Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sox may be dead, but TATB is live, baby . . .

Probably should have dropped a mention of this earlier, but your lazy but loyal blogger here is writing about tonight's Sox-Yanks epic as it happens, given an occasional assist from the DVR.

I tried this once last year, during a late-season Sox-Jays game, and not only did I have a blast and get a lot of positive feedback, but if I recall, the Sox pulled off one of their defining victories of the season. (Pretty sure that Ortiz cat was prominently involved.)

So with the kids snoozing, the chance to chronicle the dumb crap Joe Morgan says in a given three hours too tempting to resist, and a change in mojo absolutely necessary for the Sox, here goes . . . well, something. I'll update the post every inning or two, so be sure to check in periodically . . . you know, if by dumb luck you actually stumble upon this as I'm doing it. Man, I really do need a better PR department.

* Johnny Damon (not sure if we should refer to him as Traitor, Sox Killer, or simply $*&$&#&@&&#$&&face at this point) starts the festivities by grounding out to first, the first time in the series he hasn't led off with a hit. He also shattered his bat. Please be symbolism. Please.

* Schilling goes 0-2 on Jeter, who smells like apricots with a just hint of lime tonight. The Captain works the count to 3-2 before he's called out on strike three. Predictably, he breaks into his Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am-How-Dare-You-Call-That-A-Strike routine, ducking his head, lingering in the batter's box to offer a few suggestions to the ump, then smirking, shaking his head, and looking out at the pitcher as he walks away. Same act, every time.

* K-Zone shows the pitch to Jeter was a perfect strike on the inside corner. K-Zone, of course, does not measure intangibles.

* Schilling is dealing - 96 and 97 mph on the corners - but the Yankees are making him work. (Damon fouled off a pitch that was damn near in Mirabelli's mitt.) After whiffing Bobby Abreu on five pitches, Schilling is on pace for 198-pitch perfect game. Take that, Bill James. Seriously, where else do you get this stuff?

* Both children, apparently made aware that daddy is both awake and motivated for once, have decided to start howling in unison, so here's the abbreviated version: Coco makes his obligatory leadoff out (he'll make a great Pittsburgh Pirate one day); Loretta singles hard to center; Papi singles hard to center; Manny (who is hitting over .500 with 7 homers against New York this season), rockets a liner to the wall, scoring Loretta; Youkilis singles, scoring Papi; Lowell hits into his obligatory double play. (And I'm pretty sure his left foot fell off running to first base. Danged rigamortis.)

* "This is what the Red Sox needed, to get off to a good start." You know, normally I'd mock this as stating the obvious, but for Joe Morgan, it's actually pretty astute.

Morgan, three seconds later: "It was important in my opinion to get off to a good start." Okay, Joe, we get it.

Morgan, roughly 10 more seconds later: "You had to get off to a good start here if you're the Red Sox." He's officially beaten this horse into Alpo. Bottom of the first, and I'm already longing for Remy.

* Did I mention I have company tonight. Yup, Mrs. TATB is in the house, and she was kind enough to offer this pearl as her first question of the night: "If I was on the Red Sox, would I be the worst player?" Instinctively, made some wise-ass comment about most big-leaguers having played ball beyond the North Berwick, Maine girls' Little League, but given more thought, there's a pretty good chance she's a better defensive catcher than Javy Lopez. Red Sox 2, Yankees 0

* The perpetually sweating Jason Giambi doubles to left center, and as he lumbers his way to second, I'm reminded of the title of one a Seth Mnookin blog post a few days ago: Jason Giambi Is A Gutless, Steroid-Using Punk. I liked that title. The oft-updated site ain't bad either.

* Morgan, in attempting to praise Melky Cabrera, a completely worthwhile pursuit: "The Yankees [before Abreu] were getting a lot of production from Cabrera, from Bubba Crosby . . . they did get a lot out of Bubba, and they owe him a debt, because he did do a lot to help them stay afloat early." Bubba Crosby, 2006: .207, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .258 OBA, designated for assignment Aug. 15. I'm not suggesting he doesn't do his homework, but I suspect Joe wouldn't know Bubba Crosby from David Crosby.

* The basket case known as A-Rod, sweet-swinging Robinson Cano, and Jorge Posada leave Giambi and his chemistry set stranded at second, but Schilling's pitch count is piling up.

