The Red Sox and Yankees meet tonight for the first game of a three-game series. Both teams have won five games so far. Both teams have lost five.
Before we get under way, a quick preview:
The player I know mostly as J.D. Poo (or just “Poo” for short) is hitting .440. He went three-for-three in last night’s game before commanding an intentional walk. However, no matter how torrid his bat, I will continue to call him “Poo” until at least the end of June.
Alex Rodriguez, who I sometimes call A-Rod, A-Hole, or A-Douche, is also off to a hot start, scoring seven runs and batting in seven runs. That makes him somehow involved in nearly half of New York’s runs so far this year. This will only make it more painful for Yankees fans when the inevitable October chokage comes home to roost.
Papi’s power stroke is still AWOL. On the other hand, the Yankees have averaged just 3.1 runs a game thus far, so they’ve got their own troubles, not least of which is that Jorge Posada, suffering from “a dead arm,” will not be available to catch in this series. To get him in the lineup, the Yanks will have to DH him.
Because Mike Lowell is on the 15-day DL with a sprained thumb and Alex Cora is feeling “twinges,” the Red Sox brought up some infield insurance in the person of Jed Lowrie, their AAA-level shortstop.
Because Derek Jeter’s quad is still balky, and his weekend baseball activities are likely limited to casual games of catch, the Yankees brought up some infield insurance in the person of Alberto Gonzalez, their AAA-level shortstop.
As for tonight’s starting pitchers, for the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz has struggled so far this season. He had a rough Spring Training and a mixed performance in his previous start in Toronto—on the one hand, he only went 5 innings while giving up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs. On the other hand, he did strike out seven. Clay threw 89 pitches before he got the hook, whereupon the Red Sox bullpen promptly gave in to a fierce shellacking. Conversely, New York staff ace Chien Ming Wang has started the season strong. In two starts, he’s combined for 13 innings, 10 hits, four walks, just two earned runs, and 8 K’s. Wang was economical as well, managing to get relatively deep into the game on a low pitch count (yay for groundballs!).
Let the game begin!
7:25. Just in time to see Clay Buchholz throw a sharp 12-6 curveball to A-Rod, going to an 0-2 count against the guy. Unfortunately, am running 20 minutes late because I am coming from the MIT Energy Showcase and somehow, people at this event didn’t quite understand that while I think global warming and the energy crisis are both very important topics, I absolutely have to leave right now because of this game.
7:30. Whoah—Don Orsillo just announced that Jorge Posada has never been on the DL in his entire career. Is this possible? I’m slack-jawed in amazement.
7:31. A light rain falling in Boston right now. It looks heavier on the TV than it really is.
7:33. Ooh. Giambi hit it hard, but Coco Crisp tracks it down for the third out of the bottom of the second. I was having a debate with UmpBumper Nick earlier today about Crisp. Clearly, Crisp wants to be the starter (not surprisingly) but Ellsbury is the Red Sox centerfielder of the future. The question is, are the Red Sox playing Crisp because they want him to actually play, or are they playing him because they want to showcase him as trade bait? I think the latter. But Nick pointed out that the Red Sox are better with Coco than they’d be without him, unless they could get something really awesome in return. Personally, I’d like to see Ellsbury playing every day and hitting leadoff. I concede that Coco could easily nab 50 starts this year, since JD Drew and Manny Ramirez are likely to miss at least that many games, but the problem is that he’ll have a really bad attitude about it if he’s so clearly the 4th outfielder. Unfortunately, I think the Red Sox are slowing Ellsbury’s development by giving Crisp so much time.
7:40. I really enjoy watching Manny’s at-bats. He’s such a fighter! He’ll foul ‘em off all day. And though he just struck out swinging, it seems like Manny’s having a rather good start to the season (unlike the previous two Aprils).
7:43. It’s 50 degrees in Boston, but Kevin Youkilis is sweating bullets. I love it.
