Game 155 Thread – Red Sox (67-87, 5th, 25.5 GB) at Orioles (9/20/14)

No Red Sox player has as many 30 HR/100 RBI seasons as this guy (RLRS Photo).

No Red Sox player has as many 30 HR/100 RBI seasons as this guy (RLRS Photo).

First Pitch – 7:05PM

Pitchers: El Lankador! (4-7, 4.31) vs. Chris Tillman (12-5, 3.29)

Notes: De La Rosa is pitching like a guy who is cooked. The Sox have been saying that they want to see him (and others) learn to pitch a full season and that sounds reasonable. El Lankador is going to go over 160 innings for the year and that should put him in good stead as the nominal #3 starter heading into 2015.

This Day in 2004 – Red Sox 6 – Orioles 9
WP: Jason Grimsley, LP: Tim Wakefield, SV: Jorge Julio

Gotta admit, one of the fun things about doing the “This Day in 2004” thing has been seeing the names that pop up. I had not thought of Jorge Julio in many years. The middle innings were key as the O’s plated 5 in the 4th and 3 in the 5th while the Sox scored twice in the 4th, 5th and 6th innings. B.J. Surhoff and Melvin Mora homered for Baltimore while the Sox got a David Ortiz homer.

Come chat before, during and after the game about baseball, talking like a pirate and whatever shivers your timber.

Game 154 Thread – World Champion Red Sox (66-87, 5th, 26.5 GB) at Orioles (9/19/14)

The first RLRS binky goes for win number 5 tonight (RLRS Photo).

The first RLRS binky goes for win number 5 tonight (RLRS Photo).

First Pitch – 7:05 PM

Pitchers: Allen Webster (4-3, 6.02) vs. Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57)

Notes: After a couple of tough early starts Webster has shown credible control. Over his last seven starts his walk rate is 8.9%. He ain’t Koji Uehara but this is an important step for the righty who faces a big challenge with the Orioles tonight.

This Day in 2004 – Red Sox 1 – Yankees 11
WP: Mike Mussina, LP: Pedro Martinez
The Yankees broke open a close game with a five run sixth and kept adding runs en route to the comfortable victory that effectively wrapped up the AL East. Pedro was tagged with a season-high matching eight runs allowed. The Yankees slugged four homers with Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez all getting into the act.

Despite the loss the Sox still hold a 5 ½ game lead in the Wild Card chase. With two weeks left to go the Twins are on the cusp of clinching and Oakland has a three game lead on the Angels in the West. In the NL Atlanta and St. Louis are secure while the Dodgers hold a 2 ½ game lead in the West. In the Wild Card San Francisco clings to a half game lead of the Cubs and a game over Houston. San Diego (4 GB) and Florida (4 ½) both still harbor dreams.

Come chat before, during and after the game about baseball, standing in line and whatever eyes your phone.

Updating The Races

Mike Trout and the Angels secured a division crown this week (RLRS Photo).

Mike Trout and the Angels secured a division crown this week (RLRS Photo).

The weekend ahead will have great significance on who gets to keep playing baseball in October. Let’s take a walk around baseball;

American League
AL East – The Orioles have won the division.
AL West – The Angels have won the division.
AL Central
Detroit (at Kansas City)
Kansas City ½ GB (home vs. Detroit)

With the Royals still carrying a loss in a game to be concluded Monday the division is really a one game difference. It is all on the line in Kansas City this weekend though.

Wild Card
Kansas City + ½ (home vs. Detroit)
Oakland – (home vs. Philadelphia)
Seattle 1 GB (at Houston)
Cleveland 5 GB (at Minnesota)
New York 5 GB (home vs. Toronto)
Toronto 6 GB (at Yankees)

152-153 games in and nothing settled yet. It is amazing to think that the Yankee games in Boston next weekend could have meaning. Oakland is circling the drain, Seattle is on a grueling road trip (Houston then Toronto), Cleveland, Toronto and New York should be cooked but I have a feeling one of those three is sneaking in.

Big Series: Detroit at Kansas City
Probables: Justin Verlander vs. Jason Vargas, Max Scherzer vs. Big Game James Shields, Rick Porcello vs. Jeremy Guthrie

Nothing really as tantalizing as last weekend’s Felix Hernandez-Sonny Gray thriller.

Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates have a second straight over .500 season, can they add a second straight playoff appearance? (RLRS Photo).

Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates have a second straight over .500 season, can they add a second straight playoff appearance? (RLRS Photo).