* Mike Mussina is pitching for the Yankees. Probably should mention that at some point. Not much good usually happens for the Sox when Moose is involved. He mows through Wily Mo Pena, Mirabelli, and Alex Cora in order. (Regarding Mirabelli, that trade keeps getting worse and worse - as you probably read in the papers this morning, Cla Meredith has emerged as a bullpen force for the Padres, having allowed something like 1 run over his last 17 innings. This trade pisses me off so much, I won't even mind when Lobel catches on to this and asks his patented, "What would we do with guys like that?")

* Tarp's on the field. Rain delay. Bonnie Bernstein gives the weather report from the Sox dugout as Papi and Youkilis ham it up in the background. Glad to see they're loose. The Red Sox, I mean. You guys are sick.

* This sucks for the Sox - not only do they have the early lead, but the more this drags on, the less likely it is that Schilling returns to the mound. Fortunately, staff meteorologist John Kruk is live from the ESPN studios to tell us, in between bites of a Nutty Bar, that Schilling will definitely stay in the game no matter how long the delay. Thanks for the wisdom, Krukie. Got any Star Crunches left?

* Fifty-seven minutes later, ESPN returns from a commercial to find Schilling delivering a live pitch to Cabrera. Guess the rain delay is over. The Worldwide Leader, my foot. Anyway, Schilling looks no worse for the delay, breezing through 1-2-3.

* Bonnie chimes in on Mussina's 1-hitter against the Sox back in the Despicable Summer of 2001. Ugh - thanks for the reminder. I've never been more disgusted with the Sox than I was late that season, and that night in particular. No matter how bad this season gets, it won't get that bad. Carl Everett, of course, broke up the perfecto with two outs in the ninth, then acted like himself (insert your own vulgarity) by pumping his fist and acting like he did something noble. I'm glad to see that after Seattle released him a few weeks back, he was left unclaimed. It's about time that jerk's career went the way of the dinosaur.

* Jon Miller still calls a better game than most broadcasters, but he's lost his best fastball. All these years of listening to Morgan remind us that he played for the Reds and misidentifying "cutters" must have broken his spirit. There was a time when Miller was as good as it got, Vin Scully being the lone possible exception. And if you remember the hilarious Strat-O-Matic games that occasionally filled radio time on the Sox broadcasts during the '81 strike, you know exactly what I mean.

* Jeter singles, then Abreu hits a rocket off the wall, but Manny plays the carom flawlessly and holds him to a single. "Manny is very adept at playing the wall," Miller informs us, and I catch myself thinking none of the Fox broadcasters would praise this play or even realize that it is indeed the truth. Morgan resists the urge to mention that George Foster played left field for the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.

* The walking science project . . .

. . . crushes a three-run bomb to right, his 35th of the season. In fairness, the pitch was such a meatball that Jeremy Giambi probably could have hit it. Fortunately, no further damage in the inning, though Schilling has thrown 76 pitches already. Given the flammable state of the Sox 'pen, I imagine he told Tito his max pitch count is somewhere around 250.

* Manny leads off with a sharp single, which means he's now 8 for 11 in this series and 25 for 45 (.556) against the Pinstripes this season. I'm reluctant to jab those who take glee in criticizing his big-moment performance, but dammit, don't the numbers speak for themselves?

* Mussina against Wily Mo. From a baseball standpoint, it's a classic brains-against-brawn matchup. Brains wins this round, though Brawn did work the count full and got a pretty decent pitch to it before popping up to right. All in all, a good at bat for Wily Mo. Small progress.

* Mirabelli flares one to right, scoring Youkilis (single) and tying it at 3-3. Chicken parms all around. Red Sox 3, Yankees 3

* Francona, during the in-dugout interview between innings, after Miller asked him if Jonathan Papelbon would be available for two innings tonight: "Two? I was thinking about four." I almost hope he's not kidding. By the way, have I mentioned that I think he's the best manager the Sox have had in my lifetime? I blame him for none of this.

* Schilling cruises . . . and better yet, Morgan and Miller are speculating that Mussina might be done after the camera catches him seeking out the trainer in the dugout. A break at last?

* Sweet. Mussina is out, Ron Villone is in . . . but wouldn't you know it, the one time those dugout interviews actually might be useful, the audio kicks out during Joe Torre's explanation of what happened. (Something about a tight groin . . . he might have been talking about Jeter and A-Rod's personal chemistry, though Mike Lupica suggests they aren't exactly pals.) Morgan, being an intrepid, Emmy Award-winning journalist and all, shrewdly skips the opportunity to ask a follow-up question on what may be THE crucial development in this game, and instead asks him some ridiculous question about Abreu. M-O-R-O-N.

* Papi. Red Sox lead, 4-3.

