Wednesday, April 19, 2006

TNB: Game 1 - Tampa Bay

Alrighty, something a little different now that the baseball season is a few weeks old and the NFL's second season is coming to a close. Every Tuesday night, I'll scribble down some random stuff while I watch a little baseball. No telling what will come from this, or how long it'll last, here goes TNB 1.0:

Tuesday Night Baseball: Devil Rays at Red Sox

This is the first game of a three-game series with Matt Clement facing off against former Red Sox Casey Fossum. Boston's 9-4 and the Devil Rays are 7-6. Okay, with that out of the way, let's get to it.

... Red Sox play-by-play guy, Don Orsillo, informs me that this is the first of nineteen meetings between these two teams. Why the hell do teams need to play each other 19 times? I liken this to putting your iPod on "shuffle" only to have the same group show up in like four consecutive songs. It just doesn't make sense.

... Quick quiz, guess who Joe Maddon is and win a prize.

1st Inning
If Adam Morrison was Mexican and could play second base, he'd be Jorge Cantu (Cantu's sporting a new, really bad mustache). And given that Cantu just struck out, that actually might be Morrison at the plate.

... There must be some kind of new, really weird dress code with the Devil Rays. Most teams require players to wear a suit to away games, or maybe a travel shirt or something. 1B Travis Lee follows Cantu in the order and his new hairdo makes him look like Willie Aames in Zapped (yep, the one with Scott Baio and a lot of gratuitous nudity). Oh yeah, Lee walked.

... Next up, Willie Aames on steroids, a.k.a. Johnny Gomes who promptly hits a single to left.

... Wily Mo Pena makes a catch on the warning track for the third out. I know this doesn't seem noteworthy, but anybody who's seen Pena play this year knows that this is like hitting a ninth inning, two out game-winning grand slam. By the way, if Clinton Portis and Sean Taylor had a kid it would look like Wily Mo.

… Two up, two down. Casey Fossum starts David Ortiz off with an ephus pitch. He's trying to sell it as a curveball, but whenever a pitch doesn't hit 55 on the radar gun and your name isn't Wakefield, it's an ephus. Ball one. Papi grounds out to end the inning.

2nd Inning
… Manny comes to the plate having yet to get an extra base hit. He ends up flying out to center, but the upside is that with his dreads, he looks like the Predator with blond highlights. Nice touch.

… Mike Lowell slaps a single to center and he's followed by Dustan Mohr. Mohr is the guy Boston called up when Coco Crisp went on the DL. Other than a homer he hit last week, as best I can tell, Mohr is Francona's replacement for Bellhorn. At one point during the last series against the Mariners, I really think Mohr had more strikeouts than at-bats. Okay, as I'm typing this Mohr gets a broken bat single to right (so in addition to not being able to hit, Adam Morrison apparently can't field either). My bad.

… Now batting: Wilbert (this is my clever nickname for Wily Mo). Fossum walks the bases loaded. SS Alex Gonzalez bats with the bases loaded. Given the fact that Gonzalez leads the league in weak grounder back to the mound, I'm going to go ahead and predict a weak grounder back to the mound. And … Gonzo lines out to right. (And as long as we're talking about league leaders, the Red Sox are tops in leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run.)

3rd Inning
… With two outs and one of the most ridiculous shifts ever (the Devil Rays had four outfielders, the shortstop playing behind the second base bag, in addition to the second baseman playing in shallow right field. And when I say four outfielders, I mean the third baseman is playing left field just shy of the warning track), Papi hits a ball off the wall which leads to Jerry Remy predicting that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon will have a player hanging off the Green Monster in the next iteration of the shift. (The camera just shows a shot of Maddon and he's sporting the Clark Kent horn rims from the 1950s series. Solid.)

… Manny follows Papi with his first double of the season. He's now on pace for three for the season. Those, my friend, are MVP numbers.

