My blog will be doing double sports duty today, as of course there is plenty to talk about with the Red Sox, yet there is also a controversy on my school’s hockey team involving two players who have now been kicked off the team.
We’ll start with the Red Sox first.
After getting embarassed by the Orioles, the Red Sox have now taken two games from the Angels while showing the pitching talent Theo Epstein had promised in the off season. Buchholz was good enough on Monday night, departing the game in the sixth with a 7-4 lead, and Lester threw a gem last night, holding the Angels to one run on five hits through eight innings.
On Monday, the Red Sox batters actually looked like batters, exploding for 17 runs on 20 hits, highlighted by a seven-run sixth inning. Seven players had multi-hit nights. Mike Lowell went 4-for-4 in the DH spot with three doubles and four RBIs, Kevin Youkilis was on base five times, J.D. Drew went 4-for-5, and Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall all went yard.
It looked good.
Last night, the Red Sox struggled a bit more at the plate, but they were able to hit when it counted, batting around in a four-run eighth inning en route to a 5-1 win.
But keep this all in perspective. The Angels have the third worst pitching staff in all of Major League Baseball, besting only the Pirates and the Diamondbacks. They have the worst pitching staff in the American League. The Red Sox are still below .500 27 games into the season, and they have a tough weekend ahead of them against the Yankees. This success on the mound and at the plate will be good for the Sox’s confidence, but I still think it’s too early to think this team’s problems are solved.
And now, we move to what is being dubbed “St. Patty’s-gate”.
As some of you may know, I attend Boston University. Here, hockey rules all. We don’t have a football team or a baseball team, and our basketball team isn’t quite an elite force yet.
Our hockey team, however, has a legacy of domination. We won the national championship last year, and have won 29 of 58 Beanpots. Whenever something happens with the hockey team here, it’s big news.
So consider this. On St. Patrick’s Day, two days before an elimination playoff game that BU lost, at least four players were out drinking. Two were underage. The hockey team has a rule that players who are of age are allowed to drink only on Saturday nights. March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, was not a Saturday night.
In a subsequent bike ride that was punishment for breaking team rules, at least one of the players who was drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, 20-year-old Vinny Saponari, showed up late.
Yesterday, almost two months after St. Patrick’s Day, Vinny Saponari was kicked off the hockey team. He told the school paper that he was being dismissed for breaking team rules and then showing up late to the bike ride.
Corey Trivino, another 20-year-old player who was drinking that night, was suspended from the team. Victor Saponari, Vinny’s older brother who is of age and was also involved, was also kicked of the team for what BU coach Jack Parker called cumulative behavior unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player. Adam Kraus, a fourth player drinking that night who is also of legal age, has not been punished to date. Vinny Saponari was the only player of the four in the line-up for the playoff game two days after the drinking incident.
It’s a sad turn of events for BU hockey, as both Trivino and Vinny Saponari are valuable forwards on the team. The punishments seem to indicate that Vinny Saponari had to have done something drastically worse than Trivino, yet no information has come out yet on what that might be. The timetable also seems a bit sketchy, as it is now almost two months after the original event occurred.
I’m keeping an eye on this story as it continues to develop, but meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on the Sox’s offensive improvements and the Bruins’ playoff run. Until next time,
The Red Sox lost last night through no fault of the umpires. They failed to score runs, they failed to kill momentum, they failed to execute on big pitches. It is not my place to blame the umpires for last night’s loss, because truthfully, the Red Sox had many chances to break out in last night’s game. That said, I am extremely frustrated with Major League Baseball’s choice of umpiring crew last night.
CB Bucknor missed three calls at first base; one that went against the Angels and two that went against the Red Sox. He was in perfect position all three times; no players blocked his view of the plays. Nevertheless, Bucknor failed to notice Youk blatantly tagging Howie Kendrick out on the hip before Kendrick reached first. Later in the game, Bucknor missed his second call at first when Youk, fielding a high throw from Mike Lowell, landed on first base with the ball in his glove way before Kendrick reached first.
Bucknor struck again, this time against the Angels, when Dustin Pedroia and Chone Figgins tagged first at what appeared to be the same time. Bucknor ruled Figgins out. Angels fans promptly booed Bucknor, who may as well have been wearing an Angels hat last night. I always learned that tie either goes to the runner or the umpires choice. Perhaps Bucknor was trying to atone for his earlier calls, but nonetheless he lost fans at Angel Stadium last night.
None of these calls led to runs, so there is no reason to downplay the Angels’ victory. However, for MLB to actually allow Bucknor to umpire a postseason game is a travesty. In 2003 and 2006 Sports Illustrated polls, Bucknor was voted by players as the worst umpire in Major League Baseball. That’s twice in four seasons.
How does the WORST umpire in Major League Baseball get a postseason game? Really, MLB? There are no other umpires that could have taken his place? Worse still, Bucknor takes his spot behind the plate tonight. Josh Beckett, who already has a short temper, will surely draw issue with Bucknor’s calls. Do not be surprised if he gets himself ejected.
