Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston 7, Los Angeles of Anaheim 6

Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. Last night, the Red Sox took the field having won five straight, but playing on the 15th consecutive day, with a clubhouse that's been fighting the flu, without their starting third baseman (on the DL), starting catcher (fighting the flu) and, just before game time, scratching their ace with a stiff neck. And when the Angels took a 5-1 lead in the fourth, it really seemed like it was not going to be Boston's night.

Final score: 7-6, Red Sox. This team has had a great stretch. And that game had several interesting storylines.

Jacoby Ellsbury:

Ellsbury led off the game with a HR. In the sixth inning, he hit another, to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. In the eighth, with the game tied, he led off with a beautiful drag bunt past the pitcher's mound toward the second baseman, and then scored from first on Dustin Pedroia's double. (Some players don't score from first on that ball, as the corner is short and the ball took a good hop back to Anderson. Some players score on a close play. Ellsbury scored without a throw.)

I don't think he can sustain it at this level, but as a Major Leaguer (64 games, 53 regular season, 11 post-season) Jacoby Ellsbury is now hitting .342/.417/.518/.935 with 19 steals in 19 tries and 6 HR in 193 at-bats (approximately 223 plate appearances). If he sustained that for a 700 plate appearance season, he'd finish with 207 hits, 38 2B and 19 HR. He'd score 148 runs and steal 60 bases.

As I said, I don't think that he's as good as he's played so far (that's not an insult - there are fewer than 30 players in Major League history who were as good as he's been so far), but he's been more than very good in his Major League career. If he were actually to sustain that for the entire season, he's a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award, and a real legitimate MVP contender.

Julian Tavarez:

Tavarez was the goat in the last loss, as he couldn't stem the tide after the Red Sox came back from a big deficit in New York against the Yankees. Last night, he entered the game with 1 out and 1 on in the 5th, with the team already facing a 5-2 deficit, and held the line through the sixth. He was bailed out on the other end by Okajima, but he prevented the Angels from scoring and finished the "starter innings" without things getting worse.

Hidecki Okajima:

Came in with two on and no one out in the 7th, facing the heart of the Angels lineup, and retired Guerrero, Anderson and Hunter without allowing a run. He did allow a pop-fly HR to tie the game in the 8th, but his performance in the 7th was critical, and he did a better job on the night than his ERA for the game (5.4) would indicate.

Kevin Youkilis:

With the team looking to scratch out runs against Weaver, David Ortiz singled in Dustin Pedroia, who had doubled, in the fifth, making the score 5-3. Manny Ramirez hit a high fly ball past the Pesky pole that sliced towards the stands, but didn't slice quite far enough, and Guerrero caught it at the wall. Five pitches later, Youkilis drove the ball into the monster seats to tie the game.

Dustin Pedroia:

His double in the fifth set up the rally which overcame the big early deficit. His double in the eighth drove in the winning run. He's now hitting .364/.418/.523/.941 for the season.

Jonathan Papelbon:

Three up, three down, two strikeouts in the ninth, as he continues to dominate.

There are a lot of nights during the baseball season where the story crystallizes early, and the game is, or feels, essentially over after the third inning. And most of the time, if it feels over early, it ends up over early. Last night was one of the times when what feels over early isn't actually over yet...

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