7:47. I didn’t realize that Jose Molina, Benji Molina, and Yadier Molina were all brothers, so when Jose just came up to bat I was like, “What’s up with all these catchers named Molina? Did Puerto Rico pass a law or something?” But yeah, brothers. All catchers. All made it to the majors. Weird. And not surprisingly, the three are the only brothers to ever all play catcher.
7:49. Ha. In just the time it took me to type that, Clay struck out the young Yankee rookie shortstop. Take that, newb!
7:53. Varitek hits a slap ball to start the bottom of the third. It’s an easy out at first. No Red Sox have reached base yet.
7:54. Sean Casey up. Very good to have a .300-hitting 1B on your staff when your regular 1B came up as a 3B and your regular 3B is suddenly out with a bum thumb. (That rhymes!) As Me and Pedro notes, the Red Sox would be stupid to look for a 3B under these circs. Way to go, Buster Olney.
7:57. Casey and Lugo go down quietly. Wang has retired the first 9 batters he’s faced. How insanely hot is Chien Ming Wang to start this season?
8:00. This is a bizarrely quick game for Sox-Yanks. They had a graphic at the start of the game saying that the average time of a Sox-Yankees game since 2006 is three and a half hours. But only an hour has passed, and it’s already the 4th inning! Of course, there have been no walks and only one hit in the game. That helps. (By contrast, the Sox games against the Tigers went on forever. They were endless. I think Kenny Rogers and Jon Lester are both still actually pitching somewhere.)
8:02. Clay versus A-Rod again. Another pretty curveball, another strike to start the at-bat. A-Rod takes a casual swing at the second pitch and flies out to center to end the inning.
8:05. Okay, exactly an hour since the start of the game. Bottom of the 4th kicking off here. Rain is still coming down. Coco makes contact three timess—two foul balls, and then a pop out to Cano. Players have previously said that trying to hit Chien Ming Wang is like trying to hit a bowling ball. I feel like a bowling ball wouldn’t have gone so high in the air.
8:08. Wang has gone to a 3-1 count against Pedroia. This is as vulnerable as he’s seemed so far. But Pedroia grounds to third—A-Rod dives! He has it! Throws to first! And the throw is high! Giambi has to leap off the bag RIGHT at the exact moment Pedroia is crossing the bag. He’s safe. Boston has its first baserunner.
8:09. But my God, they’ve barely finished the replay before David Ortiz GIDPs. He is having a truly awful start to the season. I’ve just been waiting for it to end, but—it’s not ending. “It’s so fluky and strange,” I keep telling myself. “It can’t possibly last.” But somehow, it does happen. Night. After. Night.
8:12. Buchholz back on the mound. But The official scorer has changed his or her mind about Pedroia’s single—they’re calling it an error on A-Rod now. The Sox announcers sound pissed for Pedroia, but I think we all know why the scorer has made this change. I’m not going to say anything right now, though.
8:13. Baseball Reference has looked up the last time the Red Sox sent a rookie to the mound against the Bombers with fewer than 6 major league starts was in 1965. Who was it? Maybe you’ve heard of him. Guy named Jim Lonborg. Of course, I remember back in 2006 when David Pauley, fresh from AA ball, had to take the hill at Yankee Stadium for a Boston squad decimated by injuries. I feel like that takes slightly more balls.
8:15. Buchholz issues his first walk of the night to Matsui.
8.18. Uh oh. Clay has gone to another 3-ball count…and he’s walked Posada.
8:20. Giambi now also has a 3-1 count, after Clay started him off with a first-pitch strike. I can’t believe Giambi is only 37. It seems like he should be older than that…but maybe that’s just in steroid years.
8:21. Giambi now has a 2-2 count. Thanks, NESN scoreboard man. I wondered when I missed that third ball. Ah! And Clay strikes him out. Big K for the skinny rookie, to get the first out of the inning.
8:22. But on the next pitch, Catcher Molina drives in the first run of the game. One out, two in scoring posish.
8:23. Joe Girardi looks sort of like Andy Pettitte’s cousin, or something.
