Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mo, How the Mighty Have Fallen..

It's 6-3 in the 8th inning. The Yankees have absolutely controlled the game. A-Rod hits two off of Schilling. The bullpen (specifically, the greatest closer of all time) is rested and ready to go.

A half hour later, I'm hearing the Standells' "Dirty Water" over the Fenway loudspeakers as Hideki Okajima strikes out Kevin Thompson to end the game, as the Sox win 7-6?


I'll admit that the Sox put up a great inning against Mighty Mo that included some great at-bats, specifically by Jason Varitek (a guy I mentioned in my blog last night kills the Yankees... kills)

But a four-run lead vanishing? That's unreal.

Here's a few thoughts:

  • Mo is still Mo - but not the 1997 Mo that would saw bats like a lumberjack and end games in a matter of 30 seconds. He's not as dominant as Papelbon or as devastating as K-Rod at this point. He still is, though, a lights-out closer when used properly.
  • On that note, Mariano hasn't pitched in four days - the last time being when he gave up a game-ending walk-off HR to Marco Scutaro. Give the guy some work! His struggle locating his cutter and two-seam are directly related to his lack of work. If he was in there more, he'd have been fine last night. I'm not saying overuse him, but he needs to be out there to not only regain confidence, but also hit his stride. It's like claiming that a great hitter (let's say Derek Jeter) will get out of a slump by limiting his ABs to two or three a week. Pitchers work very similar. Get him out there!
  • Torre, for the second straight game, mismanaged the bullpen. Plain and simple. I'd have kept Pettitte out there to finish the 7th, but I'll let him slide on that one. Proctor looked good - and I would have definitely kept him in. As for Vizcaino, I'm not sure I would've let him stay in the game - especially since Bruney and Farnsworth are better pitchers with more big game experience/power and ready to go.
  • From now on, no more two inning saves for Mo. I'm sorry. It'd have to be game 7 for me to even consider it. He's still dominant and I'll never be nervous with him at the plate, but inheriting two base runners against a team with a lot of momentum and some good hitters coming up is just not the right thing to do.
  • HUGE mistake of the night: A bit overlooked due to the bullpen woes, Torre pinch ran for Giambi with Kevin Thompson as the Yanks are up 4 runs. On the very next pitch, Thompson gets out on a fielder's choice to second that even Michael Johnson couldn't have beat out. Down one? Fine. Up one? Sure. UP FOUR? Why? What's the point? We really need that fifth? I was pissed at the move from the start (an omen, I guess).
  • As for the last out of the night, you guessed it - Kevin Thompson. His presence allowed Okajima to throw A-Rod crappier pitches, one of which he swung at, and get the last out with Abreu stranded at first. Giambi may have gotten out, but it likely would've been a battle of an at-bat with Giambi's eye, as well as a possible win with Giambi's flair for the dramatic (fourth in active MLB players with most HRs in the ninth or extra innings). Ouch.

Anywho, that's life. Vonnegut would say "so it goes". All in all, a great game, and I have to tip my cap to the Sox for getting good ABs against Mo and hanging in there. Crisp and Cora didn't crush the ball or get good wood on the pitch, but they were in the right spots. A nice confidence boost for a few struggling players and this Red Sox team in general.

As for today, Jeff Karstens takes the hill against Josh Beckett. Needless to say, I'll be having 2003 WS nightmare flashbacks all afternoon if he dominates us, which seems likely the way things went last night.

With two rookies going up against two of the AL's best after that debacle last night - I can only think of one thing:

Does anyone know Roger's cell phone number?


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