Last series of the year deserves italics. Go!
- We are at the end of one of the most bipolar seasons of baseball a team has authored in a long while. The 2011 Red Sox careened between brilliance, a laser slicing through opponents with one or more of great defense, stifling pitching, and a borderline historic offense, and an unforeseen mess of incompetence and ineptitude that would embarrass a rookie league manager.
- A month ago, who would have thought this series would have any significance beyond adding another entry to the Baseball Encyclopedia? Thanks to what is now a 6-18 September, what could have been a time of rest for the team to get healthy and set its starting rotation in preparation for a long post season run has become a desperate dash to the deadline.
- If Jonathan Papelbon leaves after this season he'll be sorely missed. Not only in his role as the closer, but because the guy is completely nuts. I dare you to watch this interview, conducted in as serious a nature as baseball can provide after the Sox 14 inning win yesterday, and not laugh. Papelbon wearing a suit is enough to crack me up but then he talks. It's all just too much!
- Despite the climactic 14 inning win, the just completed Yankees series was really more of the same from the Red Sox. The starting pitching was bad, the hitting was ill-timed at best, and the team seemed to shrink from the moment, committing numerous mental and physical errors to assist their opponents. Sunday night's game, the third of the series, looked to be more more of the same. But despite numerous opportunities squandered by the offense, the bullpen picked up the slack. Papelbon's performance stands out of course (4 Ks in 2.1 dominant innings tends to do that), but the much besmirched Franklin Morales was as effective if not as much a sword-through-butter. Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront pitched uneventful innings as well.
- Only Daniel Bard struggled. Should the Red Sox make the post-season it will be interesting (and likely terrifying) to see how Francona uses Bard.
- To the Red Sox credit, they've fought through a game when lesser teams might have folded (though you could fairly ask if that's true, what does 'fold' look like?). Still, the team kept at it when more humiliation in a month full of humiliation seemed around the corner. They were rewarded eventually. Sunday night's was the type of victory that will be looked back upon if the team turns things around. If not, it will be either the 2011 Red Sox last stand, or simply forgotten. These narratives are always written after the fact.
- Buck Showalter is a direct descendant of the famous vaudeville act, the Traveling Showalters. The Traveling Showalters were famous for coming out on stage in fanciful costumes and then standing completely still and staring at the audience. They wouldn't break their gaze until the entire audience all left.
- The Orioles, as you may recall, took three of four from the Red Sox in Boston a week ago. Somehow, the Orioles have peaked this month, if you can call 13-12 peaking. At least it's the best month the Orioles have had this season. Baltimore's offense has hit to almost the exact slash line in September (.256/.324/.412) as in the season as a whole (.256/.315/.411). So the answer to their successful (by Baltimore (and Boston) standards) month lies elsewhere. Their team ERA is 5.27 in September, not as bad as the Red Sox to be sure, but certainly nothing to be proud of. In fact it's worse than their 4.93 team ERA on the season.
- So Baltimore has hit like normal and pitched worse and yet they have a winning record on the month. How is that possible? One, small sample size, and two they are 6-3 in one run games. This is the same old Orioles, despite a superficial improvement.
- Nothing will touch Fenway Park for me, but Camden Yards is, despite its inhabitants, a wonderful place to watch a ball game. It's a shame that for its twenty odd years of existence it has been the equivalent of A) letting me play Motzart's piano with my face, B) taking a dump in a Ming vase, 3) I'm not good at enumeration.
- The Red Sox have a one game lead over Tampa with each having three games to play. Winning two ensures a one game playoff at minimum, though that game would be played in Tampa due to the Rays winning the season series between the two teams. Winning all three would guarantee the Sox the Wild Card and an opening match with either Texas or Detroit depending. Any combination of Red Sox wins and Rays loses equaling three gives the Red Sox the Wild Card. The Angels need to go undefeated while the Red Sox lose all three remaining games and the Rays lose two of three. That would result in a three way tie. Should that scenario happen except the Rays lose all three remaining games as well, the Angels would tie Boston and the one game playoff would be played at Fenway Park.
Individual game notes after the jump!
- Beckett was effective last time out, but probably over stayed his welcome, mostly due to the beating the bullpen had taken. I comfort myself by thinking were it an actual playoff game, Beckett would have been pulled sooner, limiting the damage incurred. At the very least, Beckett is both healthy and Josh Beckett. That should be good enough.
- You wouldn't say Hunter is on a roll, but he's been pitching effectively. His 3.60 ERA over the last twenty innings is something the Red Sox would kill for. Metaphorically of cour... well.. maybe not metaphorically. If murdering someone in cold blood would bring 20 odd innings of mid 3 ERA ball in return, you'd have to think at this point Boston's baseball operations department would consider it. I'm not saying they'd run out onto Lansdowne Street clubbing people with tire irons, but I don't think they'd dismiss the option out of hand either.
- Bedard is coming off of a mediocre start, though in fairness it was assisted by defense that would make little leaguers cringe. Bedard has always had the stuff to succeed assuming he's healthy enough to take the mound and the defense doesn't El Foldo behind him. If his various maladies are mostly healed he should not only take the ball here, but in one of the games of any potential playoff series.
- Apparently the Red Sox are still trying to trade for a starting pitcher simply to start this one game. If they're unable to do it and/or their shot at the playoffs comes down to this game, Jon Lester could come back on three days rest instead of the normal four. That would be unfortunate as Lester's last start was crappy and starting this game would likely take him out of the running to start any of the first few games of a potential first round playoff series. Hopefully the Red Sox have clinched by the time this game comes around.
- As for the Orioles, they have not announced their starter either. The normal spot in the rotation belongs to Alfredo Simon and it's unclear why he isn't the presumptive starter. Possibly this is gamesmanship by SuperGenius Buck Showalter. If so, well done sir. Well done indeed.