* Seriously, do I really need to say anything else at this point? Hell, if you didn't see the home run, you already have the image of it burned into your mind's eye - the quick and mighty rip, the knowing bat flip, the majestic trajectory - having witnessed it all so many times before. And it NEVER gets old. Red Sox 4, Yankees 3

* Abreu, whom I'm really wishing had remained somewhere far away from this rivalry, singles to right. After Giambi, who's sweating so profusely that I can smell him through the TV, strikes out, Abreu rolls over to third on a wild pickoff throw. But Schilling dodges the bullet - A-Rod swallows his tongue before coming through with the requisite infield popup, and Cano pokes a flare over second that Alex Cora hustles to track down. Somewhere, RemDawg takes a drag and yells to the gimp in the basement, "Alex Cora, he does something to help the Sox win every time he's in the game." The gimp squeals in muffled agreement.

* Jeter gets a whiff of Giambi and, being a great captain and all, offers him a sample of "Driven." Giambi says thanks, rubs some on his leg and injects the rest into his left buttock.

* Good lord, Morgan is actually lecturing us that we can't blame the Sox's problems on the Curse anymore. If you think I'm going to spend a single moment of my existence transcribing a blithering idiot's take on a television-driven myth, you've come to the wrong corner of the internet, folks.

* The wet look is definitely working for Bonnie Bernstein. Did I mention my wife went to bed about two hours ago? Hey, at least I'm still wearing pants. Anyway, Sox leave a couple, and we move to the. . .

. . . where Schilling has an easy inning precisely when he needs one, getting two fly balls (including one by the always scary Jorge Posada), then getting a called strike three on Nick Green on his 109th pitch of the evening. When ESPN comes back from commercial, Schilling is wearing his warmup jacket and shaking hands in the dugout - sure looks like his night's work is over. If anyone other than Papelbon comes out for the eighth, Francona should be tarred, feathered, fed to locusts, and dangled from the Monster seats on the spot, my earlier praise be damned.

* Mike Myers in for the Yankees. You already know I believe the Sox should have re-signed the slinging lefty, who did his job well for the Sox. I consider his inexplicable departure one more small mark against Theo, post-World Series.

* Someone is warming up in the Sox 'pen. It's . . . (sniff, sniff . . . do I smell gasoline?) . . . (oh . . . oh, no . . . oh, the humanity!!) . . . Timlin. Good lord . . . NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! (Someone heat up the tar and collect the feathers, I'll put the locusts on alert . . .)

* With runners on first and second and two outs, Scott Proctor comes in for the Yankees. He's the frontrunner for Joe Torre's annual Setup Man I'll Burn To A Blackened Crisp By September award, given the last two years to Tom Gordon and Tanyon Sturtze. (Sturtze, by the way, was Giambi's best pal on the Yankees. Not suggesting anything, of course, particularly in regards to the 5 mph he added to his fastball in his early 30s or the bizarre shoulder injury . . . nope, nothing to see here . . .)

* Suddenly, a chance to break it open. Loretta singles, one out later Manny is intentionally walked, and Youkilis gets the fifth run home with a single. But after a Cano error leaves loads the bases with one out, Wily Mo whiffs (yup, slider down and away) and Mirabelli flies out to Abreu. These are opportunities a struggling team lets slip away.

* "In my day we didn't have bases, we had rocks." That makes me laugh. Damn, it's getting late.

* With Damon, Jeter and Abreu coming up, who's on for the Sox . . . yup, Timlin. WHAT. THE. *$&#*?


* Damon gets an infield single when Loretta shows his Stonehenge range, and Jeter, diving over the plate as usual, gets drilled on the hand. First and second, no one out, and The Other Javier Lopez is coming in to face Abreu. I just punted the cat.

* Lopez gets Abreu 1-2, then walks him. Didn't see that coming. Did I mention that Lopez has walked 6 in 8 2/3 innings this season and just got recalled to the Sox today? Yup, he's just the guy I want in this game.

* Hey, look . . . coming out of the bullpen . . . it's Jonathan Papelbon!!! And he's pitching for the Red Sox!!! Dude, I didn't even know he was still on the team!!!

* (Deep breaths . . . deep breaths) . . . Giambi just crushed a majestic bomb that deflected off the moon, and somehow landed in Gabe Kapler's glove on the right field warning track for a sac fly. (Whew.) That looked very gone off the bat, and it capped a classic power-vs.-power at-bat in which Papelbon touched 98 on the gun and Giambi expertly worked the count in his favor and got his share of healthy hacks. Compelling baseball, that.

