In the words of Wayne and Garth, "Game on!"
And so it begins. The Red Sox, as you're no doubt aware, are about to embark on their second consecutive postseason, once again facing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first round. The game will begin at 10:30, and I'll be here all night. I may need some extra caffenation to make that possible, but I'm up for it. Feel free to share your thoughts on the game in the comments section. I imagine a good percentage of readers won't be getting to this until tomorrow morning, though.
Two games happened already today, with the Phillies winning their first game 3-1 on the strength of a dominant start by Cole Hamels. I don't want to overstate things too much, but Hamels might wind up being one of the most dominant figures of this postseason. That said, the Brewers countered with a guy who hasn't pitched much followed by a gaggle of relievers and the Phillies only managed three runs, all aided by Brewer miscues in the filed. I was expecting this to be somewhat lopsided in the Phillies' favor, but I'm starting to doubt that.
The Cubs... it wasn't a good night for the Cubs. Ryan Dempster seemed to be fighting nerves all night. He was all over the place with his location. I'd imagine that most people watching the game could probably tell that something wasn't right with him, whether it was physical or mental. He kept wriggling out of trouble, but it was only a matter of time before the Dodgers would make him pay, and Piniella waited the proverbial "one batter too long" to take him out. He needed to be more aggressive in getting Dempster out of there, rather than waiting until he after he gave up the inevitable grand slam (to James Loney) and then gave up a double to the next hitter. Not a great showing from Lou.
Manny Ramirez hit a home run, which I'm sure some people around these parts are furious about. Personally, I'm kind of over it: neither party was happy in the Manny situation, and now both parties are. It would have been nice if it didn't happen this way, but what's done is done. I wish him well, as long as it's not at the expense of the Red Sox.
10:07 Oh, we're starting now, apparently. We're here with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez, two guys I don't totally hate, for the most part.
10:08 Jacoby Ellsbury raps a double off the wall before I even have a chance to talk about his season. Chip Caray originally calls it "playable," only to be surprised as it continues to carry.
10:10 John Lackey has an odd playoff beard going on. He's a weird-looking dude. He reminds me of someone, but I can't put my finger on it . . .
10:12 After Youk makes an out, we get our first FrankTV ad of the game! Frank Caliendo as Bush parodies the sheer number of ads: "If you electificate me to a third term, I promise even more Frank TV ads. Until you throw up." Doesn't make me want to watch the show or anything, but it's a start towards making me not totally hate him.
10:15 Lester takes the mound against Chone Figgins. Looked like TBS showed the wrong stat line just now.
10:19 Mark Teixeira takes his first at-bat with a man on. Teixeira, with good reason, scares me more than anyone on the Angels, including Vlad. I really hope he doesn't wind up as a Yankee or Oriole next season. Sure enough, he knocks a base hit.
10:20 Lester exploits Vlad's "swing at everything" tendencies, gets him to pop up on an eye-high fastball, bringing up the kind-of-overrated-but-also-simultaneously-underrated Torii Hunter.
10:22 Lester seems to be having trouble locating against righties in the early going, everything is inside. He walks Hunter to load the bases. The trend continues against Howie Kendrick . . .
. . . who grounds out to Lowell. Lester escapes!
10:27 J.D. Drew's first at-bat. This could determine the whole series!
He grounds out - results inconclusive.
10:29 Now it's Bay's first postseason at-bat ever. He's going to have to hit a home run and get on base three times to keep pace with Manny . . . he strikes out, but Manny grounded into a double play in his first at-bat. Bay comes out ahead so far!
10:31 Lowell lines out - he looked a little rusty on those first two pitches.
While there's a lull, I'll talk about what some people are concerned over regarding young Lester, namely his home-road split. The thing about road numbers is that they're essentially a loose combination of several one- and two- game samples. If you look at his starts this year, you'll notice that of the road games, a few stand out. He pitched poorly in Japan, Minnesota, Toronto twice, and Houston, and "lost" in Oakland and Chicago. But the game is in Anaheim. Unless he just hates hotel rooms, I can't imagine it's really indicative of anything. Maybe I'm just rationalizing, I dunno. His numbers are thrown off by a few scattered disaster starts, is what I'm saying. He just had an inconsistent year. I'm still confident.
10:35 Craig Sager is wearing a bright salmon-pink blazer. He makes his first appearance to deliver the first mention of Lester's battle with cancer. It's easy to take this for granted watching Lester all the time, but it really is a remarkable story, when it comes right down to it.
10:40 Something weird about seeing an ETrade ad these days.
10:42 Lackey hits Lowrie, which is fine if it gets him on base. In case you're wondering, yes, I have tabs open right now in Firefox to baseball-reference.com, baseballprospectus.com, and fangraphs.com. I'd be lost without them.
10:43 ... but not as lost as Varitek looked trying to bunt just now. Yeesh.
Lackey with the kick save on the ground ball by Varitek, a great slide by Lowrie keeps them out of the double-play. Ellsbury then grounds one up the middle which Kendrick makes an amazing running backhanded shovel-flip on.
10:46 This is the second Pedroia at-bat, and neither Caray nor Martinez has brought up the MVP race. Did the hype peak too soon? Are we doomed to another year of Justin Morneau?