Red Sox 1, Devil Rays 0

4th Inning
… Random question: last season Remy and Orsillo had Dan Roach doing the in-the-stands reports during the game. This year it's Tina Cervasio. She's definitely a lot easier on the eyes, but Roach offered a lot of unintentional comedy. Anybody know what happened to him?

… With one out, Dustan Mohr has another successful Little League at-bat as he pops out to second. (And if you don't know, a "successful Little League at-bat" is one where you just make contact. At a point of reference, Mark Bellhorn's SLLAB average last season was still under the Mendoza line.)

5th Inning
… Toby Hall leads off the inning with a line drive off the Green Monster and is held to a single because Manny gets the ball in so quickly to second base. For as much grief as Manny takes about his fielding, he's having a (knock on wood) solid season in the field. And other than a few glaring miscues over the years, he's been a solid left fielder (I yes I'm serious).

… Jason Varitek just got Toby Hall in a caught stealing which is almost as rare as Halley's Comet. The bonus is seeing Hall without his helmet. With frosted highlights (included his soul patch) he looks like Nick Carter 20 years and 800 hamburgers later. It's not pretty.

… Another random question: What the hell happened to Rocco Baldelli? I haven't seen that guy in two years.

… Youkilis leads off the bottom of the fifth with a BB off the Green Monster but Carl Crawford makes a nice play on the ball to hold him to a single. I'll be the first to admit that although I'm a big Youkilis fan, I wasn't sure if he'd be all that good as an everyday player. And I don't mean he'd be Kevin Millar bad, but instead he'd probably hit .260-something and have 8 or 9 homeruns. So far, he's playing a great first base and with Crisp out for the next few weeks, he's been a good leadoff hitter.

… Youk's single is followed by a Loretta lineout to left, an Ortiz lineout to right and a Manny groundout. The Red Sox leave their one millionth man on base for the season. And yes, that leads the league.

6th Inning
… Adam Morrison gets a broken bat single, his first hit of the game.

… Remy just mentions that Randy Johnson is having another shaky start. He's given up 7 runs to the Blue Jays through five innings. Remy also congratulates Pedro for his 200th win yesterday with the Mets. (120 of those wins have come with the jheri curl, by the way.)

… Clement gets a strikeout and a flyout to end the inning.

… During a game break NESN advertises the fact that they're going to show The Longest Game. Now, given that this game was 33 innings and the final was 3-2, I'm not sure this makes for compelling television.

7th Inning
… On the second pitch of the inning, Ty Wigginton takes Clement deep. This is about the time Clement usually implodes. He'll seem unhittable for five or six innings and then the wheels fall off. And right on cue, Toby Hall laces a double right down the line. Tomas Perez follows that up with a double past Youkilis and Hall scores. Clement battles back and ends the inning by striking out Adam Morrison. Shoulda seen that coming.

… Wilbert leads off the bottom of the 7th with a walk. Given that he creams fastballs about 800 feet, on average, he may see nothing but off-speed pitches for the rest of the season.

… Good omen, they just cut to a shot of the third base coaches box and no Dale Sveum. I didn't even know he'd been Wendell Kim'ed, but either way, that's good news. Seconds later, Gonzalez lays down a nice little sacrifice bunt, moving Wilbert to second. Fossum leaves for some dude named Scott Dunn.

… Youkilis walks on a wild pitch that moves Wilbert to third. You can take Devil Ray relievers out of Tampa Bay, but … well you know the rest. Loretta promptly follows the walk with a line drive into right field. At first, it looked like Adam Morrison would make a play on the ball, but it sneaks through leading to Youkilis getting thrown out at second base by the right fielder. Can't blame Youkilis, but it's still kinda embarrassing.

… Papi hits his second double of the night, and this time it's right down the left field line. With Loretta on first, the Devil Rays don't put on the uber-shift and that keeps a run from scoring. Scott Dunn is, um, done, and Shawn Camp enters the game to face Manny.