8:24. OOF. Another 3-1 count! Now against this rookie shortstop Gonzalez who can’t hit for shit. And he walks him too! Time for John Farrell…ah. Here comes said pitching coach now. The convo: “Are you gonna throw strikes?” [Buchholz nods.] “Okay, cool. That’s important. And candlesticks are always nice.”
8:26. Bases loaded, one out, Melky Cabrera up. Top fifth. The rain continues to fall, and, if it’s called after this inning, it will be an official game. Apparently, Melky is a career .395 hitter with the bases loaded…that does not help my current state of mind. OOH! NICE PLAY by Sean Casey! The Mayor catches the Milkman’s liner and dashes back to first to double off Gonzalez. Casey has officially just bailed out Clay Buchholz’s ass. Three walks and a double—Clay was lucky to get out of it giving up only one run.
8:30. Wang re-takes the hill for the bottom of the fifth. Manny is up to lead off the inning. As a Sox fan, it really bugs me how often David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez seem to have gotten split up lately. Because of David’s struggles, he’s often seemed to be the last out of the inning. And when Manny and David are hitting in different frames, they don’t offer each other the sort of protection in the lineup that the Sox fan likes to see. Manny hits a deep fly ball to Abreu…at least it wasn’t a weak grounder or a pop-up. (We have to be thankful for the little things, right?)
8:33. Another deep fly to Abreu from off the bat of Youkilis. Six fly ball outs, five ground ball outs, two K’s.
8:34. Now here comes red-hot JD Drew, or rather, Poo. First pitch, ball. Second pitch—-deep fly, back to Abreu again—and it’s GONE! No, Abreu caught it. No! Abreu didn’t! It IS gone! Tie game, and good bye no-hitter. Yay, Poo!
8:35. I see Mike Timlin is back from the DL. He always catches home runs to the bullpen in a towel. I have no idea why.
8:36. Another loud out off the bat of Varitek, this time to center field. I hope this is a sign of things to come in the sixth.
8:38. How will Clay fare now that the game is tied? Let’s find out. Cano is up and Clay starts him off with a ball. Then, a simply gorgeous curve drops in for strike one. I feel like Clayton Kershaw and Clay Buchholz should get together and have a curveball beauty pageant, so we could all decide once and for all whose stuff is sexier. Cano flies out to center.
8:40. Clay goes to an 0-2 count against Abreu before getting him to hit a chopper back to the pitcher. Buchholz is working quickly (as is Wang) which I always like to see. I noticed when I was at the park on Wednesday night that young hurler Jon Lester was working veeeerrrrry sloooowly. Whenever Lester works slowly, it’s a bad sign, and Wednesday night was no exception. But does he work slowly because he can’t find a rhythm, or does he fail to find a rhythm because he’s working slowly? I don’t know, but I wish he would figure it out. I figured he was due for a breakout year, and he’s on my fantasy team.
8:43. Another beauty of a curve from Clay to flummox A-Rod. It sails up almost above his head before diving back down to belt-level, and A-Rod stares dumbly as strike two crosses the plate. Unfortunately, A-Rod slaps the next pitch to third base, where Youk seems to almost get a glove on it but can’t quite stop it. Single.
8:45. Mike Timlin is up and warming as Clay throws ball one to Matsui—Matsui knocks a wall-ball double off the scoreboard. Nice play by Manny, who barehands it and gets it back in quickly to stop A-Rod at third base. It took a bit of a weird carom as it came off the wall, but Ramirez seemed to have no problem with it. John Farrell trots back out for another conference with Buchholz as Posada steps into the box. A lot of kid gloves where Kid Clay is concerned.
8:48. Posada takes a rather chiropractic whiff at a changeup, shakes his head at himself, and then grounds weakly to Pedroia to end the frame. Clay gets out of another jam. Will he be back out to start the 7th? I have no idea what his pitch count is. He seems like he’s been efficient, but on the other hand, he’s had a couple of jams in the last two innings and I know the Sox brass wants to be extra super-duper careful with his workload.
8:52. Wang, on the other hand, has only thrown 52 pitches to start his half of the sixth. That’s….insane.