10:47 Mike Scioscia will always remind me of The Simpsons - his cameo doesn't really translate to text, but you probably know what I"m talking about.
10:51 Caliendo also does ads for Dish Network "turbo HD." He just did an imitation of ... someone. I'm not sure who it was supposed to be like at all.
10:54 Lester is once again throwing a little wild to Figgins, which is probably not necessary. He strikes him out, though, so it must be working.
10:56 Garret Anderson just keeps hanging on, huh. I keep expecting him to be done, but then he's now 2 for 2 tonight.
10:59 Caray and Martinez are really talking up the idea of Lester getting stronger as the game goes on, and really talking up Varitek's influence. Martinez is an ex-catcher, and he's giving some actual insights into the psychology of pitch calling. Tim McCarver is also an ex-catcher, and he's never said anything this lucid on Fox. I'm impressed, and a little surprised. Martinez practically calls pitches along with Varitek, and the strategy worked as Lester strikes out Teixeira. Wow.
11:01 Ah, the first mention of Vlad's postseason struggles on the evening. I don't think Vlad is a choker at all, I just think he's never been completely healthy for the Angels at all, and those many nagging injuries take their toll by the time October rolls around. If they could afford to rest him more during the season, it might be less of an issue, I would think.
Lowrie boots a routine grounder. Ruh-roh . . .
11:05 Sure enough, Hunter knocks in the game's first run on a clean single that drops in front of Bay. The scouts all said Lowrie was a defensive liability at short, but we didn't listen. Inning's over now.
11:07 Complaining about the frequency and ridiculousness of ED ads is a little like complaining about the wetness of water, but I really would be happy never to hear "Viva Viagra" again.
11:09 Youks comes back with the leadoff single. On more than one occasion have I referred to Youkilis as "Mr. May" in private conversation, but I was delighted to be wrong this year.
11:10 Bay is Canadian, and presumably he played hockey at one point in his youth. So why is he of all people among those not rocking a playoff beard?
He might want to think about doing something to change his luck as he's now struck out twice.
11:13 I guess I'm concerned about what to expect from Lowell in the longer term, here. He's going to have hip surgery, and then... what? I don't think I've even heard of someone else having a torn labrum in their hip. Still 1-0, by the way, in case you're reading this on your computer and not watching on TV, listening to the radio, or checking MLB.com's Gamecast.
11:19 Sure, now Jed Lowrie can play perfect shortstop.
11:22 The middle innings are a good time to talk about this - despite the fact that he got so many saves, K-Rod really didn't have that great of a year. He's always walked a lot of guys, but this year, his strikeout rate went way down while the walks held steady. Not a good combination for sustainable success, and true to form, he may have saved a bunch of games, but he also blew seven opportunities, which is kind of a lot. Only two AL relievers blew more.
11:25 Caray just did the classic radio trick of making me think someone had hit a ball harder than he really did with a "Swing and a drive!" line about a Varitek fly ball that didn't even make the warning track. I think I hate him right now.
11:28 NOW they're talking about Mr. Heartandsouloftheteam Dustin Pedroia. Somehow this is the first time I've heard that his teammates refer to him as "El Caballito," the "Little Horse."
Buck calls Ellsbury's stolen base, but El Caballito lines out to Gary Matthews Jr. Let the record show that Gary Matthews Jr. still kind of isn't very good.
11:31 These are some really boring, nondescript ads by the way.
11:33 Lester really is pitching well, I hope that doesn't get lost should this score somehow hold up.
Buck Martinez once again with in-game strategy 101 - I feel like a rube for finding it interesting.
11:35 Wonderful, now we get the story of how Teixeira was originally drafted by the Red Sox, who then couldn't sign him. It's always seemed like a "He-said/He-said" kind of thing to me, but who really knows. I love Wikipedia's take on the events:
In 1998 the Red Sox drafted Teixeira out of Mount St. Joseph high
school in Maryland in the 9th round. Then something between the team
and Teixeira happened and he walked away from the Red Sox's contract
worth about 1.5 million and went to college at Georgia Tech.
Meanwhile, Teixeira and Vlad have just collected back-to-back singles.
11:38 Lester induces a weak ground ball to get out of it. This is a great game so far.
11:41 Ortiz just popped one up, and looks furious with himself. Again, hey, the Angels' bullpen is all reputation at this point.
11:46 BAY GIVES THE RED SOX THE LEAD! WEE BAY! ROBOCOP!
Remember when I was making fun of him for not growing a beard? Yeah, I was wrong about that.
11:47 Another thing I want to make sure doesn't get lost in the shuffle, Mike Lowell has hit the ball hard twice, just once directly at Garrett Anderson and just now he was robbed by Teixeira.
I should explain: "Wee Bay" may sound a little Chris Berman, but it's a reference to Roland "Wee Bey" Brice, a drug soldier The Wire who was a ruthless assassin in the Barksdale organization. It's meant as a compliment. "Robocop" is because Bay kind of looks like Peter Weller.