… Manny proceeds to hit a laser to right field. Inexplicably, Russell Branyon, the right fielder, is playing shallow and misplays the ball into a two-run Red Sox lead. Somewhere Lou Pinella is pulling his hair out. So now the question becomes, do you bring Clement back out for the 8th? I say "hell no," but nobody asked me. And just as I finish typing this, Mike Timlin's getting warmed up. Sounds good to me.

Red Sox 4, Devil Rays 2

8th Inning
… Well, I'm a little surprised to see Clement on the mound to start the inning. He's facing Willie Aames and walks him on four straight pitches. This is Tito Francona strategery at its best. Clement leaves for Mike Timlin. Other than the last batter – which I really can't put on the pitcher -- Clement had a great game.

… I love the fact that Timlin wears a camouflage shirt under his jersey. I think I read somewhere he does it to honor the troops, which is great, but I suspect his real reason is because he's a redneck. Just a hunch. Jonny Gomes smokes a ball off the centerfield wall. Men on 2nd and 3rd. I blame Tito.

Orsillo reads a stat that doesn't instill confidence: Timlin – 32 inherited runners; 14 of which have scored. Jeebus, Russell Branyon lines a double down the right field line to tie the game. After a groundout to the right side advancing the runner to third, the Red Sox bring the infield in with Toby Hall coming to the plate. Let me state for the record that I hate bringing the infield in. It's basically telling the other team, "please make contact on the ground and get a hit." I understand you have to do it in certain situations (like this one), but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Hall flies out to shallow left – basically where Gonzo would've been had he not been playing on the infield grass. Okay, it didn't matter because Manny still had plenty of time to make the play, but that little tidbit doesn't support my point. Timlin gets Perez to fly out to center to end the inning. (If I'm the official scorer, I give the two runs Tampa Bay scored this inning not to Clement and Timlin but to Francona. Can you do that? Add a line in the box score for manager screw-ups? Well, I don't care because I'm doing it.)

… That was weird – Orsillo was doing a promo for Foxwoods Casino and it's interrupted because Mike Lowell just banged a double off the Monster. I guess this means we need more Foxwoods promos.

Trot Nixon hits for Dustan Mohr. I don't think even Mohr would disagree with this move. Oh yeah, Julio Lugo's brother is now pitching for Tampa Bay. Seriously. And after giving up a double and a walk, Clark Kent's horn rims are out to make a pitching change.

Chad Orvella is the 18th pitcher tonight for Tampa Bay. Adam Stern, a defensive replacement last inning (which means that Manny's out of the game) is up to bunt. He gets it down, but Wigginton, the third baseman, still gets the lead runner out. Gonzales follows that up with a strikeout. Which leads to Millar Youkilis stroking a two-run two-out double, who's now hitting at .462 with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a bald-headed 27-year-old. Loretta pokes a ball through the four-hole to score Youk. You know, even though Loretta entered this game hitting .260-something, the fact that he makes a lot of contact and can make routine plays at second base makes you wonder why the Red Sox stuck with Bellhorn for so long. (Nothing like kicking a guy when he's down, right?)

Ortiz strikes out to end the inning, but that's okay because it's Johnny Papelbon time.

Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 4

9th Inning
… Papelbon gets Joey Gathright to strikeout on three pitches.

… Carl Crawford hits a touch split-fingered fastball up the middle for a single. Next up, Adam Morrison, who strikes out after seeing something like 40 pitches. (And that's a hat trick for Morrison tonight.)

… Willie Aames walks on 40 more pitches, bringing up Jonny Gomes. Papelbon walks him too. After a little mound get together, Damon Hollins comes to the plate and swings at the first pitch, which actually might have been four feet above his head. Next pitch: fastball on the outside corner for strike two. After a foul ball, Hollins hits a seed to center and Adam Stern makes an unbelievable catch to end the game. Honestly, I have no idea if he caught it – and the replay is inconclusive (where's the red flag when you need it?) – but I ain't asking any questions.

Final: Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 4

The Red Sox win their 10th game of the season, Timlin gets a backdoor win and some guy I never heard of before tonight gets the loss for the Devil Rays (although I'm pretty sure it should go to Francona).