8:54. Seriously, that was a two-minute half inning. If you had blinked, you would have missed it. Wang mows down the Red Sox without emitting one single bead of sweat. Kevin Youkilis, I hope you are taking notes.
8:56. Okay, Clay seems to have thrown 98 pitches. And I can tell you right now he’s out of the game. The guy on the mound is Timlin, who is even from this far-away view clearly twice as wide as the slender rookie.
8:57. What a way to come back from the DL. One day you’re tossing rehab stints in Rhode Island, the next you’re facing off against Jason Giambi and the rest of this star-studded New York lineup. But of course, Timlin is as old as the hills and has ice water in his veins. To make room for him, Bryan Corey got DFA’d.
8:59. Motherf***er! Giambi, on a full count, tattoos a thigh-high fastball into the centerfield seats. Molina promptly hits a gapper to center, too. Terry….(she said warningly)….why did you take out Clay Buchholz?!?! Come on, 98 pitches isn’t that many.
9:01. I can only assume that Tito was saving Okajima for the later innings. He only threw 2 pitches last night. And he’d probably rather rest Papelbon, who had to get four outs in that game.
9:02. Posada bunts Molina to third. I can’t imagine the Yankee DH dropping down a bunt while Joe Torre was skipper, can you?
9:03. Francona has had enough. Time for Okajima. Eeeeverybody sing!
9:04. Um, note. Please turn down the volume on your computers before playing that audiofile.
9:06. Okajima gives up a fly ball which allows Molina to score on the sacrifice. So New York is now up 3-1, and Wang has only thrown56 pitches. At this rate, he can definitely finish the game. And probably with fewer pitches than in his previous outings! Not good news for Sox fans.
9:10. A nice strikeout of Cano ends the inning. But the Red Sox will now have to go back up against Wang—and so far they’ve only had two baserunners and one hit.
9:13. Bottom of the seventh and this game is barely 2 hours old. I’m still a bit flabbergasted by that.
9:14. Wang goes to a rare (for this game, anyway) full count against Pedroia. He hits another one over to A-Rod, but A-Rod has no problem handling this one.
9:16. God, another terrible at-bat from Ortiz, who grounds weakly to first on a 1-0 count. Come on, David. Make him throw a strike first, at least.
9:19. A called third strike on Manny Ramirez to end the 7th. Manny argues, but it’s clear as day—it was a perfectly placed pitch on the outside corner, just painting the black. It’s rare that Manny Ramirez gets struck out looking, but Wang has got something really special going on tonight.
9:22. Here comes Javier Lopez to pitch for the Red Sox, a lefty. This does not fill me with confidence.
9:23. Whoopsies! Pedroia backs up a play at first (Casey flips to Lopez for the out) and just takes a spill. Just slips on the grass and falls on his butt for no apparent reason. That’s embarrassing.
9:25. Apparently, Dustin isn’t the only one having trouble staying upright. Dontrelle Willis has left the game after slipping on the mound and hyperextending his knee—in the very first inning. The Tigers are playing the White Sox (again!?) in Chicago, where it is also drizzling.
9:28. Lopez is basically fulfilling my rather dismal expectations. Single, fielder’s choice, single. Bah. Last year, I noticed that Lope—despite being a “lefty specialist”—has actually allowed a higher BA against lefties. Nonetheless, my Baseball Prospectus Annual tells me not to worry about this. But why, BP, why?
9:30. A four-pitch walk to Giambi and Terry comes to collect what’s left of Lopez. Now he’s bringing out Aardsma. What is Terry Francona trying to do to me?
9:33. Bases loaded, two outs. Sox down by two. Molina is up again—it seems like Molina is always up, tonight. And always hitting. Is it because I semi-mocked him for having two brothers who are also catchers? I’m sorry, Jose! It wasn’t funny! I take it back!
