Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A frustrating night in the fens

In the course of a 162 game season, you're going to get some frustrating evenings. Last night was one of them. With Bronson Arroyo out-pitching Roy Halladay over 7 innings, with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz both hitting mammoth home runs, the Red Sox went to the bullpen with 6 outs to get and a 2-run lead to protect. The lead lasted 2 batters, as Alan Embree came in and served up single-HR to tie the game. The bottom of the 8th featured a single-pitch out to Jay Payton with 2 on and 2 out. Payton came into the game for defensive purposes in the top of the 8th, replacing Manny, who may have had a better chance of getting the go-ahead run in. Keith Foulke struggled again in the 9th, giving up 1 run, and the Red Sox ended up falling 4-3, the last out coming off the bat of Ramon Vazquez with a runner at 3rd.

One of frustrating aspects of the evening was that the Red Sox approach at the plate wasn't the typical Red Sox approach. Halladay faced the Red Sox in Toronto last week and threw 95 pitches through 6 innings. Last night, he entered the 7th having thrown only 66. The Red Sox went down on 3 pitches in the 4th. Now, it's true that two of them were a single, followed by a hard-hit ball that resulted in a spectacular double-play, but 3 pitch innings are rare against anyone, and virtually unheard of against the Red Sox.

There were several "second-guessable" moves, most of which I had no problem with.
  • In the 7th, Kevin Millar was hit by a pitch and David McCarty ran for him. No problem with that whatsoever. McCarty's a better 1st baseman, marginally faster, and the spot in the order's unlikely to come up again.

  • In the top of the 8th, Alan Embree came in for Arroyo, who'd gone 7 innings and only given up 1 run. Again, no problem with it. Arroyo had thrown 103 pitches, and he's very seldom gone beyond that. First up in the 8th was Corey Koskie, who'd been hammering Arroyo. No problem lifting him. No problem with bring in Embree, either. If you go to Myers, he's in for 1 batter, Koskie, and you've got to bring in Timlin or Mantei to pitch to Wells. Embree's not a lefty-specialist - he can pitch to right-handed hitters also. He happened to pitch badly last night. That doesn't make it a bad move, just a move that didn't work.

  • Jay Payton entering as a defensive replacement in the 8th. This was a bad move. It feels like over-reacting to the two balls Manny lost in the sun on Monday. Manny was two base-runners away from hitting in the 8th (which actually happened). The odds of their being a play in the top of the 8th that Payton would make and Manny wouldn't pales in comparison to odds of that spot in the lineup coming up again.

  • One of the results of the defensive changes was that you got to the 9th innings with only Doug Mirabelli on the bench. Bill Mueller was sick and unavailable, Kevin Youkilis is down in Pawtucket so they don't have to run Blaine Neal through the waiver process. (Give the GM an error on that one.) So Ramon Vazquez faced Miguel Batista with a runner on 3rd and two outs in the 9th. They didn't have another bat except Mirabelli. I probably would have hit Mirabelli there, but it's tough to complain about it too much. Vazquez and Mirabelli actually have similar career batting averages and OBPs, Mirabelli's just got more power. He's more likely to win the game in the 9th, but not necessarily a lot more likely to get the tying run in.

  • So they "wasted" an excellent start from Arroyo, and finished the home stand at 6-2 instead of 7-1. Baltimore and Toronto both moved back ahead of them in the East, but the Yankees, playing at home, with Randy Johnson on the mound, fell to Tampa Bay, so the Sox are still 3 games ahead of them.

    UPDATE: According to the Red Sox notebook in the Globe, Manny's got tightness in his quad.
    "I would love to leave Manny in," said Francona, who replaced Ramirez with Jay Payton in the top of the eighth inning of last night's 4-3 loss to Toronto. "His quad is bothering him. It was bothering him [Monday]. When he said he needs to go ice it, that's the thing to do. We didn't take him out for defense. That was health-related."

    Which gets Terry off the hook for the one "bad" managerial move of the night...



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