6-6: Beckett dominates, Manny delivers

On another overcast day, the Red Sox faced off against the Yankees in game 2 of their first 2008 series, and won it in dramatic fashion, 4-3, after a long rain delay.

The FOX broadcast was mildly irritating. Tim McCarver was not insightful (as usual), and their scouting report of Mike Mussina (1-2) stated that he has a “resourceful changeup”. Can anyone tell me what that means? I guess everyone else’s change needs work.

Josh Beckett (1-1) came out dealing laser-guided missiles from the first pitch. His fastball sat at 93-95 mph, and he was throwing it at the knees inside and out. He also had that great 76-77 mph curve working for him, and he used it to great effect. He began with five shutout innings, making the Yankees lineup look like a bunch of little kids up there. Jason Giambi did have a well-hit fly to right in the 5th, but Fenway made sure that was an out.

Anyone else think Beckett’s out there with something to prove? After losing out on the Cy Young last season, Beckett is throwing much sharper (and harder) this year. A look at the pitch f/x data shows that he’s averaging 95.8 mph (initial velocity) on his heater this year, compared with about 94.6 mph the previous two years. That’s fine, but I’d rather he save himself for the stretch run and playoffs. I’d also like to avoid an injury to that golden arm, so it’s okay to lay off just a tiny bit, Josh.

Meanwhile, Mussina’s arm looked like a pop gun, as his fastball topped out around 86-87 mph. Still, he was effective, moving the ball around and changing speeds. He used that slow curve for a lot of strikes. The Sox threatened often in this one, but again just couldn’t convert with men in scoring position. It’s making the Sox offense one of the most frustrating to watch. Manny Ramirez finally scored a run by golfing one into the back row of Monster seats in the 5th. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the slump David Ortiz is in. He’s definitely not comfortable up there, and he’s been trying things with his stance to break out. But I’m not worried yet; there’s some signs of life. Big Papi got a hold of one in his second at-bat, but again he pulled it to right and Bobby Abreu took it in just in front of the warning track.

Beckett ran into some mild trouble in the 6th when Jose Molina and Alberto Gonzalez led off the inning with singles. Johnny Damon sacrificed them over, then Melky Cabrera got a sac fly. Beckett then threw a wild pitch, allowing the Yankees to take the lead. Unbelievably, after pitching a gem up to this point, Beckett was on the hook for the loss. If he got an L after an outing like this, I would seriously rage. But thanks to Manny’s 2-run hit in the top of the 7th, the Red Sox were able to retake the lead.

WIth Beckett taken out after 6 2/3, even with the game at 4-3, it was not a given; not with the way the bullpen has been pitching. Manny Delcarmen struck out to end the 8th. Hideki Okajima was mediocre, and it was the defense that shone to begin the inning, with a nice play by Julio Lugo in the hole and a diving grab by J.D. Drew in right. Then Okajima walked Cabrera and allowed a single to Abreu, necessitating another four-out performance by Jonathan Papelbon. Two on, two out, top of the 8th.

The problem? The rain had really picked up, and after Paps had already stepped on the mound, the umps decided to call a rain delay. It kind of let up, and Paps warmed up, only for the downpour to continue. So more waiting. Incredibly, two hours and eleven minutes later, Paps retook the mound on top of his game, and promptly struck out Alex Rodriguez on three pitches, making him look just silly with that “slutter” of his. Ouch. Then he sets the side down in the 9th, 1-2-3. That’s why we all love Papelbon, right?


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