew sighting last night. After a long season of Drew performing below expectations, he blew open the game with a first-inning grand slam, 3 hits and 5 RBIs. This is exactly what Drew needed to get a clean slate from Boston fans for next season. Last night he was worth every penny spent on him. Suddenly, $14 million a year doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

All series long, people have been saying Boston needs other players besides the big three to step up. Last night it finally happened. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis were awesome at the top of the order, getting big hits and setting the plate for Boston’s big hitters. If these two continue this hot streak, I don’t see anyone beating them. The Sox even got some production from their 8 and 9 hitters. Wonderboy Jacoby Ellsbury further enamored himself with Boston fans with an RBI and his all-out hustle. Even Julio Lugo contributed with a big double and two RBIs.

Everything seems to be clicking with Boston right now: Two quality starts in a row from their pitchers. The offense appears to be out of its funk. Heck, even Eric Gagne pitched a decent inning. But like Winston Wolfe said in Pulp Fiction, “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.” The Indians are a good team. You can be sure that they are going to leave it all out on the field tonight.

Thefoulline.com baseball news and notes:

  • I have a lot of respect for Terry Francona. He really cares for and trusts his players. He gives them every opportunity to succeed. He catches a lot of flack for his loyalty to his players, but his guys play hard for him. Let’s hope Boston management does the right thing and locks him up with a long-term contract.
  • Before game 6, Fausto Carmona stated that he won’t be intimidated by anyone, especially not Curt Schilling. Wow! Way to back that up. You really showed them. Another bad playoff performance. He is turning into the skinny version of C.C. Sabathia.
  • Travis Hafner is in a bad funk right now. He hasn’t had a hit in a couple of games and really appears out of sorts. Maybe it’s because his helmet is crushing his huge head. Have you seen this guy’s melon? His head makes his helmet look like the ones little kids eat ice cream out of.
  • Coco Crisp has played his last game in a Boston uniform. He will be dealt in the offseason. Thanks Coco, you were fun to watch play centerfield.
  • Maybe Cleveland shouldn’t have printed all of those 2007 World Series T-shirts when they were up 3-1.
  • I really hope Boston resigns Mike Lowell. If they decide not to, I can see them ignoring A-Rod and going after the Florida Marlins’ Miguel Cabrera.

That’s all for now. Huge game tonight. Let’s keep this thing rolling.

Go Sox!

Breaking news for game six

Great news FoulLiners: Jacoby Ellsbury is getting the start in centerfield tonight for game six. This just proves my theory that Terry Francona reads thefoulline.com on a daily basis. He heard all of your concerns and is doing the right thing to force a seventh game.

If fans at Fenway needed any help getting excited for this game this should take care of that. Like he has done since being called up from Triple A, Ellsbury will do something to impact tonight’s game. Whether it’s a clutch hit, stolen base or great catch, he will make his presence felt. This is the spark the Sox needed.

I have been really excited for tonight’s game since game five. I really believe that Curt Schilling is going to bring his A-game tonight. Schilling can be arrogant, pompous, and cocky, but he can back it up with his impressive postseason record. In game two of this series, Schilling pitched pretty well, but the big home run to Jhonny Peralta took the steam out of him, leading to his early exit. I don’t see Schilling making those same mistakes again. He has been in the role too many times to let his last performance affect tonight. This is what Schilling lives for: the chance to enhance his legacy on the biggest stage, in the biggest game of the season.