National League
NL East – The Nationals have won the division.
NL Central
St. Louis (home vs. Cincinnati)
Pittsburgh 2 ½ GB (home vs. Milwaukee)

The Cards remain in good shape with no regular season games left against the Pirates this year. Barring a stumble against sub-.500 teams (the Reds, Cubs and Diamondbacks are their remaining foes) a division title is in the offing.

NL West
Los Angeles (at Cubs)
San Francisco 2 ½ GB (at San Diego)

These two clubs will do battle next week so the key now is to not look ahead and play this weekend against bad teams like they are the most important games of the year…because they are.

Wild Card
San Francisco +2 (at San Diego)
Pittsburgh – (home vs. Milwaukee)
Milwaukee 3 ½ GB (at Pittsburgh)
Atlanta 6 GB (home vs. Mets)

Not nearly as intriguing as the junior circuit race. The Brewers and Pirates are realistically playing for their spots. Pittsburgh looks unlikely to nab the home field advantage which proved so useful against Johnny Cueto and the Reds last year. As a practical matter the Brewers need a sweep this weekend.

Big Series: Milwaukee at Pittsburgh
Probables: Yovani Gallardo vs. Jeff Locke, Matt Garza vs. Edinson Volquez, Wily Peralta vs. TBA

Game 153 Thread – Red Sox (66-86, 5th, 26 GB) at Pirates (9/18/14)

Just because no one has done it in 72 years does not mean it is a worthwhile goal (RLRS Photo).

Just because no one has done it in 72 years does not mean it is a worthwhile goal (RLRS Photo).

First Pitch – 7:05 PM

Pitchers: Brandon Workman (1-9, 5.27) vs. Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.92)

Notes: With a loss Workman would join Danny MacFayden of the 1932 Sox as the only pitchers in club history with ten or more losses and one win or less. MacFayden went 1-10 that year.

This Day in 2004 – Red Sox 4 – Yankees 14
WP: Jon Lieber, LP: Derek Lowe

Lowe got demolished recording just three outs while allowing seven runs and the Sox were down 9-0 after two. Lieber was the polar opposite taking a no hitter into the seventh when David Ortiz’ solo homer broke that up. The Sox added three in the ninth that included a Dave Roberts home run to make the score palatable.

Come chat before, during and after the game about baseball, September call ups and whatever checks your mate.

Baseball Is Fun

Mookie is one of many reasons to watch the Red Sox (RLRS Photo).

Mookie is one of many reasons to watch the Red Sox (RLRS Photo).

The Red Sox officially were eliminated from the playoff race last week.  Last night they played the Pirates and got killed.  Despite all of that I could not stop watching.

Without question the biggest difference for me between 2014 and 2012 is the enjoyment of each game.  Last night featured a bunch of people I wanted to see.  Matt Barnes pitched, Mookie Betts played second base, Xander Bogaerts is worth watching every night and of course Rusney Castillo made his debut.

Castillo was naturally the focus of the broadcast and my attention.  It was interesting to watch him hit.  He was credited with a hit when Neil Walker decided not to move his feet on a sharply hit ground ball and finished 1 for 4.

There were two things about Castillo that really jumped out at me.  One was the ferocious swing, the guy does not get cheated up there.  The other thing is that he seems to be way off the plate.  As I noted in the game thread if I were a pitcher I would be abusing the outside corner until he proved he could handle that pitch.

I'll admit that Will Middlebrooks at bats are often a cause for a bathroom break (RLRS Photo).

I’ll admit that Will Middlebrooks at bats are often a cause for a bathroom break (RLRS Photo).

The one thing he did that I did not like was something that virtually every MLB player does and it drives me nuts.  In his first at bat he hit a little dribbler and his first instinct was to look and see where the ball went.

I do not understand this at all, just run.  I am not one of these old fogey types who needs guys to be sprinting on routine grounders, if David Ortiz wants to lounge his way down the line on a two hopper to second that is fine but your instinctive reaction to contact should be to move toward first base.

This actually does matter.  On a close play it can be the difference between safe and out and if you are moving right away you have the chance of taking an extra base on a misplay.  It is exacerbated for a guy whose value is heavily based on speed.

But that is a lot of words about what truly is a minor criticism.  Back to my original point I have found myself really enjoying the last few weeks.  Some days have been fun, some days not so fun but I feel like every time I turn on a Red Sox game I see something enjoyable.

Game 152 Thread – Red Sox (66-85, 5th, 25 GB) at Pirates (9/17/14)

Clay Buchholz has a better record than Francisco Liriano, obviously he has pitched better (RLRS Photo)

Clay Buchholz has a better record than Francisco Liriano, obviously he has pitched better (RLRS Photo)

First Pitch – 7:05 PM

Pitchers: Clay Buchholz (8-8, 5.19) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-10, 3.53)

Notes: OK, this time Rusney Castillo really is supposed to play. The thing I am most excited about is Castillo FINALLY getting a BBRef page. They do not update for minor league post-season numbers so our attempts to link to Castillo never work.

