90-60: Yankees series redux

Once again, the boys from New York came up big and took more games than they should have. Again, the series just doesn’t worry me that much, because the Sox could have easily taken all three games, despite the lack of one Manny Ramirez in the lineup. Kevin Youkilis was also sitting yesterday, after being beaned by Chien-Ming Wang in game 2. It took a historic 8th inning from the Yankees against our best pitchers to win game 1, and game 3 came right down to the wire. If anything, the only real criticism I’ve heard people saying is that the Sox don’t have the killer instinct to win it all; and I hope, I hope that’s not the case. The guys will really ramp it up in the playoffs. Everyone does.

Some of my thoughts from this series:

Game 1 was bad, no question. To see the Sox lose that big of a lead in the 8th is enough to make you go crazy. But they did it against the best we had to offer, so I don’t have too much regret about that. Blown saves happen, even to Jonathan Papelbon. He’s still among the best closers with the fewest blown saves all year long.

Still there were bright spots. Daisuke Matsuzaka fought hard and pitched a pretty good game, though he left in the sixth. The lineup did a great job against Andy Pettite and the Yankee bullpen, and Eric Gagne got three outs without a run scoring. If Hideki Okajima‘s recent hip woes are any indication, we’re really gonna need him down the stretch.

If there was even a comparison at all, this one should demonstrate clearly that Josh Beckett (19-6) is a true Cy Young contender, while Wang is just a pretender. Beckett shut down the most potent offense in baseball, and proved that he still can be the Yankee killer that Boston signed him to be. Wang is a good, consistent pitcher, but he’s just not among baseball’s elite. He has an incredible won-loss record because he is backed by an incredible offense the past two years, not because he’s dominated lineups. Other pitchers have been more intimidating at times, but no AL pitcher has been as consistently good as Beckett has been all season, no one.

You gotta give props to Eric Hinske for this game. He did it all, in the field, at the plate, on the basepaths. That takeout of Jorge Posada at the plate was sweet, even if he was out.

Curt Schilling
(8-8) looked very good last night, but Francona stuck with him too long. I understand, you want him to have a chance at the win, and he was throwing the ball really well and all that. But all year long, Schilling has struggled in the 76-90 pitch range. Opponents are hitting .376/.398/.600 against him in that pitch range; sure, it’s a calculated risk, but you don’t take that risk in a 1-1 ballgame with Jason Giambi at the plate. I thought Tito could have pulled the trigger right then, using Javier Lopez, but 100%, no questions asked, after Giambi narrowly missed clearing the Green Monster by about two feet he should have yanked Schilling. I don’t care how much he wants to stay in the game. What is this guy thinking? Especially in September, when you have the luxury of extra bullpen arms, why would you be so greedy? It’s totally unnecessary! So Derek Jeter ends up hitting a Monster shot, and perpetuates his reputation as “Mr. Clutch”.

Despite losing the series 2-1, there are still a lot of encouraging things. We still have a 4 1/2 game lead and the magic number is below 10. Our starters showed they can hold the Yankees vaunted offense; all three guys turned in strong efforts. The inspired play of Jacoby Ellsbury is incredibly fun to watch, and I think guarantees him a starting role next season. Despite some bad baserunning in the 6th inning last night, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo and Ellsbury were causing chaos all series. They were stealing, bunting, running out grounders, and adding a lot to our game. J.D. Drew is hitting well again, and is boosting this offense. We roughed up the New York pen, and gave Mariano Rivera and half of NYC a heart attack last night in the bottom of the 9th. Our bullpen faltered once, but Mike Timlin looked good this series, particularly in game 2, when he fanned Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez back-to-back.

One negative I have to mention: I don’t see Jason Varitek sitting enough, and not because I think he should be benched. I understand how important he is to the game, and that at this point in the season, every pitcher wants him behind the plate, but his performance at the plate is indicative of his fatigue and mental drain. Give the guy a break, Terry! We need him strong for the playoffs, and Kevin Cash is not that bad.

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