9:35. I need hardly explain why this game is so important. The Sox and Yankees will meet 18 times this year. I expect the race for the Division title to be very close. Every single one of these games could be the decisive margin in who wins the AL East, and if the Tigers manage to somehow rebound from their dismal start, it’s entirely conceivable that the Wild Card will go to the AL Central this year. What if we lose this one game and then we don’t get to go to the playoffs at all?!? Fret, fret. Worry, worry. It’s only April, you say? Silence!
9:37. Aardsma gets the K! Yanks leave ‘em full. phew.
9:40. The commercial breaks are longer than Wang’s innings right now. Strike one to Youkilis, and Joba is warming up in the pen. It’s the bottom of the 8th and Wang is still in the 70′s for pitch count. Leave him in, Girardi! Too few complete games these days.
9:42. A nice running play by Abreu to snag a soft liner off the bat of Youkilis. Drew steps in. Come on, Drew! Hit an 8-run homer! He’s swinging such a hot bat right now, I almost think he could do it. Instead, it’s just a big fly ball to Matsui.
9:43. Jerry Remy echoes my thoughts—since when is Wang a fly-ball pitcher? This just feels all weird.
9:44. Yet another fly ball out off the bat of Varitek. A 1-2-3 inning and Wang has thrown only 78 pitches.
9:46. Top half of the 9th and Aardsma is back out for Boston to face the rookie Gonzalez. There’s no longer anyone warming in the bullpen for New York. I read that Clay Buchholz watched some tape of Beckett facing the Yankees to prepare for this game; I hope he’s kept his eyes wide open tonight, because Wang has given a master class.
9:47. Okay, Aardsma coughs up a leadoff double. Why did they designate Bryan Corey and not David Aardsma? Just to torment Red Sox fans and give us something to call into WEEI about tomorrow?
9:49. A sacrifice single from Melky Cabrera moves Gonzalez to third. Cano takes ball one, who then grounds out. Gonzalez has no chance to try for home.
9:51. I know it’s only a two-run ball game, but it feels like it might as well be a six-run game with the way Wang is throwing tonight. I almost don’t even care that my Red Sox are so clearly going to lose—after watching such shitty pitching in the Sox-Tigers series it’s sort of refreshing to see such a dominant, efficient performance from Wang. Even if it is happening against my own team.
9:52. Oy! Abreu gets a single as Dustin Pedroia has to make a long throw to first. The run scores in the back door. Dang.
9:55. Fenway has risen to its feet to urge on Aardsma, who has a 1-2 count against A-Rod with two down in the top of the 9th. Aardsma, for his part, keeps throwing over to first to keep Abreu on the bag. The game has slown down considerably since Clay Buchholz exited. It seems like the Red Sox are constantly on the field. A-Rod grounds out to end the inning, and the Sox will now come up for a final time to see if they can’t score at least three runs to keep the game alive.
9:58. Carl Crawford just hit his 1,000th hit. This reminds me that when I was at Fenway on Wednesday, Ivan Rodriguez smacked his 2,500th hit. I’ve heard a lot about Derek Jeter’s 2,500th, but I didn’t even know Pudge was close.
10:00pm. Sean Casey hits the 37th fly ball out of the night to start off the 9th.
10:02. It pains me to admit this, but Julio Lugo is one of the better hitters for the Red Sox right now. So why does it always seem as if he’s GIDPing? Maybe it’s like some sort of rift in the time-space continuum, and even when he gets a hit, the light reflects off of his body such that it looks to the naked eye like a double play. He grounds out here for out #2.
10:03. Ooh! Coco drops down a surprise bunt and is easily safe at first. I wonder why the Sox didn’t try this sooner. They’ve got tons of speed on the team right now with Lugo and Crisp and Ellsbury. If not for Poo’s solo homer, that bunt could have been very controversial. As it is, it’s just a footnote. Such is the gulf between a one-hitter and a no-hitter.
10:05. Mariano gets up in the pen as Pedroia steps in. Coco has taken second but the Yankees don’t care. Pedroia hits a rocket into left field, but Matsui barely has to move to get his glove on it. And in a quick three hours, the Yankees have taken this round.