This is the postseason. Every call matters, yet for some reason, the Sox and the Angels will suffer the consequences of having the worst umpire in Major League Baseball making those calls. Once a single one of the calls costs either team anything, I would not hesitate to send a slew of letters Bud Selig’s way.
Both the Bruins and Red Sox will be battling against teams from Anaheim tonight. The Bruins are playing my boy Nick Bonino’s (Go BU hockey!) team, the Anaheim Ducks. Looch plays for the first time since signing a big, three year deal. The Bruins are also looking to continue their win streak post-Carolina killing.
The Red Sox begin the ALDS tonight at 9:37 p.m. ET. Jon Lester grabs the ace role for the club, taking the hill against Jon Lackey, who the Red Sox faced a couple of weeks ago.
I am feeling most confident about tonight’s game. Lester and Lackey are pretty similar pitchers on paper. Lester has a 15-8 record, Lackey is 11-8. Lester has a 3.41 ERA, Lackey has a 3.83 ERA. Lackey is 0-1 versus Boston this season.
Lester has only pitched once in an ALDS in his career and it was last year against the Angels. He gave up one unearned run, six hits and struck out seven in seven innings. Lester has also not faced the Angels this season. This is bad news for the Angels, as they still have to figure out Lester’s stuff. Lester, meanwhile, will be pitching the same game he always does.
The Red Sox have also ended the Angels season three out of the last five years. Players will downplay this. History does not matter, they’ll say. It’s all about this year. We are only focused on this game.
Baseball can be a very mental game. If players get an idea stuck in their head, they are bound to play into that idea. Thus, the Angels are bound to have more doubts than the Red Sox. The Red Sox own Anaheim in the playoffs. Of course the Angels will want to put an end to this, but the second something goes wrong, a double play ends a promising inning, a fielder makes an error, a batter strikes out with the bases loaded – those doubts will start to overwhelm Angels’ players’ heads.
The Angels have to wage a battle in their heads and on the field. The Red Sox have only one battle to worry about.
That said, I still do not believe the Red Sox have what it takes to win this series. The first two starting pitching slots are a little shaky but not horrible, yet Daisuke and Buchholz bring up a lot of question marks. Is Daisuke sharp enough to pitch well in the postseason? Can Buchholz handle the pressure of possibly pitching in an elimination game? Will we even get to Buchholz?
All of these questions will begin to be answered tonight. I’m saying Angels in 5.
People always say that Fenway Park is a magical place. Last night, Nick Green was able to experience some magic of his own en route to aiding the Red Sox in their come-from-behind win.
With two outs in the ninth and the bases loaded, Green stepped up to the plate for his first appearance in about 10 years. Since acquiring Alex Gonzalez, Green has seen limited at best playing time. As he took a few warm-up swings, I turned to my friends and said, “Perhaps if the Red Sox had played Green at all in the last month, this may be a good idea, but the game is over. He’s not fresh enough.”
It turns out I was right. Green struck out twice in the ninth. In the same at-bat. He then proceeded to take ball 4, stroll down to first, and recieve credit for the tying run. Just imagine Mike Scioscia’s face. It was great.
After the game, the media approached Scioscia, most likely tentatively as the Angel’s manager was borderline insane with anger. They asked him about the game and he retorted, “what was the count — 3-4 to Green?”
Some may call this outburst spiteful. Some may call it bitter. I still believe Mike Scoscia is a tool who fails as a manager every October, but I see where he’s coming from. The man has been almost ejected about 16 times over the course of the past 2 games. I’m impressed that he restrained himself from bursting out of the clubhouse and attacking the umpiring crew.
My friends from California are livid. They feel betrayed by the umpiring crew and now hate Nick Green.
If the Angels were going to win last night’s game, however, they should have won it long before. The Angels had every chance to win. They took leads in the 6th inning, 8th inning and 9th inning and proceeded to blow all of those leads. Alex Gonzalez’s game-winning single was a catchable ball. They made a few half-hearted plays throughout the game that ended up costing them, and now they have another loss in September. Sure, the Red Sox were lucky Nick Green ended up walking, but the Angels still had every chance to win that game.
After the game, Tori Hunter called out his teammates, saying they needed to play with more guts. They needed to have more heart.
In these past two games, the Red Sox have shown a lot of heart, a lot of guts, and the tenacity needed to win against tough teams in both September and October. Back in August, I was sure the Sox had quit for the season. They were primed for an early exit if they were going to make the playoffs at all. The pitching was falling apart, Beckett was giving up an average of 42 home runs per inning, they were not hitting, they were slaughtered by the Yankees and the Wild Card ticket was not looking good.
These past two days, the Red Sox have put two pitchers on the mound who are plagued by large question marks. Daisuke earned his second win of the season on Tuesday after returning from a three-month DL stint. Paul Byrd was coaching little leaguers on Opening Day. He did not pitch fantastically last night, but the Red Sox kept rallying behind him. They seized every opportunity they had.
In the end, that’s what makes a good playoff team. Dan Shaughnessey wrote that perhaps this team could make a run at a World Series title. I still doubt the Red Sox will go too deep into October, but at least it seems that now they are giving themselves a chance.