* A-Rod walks. God, you've gotta make him swing there, especially with Cano coming up. And if that last sentence isn't an indictment of his status as the reigning MVP, well, nothing is.

* Cano whiffs on a split, the location of which Morgan predicted. I have to admit, Morgan is making a little bit of sense tonight. Then again, I haven't eaten in five hours and the other cat is starting to look like a rotisserie chicken, so I may be slightly delirious.

* Posada whiffs on a nasty splitter, and Papelbon escapes the bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing a single run. Somewhere, Dick Radatz is smiling. (Of course, Radatz might also say Papelbon is a **#** pansy for pitching just two innings, but that's how it goes.) Red Sox 5, Yankees 4

* Is it overstatement to say the fate of the Sox season depends on what takes place in this half-inning? Probably . . . but at the moment, it sure sounds like the truth to me.

* Cabrera, fast becoming a chronic pain in the ass, leads off with a double to right center, and alertly moves to third when Mirabelli fumbles a splitter. It's hustle like that that earns you coveted postgame fist-pumps from the Captain.

* Bernie Williams, a longtime chronic pain in the ass, whiffs on the next pitch. A good omen? Maybe, but I tend not to believe in such things with Damon and Jeter lurking in the on-deck circle.

* And as I write the words, "Traitor Johnny whiffs," wouldn't you know it, Jeter punches a patented bleepin' bloop single five feet in front of Kapler in right to tie it. When he's in the Hall of Fame someday, it had better say "uncanny knack for dinky clutch hits" somewhere on his plaque. I believe the word here is "demoralizing" . . . but Papelbon needs to suck it up right now, forget that his manager completely botched the eighth inning, and give Papi (and Manny, in the unlikelihood that Papi doesn't smoke a walkoff of Rivera) a chance in the ninth.

* He does, whiffing Abreu. Considering he gave up the tying run, though, maybe the cocky fist-pump coming off the mound wasn't quite so necessary. Red Sox 5, Yankees 5

* Rivera in. Papi up. This is one hell of a game, eh?

* . . . yup, and it just got a little bit better. Papi hits a one-hopper at Giambi, who thoughtfully plays it into a double. (He's got the range and hands of the Venus de Milo.) As Papi plods toward second just ahead of Bernie Williams's water balloon of a throw, for a brief moment it seems time has slowed down.

* Torre didn't achieve this lot in life by being a dummy. He walks Manny. I'm sure Michael Kay is blathering about this being a genius move.

* Youkilis bunts into a fielder's choice at third (hey, you try bunting Rivera's cutter), but Posada obliges the Fenway faithful with a passed ball, moving the runners to second and third after all.

* Pena gets four freebies, loading them for pinch-hitter Eric Hinske. A new Fenway hero in the making? Nope, no chance. Strike, ball, strike, strike, sit. And on the next pitch, Mirabelli predictably leaves 'em loaded, chopping feebly back to Rivera. There will be no chicken parm on this evening after all.

* Hansen in. HGHiambi homers. Gee, didn't see that coming. This one's on you, Tito. The goddamn loyalty to Timlin is the same flaw that convinced you it was a good idea to keep running the likes of Millar and Embree out there last year. If EVER there was a game to use Papelbon for two, this was it - hell, you said so yourself during the game. You're a fine manager, but you had a horrible night exactly when your team could least afford it.

* Cano doubles and Posada hooks a liner around Pesky's Pole (is it me, or has that thing been much more friendly to visitors than the home team this season?) and it's 8-5. To his credit, Hansen looks awfully pissed for someone who grew up in New York. Yankees 8, Red Sox 5

RED SOX 10th
* So, hey, how'd Brady look last night? And Maroney? How about Dillon? Think they're deep enough at linebacker? Whaddaya say, 12-4? 13-3? Man, can't wait for football . . .

* And there it is . . . Papi flies out to right to end it. Remember that symbolism we were looking for way back in the first inning? Looks like we found it here. Not even the man who has rescued them so many times can save this defeated team now.

* * *
(Postscript: Just caught Tito's postgame press conference. Wow, is he a beaten man. He explained all too reasonably that he went to Timlin and Lopez in the eighth because Damon/Jeter/Abreu were "something like a combined 4 for 49 against them." Which is all well and good, except it forgets one crucial factor. The Mike Timlin pitching for the Red Sox right now is a far cry from the steady setup man of the past three seasons. He's 40 years old, might be hurt, is additionally weary because of the WBC, and cannot get the outs now he got in past seasons. This is one instance where past performance MUST be disregarded, because this simply is not the same guy. Tito should have known better.)

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