Archive for the ‘Playoffs’ Category

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.

My top 5 favorite games of the 2007 season.

Here are my five favorite games from the Red Sox 2007 season.

  1. The Mother’s Day miracle: Boston rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. What I remember about this game was Josh Beckett left the game early with a “finger” problem, and suddenly everyone’s thoughts turned to the blister problems that have plagued Beckett his entire career. Also, Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles was shutting the Boston bats down all game, allowing 0 runs on three hits. Being that it was Mother’s Day, I turned the game off in the top of the ninth inning to take my wife out to dinner. I was shocked when I came home and saw that the Sox won.
  2. Schilling throws a one-hitter: 4o-year-old Schilling was one out away from throwing the first no-hitter of his Major League career against the Oakland A’s. After the game, Schilling admitted that he shook off Jason Varitek’s sign on the Shannon Stewart single. I may have jinxed this one. With two outs in the ninth and the no-hitter still intact, I phoned my buddy Dylan to make sure he was watching. Before he could even pick up the phone, Stewart singled. End of the no hitter. Sorry about that, Curt.
  3. Clay Buchholz throws a no-hitter: In only his second Major League start, Buchholz dazzles the Baltimore Orioles and gives Red Sox fans a glimpse into the future. I was working at the fire station during this game. It seemed like every time I tried to sit and watch the game, I would get dispatched for a call. In between taking patients to the hospital I would check the box score. I finally made it back to the station and watched from the seventh inning on. I found myself wishing for two things: not to get another alarm and for this kid to make history. Both wishes came true.
  4. Game 5, ALCS: Josh Beckett keeps the Red Sox season alive with another dominating post-season performance. This was the game that solidified Beckett as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time. The Red Sox were able to put a stop to Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and seize the momentum heading back to Fenway.
  5. Game 4, World Series: Jon Lester starts game four after beating cancer, allowing 0 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. A gutsy performance from the 23-year-old. Bobby Kielty homers on the first pitch that he’s seen during the entire World Series. Mike Lowell further endears himself to Red Sox fans with a double and a home run, leading to his World Series MVP award. And Papelbon closes the door with five outs to help capture the second Red Sox World Series in four years.

These were my favorite games. Please post your comments and tell me which games were memorable for you.

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.

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.

Talk is cheap

This isn’t time for a rah-rah speech. The Sox have the home crowd and the momentum. Boston has come back before. They will do it again.
Enjoy the Videos!





And one more for good measure.



The Sox win tonight, the series is over.

Go Sox!

Shipping up to Boston

The Red Sox may have finally turned the corner on this series. Their offense began to show some signs of life, putting seven runs on the scoreboard. The Sox were patient at the plate, looking at a lot of pitches and capitalizing on C.C.’s mistakes. It was nice to see Pedroia bust out of his slump and Youk continue his great series. Boston had opportunities early in the game to jump out to a big lead, but a couple of bases-loaded double plays and Manny admiring his long single off the wall just a little too long thwarted the rallies.

Coco Crisp may have played his last game of the ALCS. He played another horrible game: 0 for 5, 2 strikeouts, 4 runners left on base, and he couldn’t get down a sacrifice bunt resulting in another key strikeout. How does Francona not sit this guy for game six? Maybe a game on the bench will light a fire under him and get him to refocus for the World Series. Even if Ellsbury comes in and stinks just like Coco, he is the Red Sox centerfielder of the future. Let’s get him some playoff experience.

Before Boston fans get too excited about last night, let’s remember that Chocolate Cake Sabathia was pitching. This guy was an All-Star this year. He is the front runner for the Cy Young award. But when the playoffs start, he turns to crap. Maybe the C.C. stands for Chokey Chunkbutt?

The Sox looked better last night, but they were the beneficiaries of several Cleveland mistakes: Grady Sizemore dropping Youk’s triple, passed balls, Rafael Perez throwing away a sure double play. All these things padded the Sox lead. Boston is going to have to play better the rest of the way.

I wish game six was tonight. Fenway Park. Crowd Buzzing. Schilling on the mound. Sox with some momentum.

Buckle up! This series is just getting started.

thefoulline.com quick hits

After a few days at Disney World with the family I am back at thefoulline headquarters ready for Game 5. It’s game time, so this is going to be quick.

  • Manny is an idiot. His comments contradict what every Boston fan is thinking. Every year matters. See my post Manny being Manny from September 4th for more thoughts on him.
  • Signs your team and its fans are surprised they made the MLB playoffs
    1. Coming up with a stupid slogan. Example: “Rocktober.” I know that Colorado was amazed they made the playoffs with five no-name pitchers and a starting 9 that couldn’t be picked out of a police line-up, but this is really the best they could come up with? How about this one instead: Colorado Rockies: If we were in the AL, we would be watching the playoffs.
    2. Free towels to every fan that attends the game. Example: Cleveland’s “It’s Tribe Time Now.” This is without a doubt the dumbest thing they could have put on a free towel. It would make more sense for the Cleveland Indians owners to not only supply a towel to their fans but some soap and shampoo as well. This might help the bugs from swarming all of their stinky fans again.
  • If Fox Sports shows that moron in the outfield playing the drum another hundred times tonight, I am flying to Ohio and punching that guy in the face. How does this guy play the Wizard Master in his bi-weekly Dungeons & Dragons game and still have time to play the drums at every Indians game? Oh, I know. I’m betting that he doesn’t have a girlfriend.
  • How great is it to be a Red Sox fan? Down 3 games to 1 and nobody has pushed the panic button. Four years ago, people all over New England would be on suicide watch. Now, we are like, “they’ve been there before, they can come back.”

That’s all for now. I will be back first thing in the morning for the Game 6 preview.

Go Sox!