The Battle for Second, Part IV
As we made the depressing walk through a throng of Jays’ fans in the “Skywalk,” we were treated to chants of “We’re number two, we’re number two!”
That’s right. Monday’s 5-0 loss to Toronto, Boston’s third straight setback after taking Friday’s series opener, left the team a half a game behind the Blue Jays for second place in the American League East.
Pass the paper bags, both for wearing on my head and for emptying the contents of my stomach (i.e., incredibly overpriced Rogers Centre fare) into.
Here’s what we came away with in this game:
- Finally, manager Terry Francona relented and made his favourite player Gabe Kapler sit. Prospect David Murphy got the start in centre in Kapler’s place. I wonder what the woman wearing a shirt that said “Kaplar” on the back thought of this. (I kid you not; I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was misspelled.) I was a bit surprised to see Kevin Youkilis not get yanked after Sunday’s debacle; Wily Mo Pena obviously had a bench view after his brutal showing.
- So Youkilis, hurting back and all, was back out there. You know that artificial turf can’t be helping his back, right, Terry? I have played a couple of tourneys on that thing…believe me, it is not easy on your legs or back.
- We were treated to a very scary view of Eric “Save me room at the buffet table” Hinkse’s butt when he was warming up just a few feet from us. I’m sorry, but it’s so huge, we couldn’t help notice. I tried to avert my eyes, but it was like trying to avoid staring at a planet. Even the RotoWidow was naseauted by this image. Good thing for those paper bags.
- In the first inning, Youkilis struck out swinging and was clearly adjusting his back on the way to the dugout. Hey, Terry…are you even watching your players? The guy is hurt!
- Back to Hinske for a moment. A comment needs to be made for all those dumb-ass Jays’ fans who were booing him all series. Do you even know why you’re booing him? Here’s a guy who won Rookie of the Year for you in 2002, got hurt, had his career kind of spiral, received a reduced role and bounced around the field each subsequent season and…never once complained. I saw him many times earlier this season when he was with the Jays, and despite very limited opportunities, Hinkse always was ready to play and that is not an easy thing to do — especially when you’re used to being a starter. He did not ask for a trade, did not rock the boat (like Shea Hillenbrand, for instance), did not show up his manager (like, say, Ted Lilly). All he did was be ready to contribute when asked. Teams need players like this. So why the hell are you booing him? You should be so friggin’ lucky to get a few more players willing to put the team first like Hinske did. Okay, off the soapbox.
- Shaun Marcum really doesn’t seem to have stuff that dominant, but he had the Bosox baffled all night.
- Alex Rios was completed overswinging his first couple of at-bats against Tim Wakefield’s knuckler, but he sure made an adjustment later.
- I thought this game, pitting the unremarkable Marcum, and Wakefield, who’s struggled badly since coming off the DL, was going to be one of those four-hour 11-10 type of games. Through three innings, neither pitcher had given up a hit. Are you kidding me?
- Rios kept the no-no going with a fantastic sliding catch to rob Mark Loretta.
- The “Where’s Manny” watch continues as Trot Nixon is the third different clean-up hitter the Bosox have used in this series. But Nixon is just a shell of himself these days. He is no longer much of a power hitter, slugging barely over .400. Boston will offer him a token one-year deal, but some dumb team — the Pirates or Royals or some such organization — will probably offer him three years and the kind of money usually targeted at a real power hitter.
- Speaking of Manny, some kid behind me asks what’s wrong with Manny. Where do I start, kid?
- It’s 7:58 p.m. (game time was 7:07) and four innings are done. This simply isn’t AL ball. But it sure helps that neither pitcher has yet to give up a hit.
- In the bottom of the fifth, the RotoWidow suddenly decided she would leave a no-hitter in progress to head out the hallway. That’s not a good idea. With two outs, Jason Phillips — the goggled one himself — stroked a clean double into the left field corner to break it up.
- Wakefield then walked Russ Adams (never a good idea, considering he can’t hit his way out of a paper bag) and Rios made him pay, staying back on one of those knucklers and crushing a three-run homer to left. Poof! No-hitter gone; shutout out gone. I’m not superstitious or anything, but c’mon…clearly the RotoWidow dropped the ball on that one.
- Marcum continued to have the Red Sox off balance. He started 11 of the first 17 and 15 of the first 23 batters off with strikes, proving that the old adage, “the most important pitch in baseball is strike one.”
- With one out in the sixth, Alex Cora slaps an infield hit that Aaron Hill made a great diving stop on, but had no chance to throw him out. There goes the no-hitter on a cheesy hit. Too bad.
- After Marcum pitched around that and completed his sixth shutout inning, the RotoWidow turned to me and asked “Who is this guy?” Yes, who indeed.
- As I mentioned in my previous reports from this series, Lyle Overbay can’t be stopped right now. Hell, even a knuckleballer can’t get him off his game. In the sixth, Overbay ripped a solid line drive to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.
- Let’s give him his props: Youkilis looked much steadier in left field on Monday. Obviously, he was getting some pointers from Manny.
- We would have loved to see David Ortiz break the AL record for most home runs on the road, in this, Boston’s final road game of the season. But alas, the closest Papi came was when he launched a ball about 20 feet foul — into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre. For those of you who have never been to the snore-dome, that’s a long way up. Ortiz had one more chance, coming up with two outs in the top of the ninth, but he struck out swinging. Ah well…maybe next year. You could say that about a lot of things for the Red Sox in 2006.