11:51 We get our first shot of Papelbon. There's a belief that he had an off year, but - anecdotally, anyway - I'd say there was as much luck as anything involved. For example, he had a 12% infield hit rate, which is ridiculously high - most guys, including notorious groundballers like Derek Lowe or Brandon Webb are at 5-7%. His ERA was artificially inflated by that last outing against the Yankees, where he was pitching in the rain in a meaningless game. Stop worrying about the guy.
11:54 Lester is feeling it now that he's got a lead - he strikes out the side.
11:59 How did I not realize until now: no Dane Cook this year! And it doesn't even seem like they're showing us 40,000 "Only One October" ads this time, either.
Of course as I write that, they show one, with one of the kids from Old School talking about the Cubs and Dodgers.
12:00 Which reminds me, if I'm a Cubs fan, I can't be feeling too good right now - there's a lot of pressure on Carlos Zambrano, and he's not exactly a picture of stoic emotional consistency. Plus there are lingering questions about the condition of his arm.
I swear I'm hearing "Let's Go Red Sox" chants at Anaheim.
12:03 Gary Matthews misplays an Ellsbury liner into a triple (oh, wait they give him an error) and we hear the "Gary Matthews Jr is one of the best outfielders" or some such nonsense. According to John Dewan's plus-minus system, a/k/a the first fielding metric I could Google, the answer is: not so much.
12:06 Our first mentino of "Pedroia for MVP." I'm a little surprised. Could be that Chip is not a believer.
Also, Buck is emphasizing the first syllable in "Ortiz" all of a sudden, which sounds kind of funny.
12:08 Lackey is out and Darren Oliver, the man who the Red Sox got for Carl Everett, is in. The Angels used to roll without a lefty in their pen, which I respected. Oliver is not really great against lefties or righties, really, but he's okay, I guess.
I think too much emphasis is put on which hand a guy uses, though - if someone is more effective against lefties, why should it matter if he happens to be righthanded?
Again, I'm an idiot, though, as Oliver strikes out David Ortiz and stranks two runners.
12:17 Sorry for the delay, I was watching Sarah Palin struggle to name a Supreme Court case other than Roe V. Wade. Gotcha, indeed.
12:22 Oh, jeez. Caray and Martinez are overall pretty good, even though Caray has some trouble picking up the ball once it's in play. But saying things like "the only thing (about Lester) that's wrong is how he's listed in the media guide - he is bigger and stronger than that."
The 2-1 lead feels a lot more comfortable than it should, though.
12:24 So hey, Caliendo does Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. And Andy Rooney. How unique and original!
12:32 Bay hits a 2-out double off Scot Shields, who's been owned by the Red Sox in his career. Earlier today I said "He's going to have to hit a home run and get on base three times to keep pace with Manny." So, uh, there you go.
12:35 Oh, boy. Lowell checks his swing, grabs his hip, grounds out and limps his way up the line. He's probably done for the night.
12:38 Masterson is in for Teixeira/Vlad/Hunter with a one-run lead. Huge vote of confidence for the kid. I wonder what will happen to him in 2009.
In 2008, though he just gave up a bloop hit to -- NO! ELLSBURY WITH AN AMAZING CATCH!
12:42 Masterson surrenders a hard-hit single to Vlad. This really should be two men on right now.
Masterson surrenders another blooper, which is just out of the reach of Youkilis, but then Youk nabs Guerrero trying to advance to third. Masterson by trade is supposed to be a ground-ball pitcher, but at the major-league level that hasn't played out quite according to the script. He's certainly benefiting from the work of his defense tonight.
In case you were wondering, Lowell is still in there.
12:54 Top of the 9th, meaning this live blog will soon be at a merciful end - Varitek successfully sacrifices, jeez.
12:58 Ellsbury, who started playing like a competent Big Leaguer again in September, comes through to deliver an insurance run with authority. They cut to Mike Lowell looking fired up.
Ellsbury and Crisp actually both played great in the last two months of the season; as it turns out, keeping both of them around was the right call.
1:05 Ortiz now has hits in 12 consecutive Division Series games - kind of an ornamental achievement, but whatever. It's 4-1 Sox.
1:09 They're talking up this Arredondo guy. I'm man enough to admit I'd never heard of him until now. Apparently Caray and Buck think of him as a future closer, which is something. He throws three pitches and gets Youkilis to ground out. Who needs K-Rod!
1:11 Now that it's 4-1, some of the drama is sucked out. But by no means am I complaining. TBS points out that the Angels lineup is 1 for 38 against Papelbon, who's in now.
They're discussing Papelbon's "overreliance on his fastball," but again, the results have been outstanding if you ignore some bouts with bad luck.
1:16 They still do the Rally Monkey? A one-out single by Kendry Morales, and they fire up the big board in Anaheim.
1:20 Papelbon strikes out Aybar and Figgins, and that's that. Boston "steals" home field, and continues to prove that the whole "home field advantage in the playoffs" thing is somewhat meaningless.
Game Two Friday night will be Daisuke v. Ervin Santana. I don't have a lot of confidence in Dice, but I'm less than impressed by Ervin, also. So who knows.
I won't be able to live blog, but perhaps I'll put up an open forum thread if anyone wants to post.
Now: I'm going to bed.