Minor League Update:
Omaha 4 – Pawtucket 2
The PawSox ended the season dropping a tight game to Omaha who won their second straight AAA title. Castillo hit his first US home run and Travis Shaw hit his 22nd of the year. The next minor league action will be October 7 where the Surprise Saguaros will feature seven Red Sox prospects.

This Day in 2004 – Red Sox 3 – Yankees 2
WP: Mike Timlin, LP: Mariano Rivera, SV: Keith Foulke

In literature I believe this is called foreshadowing. Down 2-1 in the ninth the Sox rallied behind a walk to Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar getting plunked. Dave Roberts pinch ran for Nixon and stole second then scored the tie run on Orlando Cabrera’s single to right. Johnny Damon then flared a ball to center that Kenny Lofton took a circuitous route to allowing it to drop and pinch runner Gabe Kapler to score the winning run. The famously stoic Rivera reacted by raising his arms in disbelief and shouting “catch the ball!”

The New York Times reported that Millar’s pre-game t-shirt said “Tell ‘Em We’re Comin.” Manny Ramirez robbed Miguel Cairo of a home run and waited until Cairo had nearly rounded the bases to hold up the ball. My recollection is that there was a commercial earlier in the year (Sports Authority maybe?) where Manny actually talked about doing exactly that.

Come chat before, during and after the game about baseball, loud co-workers and whatever forks your lift.

The Mookening

In about a nanosecond, he will have hit a line drive (RLRS Photo).

In about a nanosecond, he will have hit a line drive (RLRS Photo).

This season has been kind of terrible. But finally, we have something legitimately good going on. Mookie Betts is on a hot streak. And it is fabulous. With mostly regular playing time, Betts is showing that his spectacular minor league numbers were no fluke.

He’s hit 305/390/460 in 123 plate appearances since the beginning of August. While Betts does have more strikeouts than walks or extra-base hits, it’s a close call (17 to 14 to 10). His line drive rate started around 15 percent and has jumped well over 20 percent. He started out with too many ground balls (about half of his batted balls) and has dropped that to a much better 40 percent.

Before I got to watch Betts hit, I had him pegged as a new Dustin Pedroia, a little guy with more power than you’d think. But getting to watch him regularly, Betts isn’t the special snowflake that Pedroia is. Which I think is a good thing. I found a bunch of good clips of Betts putting a hurt on the ball, but I think this is my favorite. It’s just a line drive single to right-center from two weeks ago, but it stands up on re-watch like the first season of Homicide.

Try to follow his hands from set position to getting through the ball. He lets the pitch get insanely deep, then releases a swing that seems to bend time between the moment it begins and the bat going through the hitting zone. Pedroia manages to hit for power, despite his slight frame, by swinging from the heels and counting on his otherworldly hand-eye coordination to allow him to get away with it. For Betts, his hands are so quick that he must be generating elite bat speed with a short, quick swing. It’s a very traditional way to combine contact hitting and power, which is good for projectibility. Betts is doing something that many stars have done before and many will in the future. I’m more confident than ever that Betts is a multiple All-Star in the making, and I look forward to watching him for another couple weeks.

Game 151 Thread – Red Sox (66-84, 5th, 24 GB) at Pirates (9/16/14)

Rusney Castillo will have a new uniform tonight (iSportsWeb.com Photo).

Rusney Castillo will have a new uniform tonight (iSportsWeb.com Photo).

First Pitch – 7:05 PM

Pitchers: Anthony Ranaudo (3-2, 5.40) vs. Charlie Morton (5-12, 3.84)

Notes: The big news is the expected debut of big money signing Rusney Castillo. Castillo hit .297/.381/.405 in ten minor league games.

Minor League Update:
Omaha at Pawtucket (Edwin Escobar)
The final minor league game of the summer season is the AAA Championship game. The PawSox will turn to Escobar for their final start.

This Day in 2004 – Devil Rays 4 – Red Sox 11
WP: Curt Schilling, LP: Mark Hendrickson

Like Chicago voters the Sox were producing early and often. Kevin Millar drove in four runs including two as part of a three run first inning and then Johnny Damon’s three run homer capped a five run seventh that put the game away. Terry Francona used the 40 man roster to sub out the majority of the lineup with seven of the nine starters getting lifted early. Only Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler played nine innings.

Come chat before, during and after the game about baseball, defection and whatever rows your boat.