Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blueprint For A Comeback

As it stands now the Sox have just been handed their lunch by the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.

Actually that’s not right. They weren’t just handed their lunch. They had their collective asses kicked by the schoolyard bullies who then stole their lunch money, bought a bunch of ice cream for all their bully friends, then were spit on by the same bullies on the way home from school.


Dwell on that, motherfuckers!

Still, this series is not over. It’s hard to believe considering the last two games, but the Sox can pull this off.

‘How?’ you ask, if you aren’t asking ‘Are you fucking high?’

Allow me to count the ways AND allow a counterpoint to my own argument. That’s right, I’m in a full fledged debate with myself.

Pitching: The Sox have their three top starters going in the next three games. If there are three games left, of course.

Game 5: Dice K who has been the only effective starter in this series.

Game 6 (if necessary): Beckett. Now, this is the big IF as it certainly seems like Beckett is no where close to being healthy. Let’s hope he can suck it up for one more quality start.

Game 7 (if necessary): Lester. Yeah, I know he got roughed up his last start, but the way he came back in innings 2-5 was impressive. Most other pitchers would have caved, but he fought his way through the next few innings and – if possible – made me respect him even more. (NOTE: that isn’t possible)

Why It Won’t Matter: Doesn’t matter how good your pitching is when your pitchers keep throwing the ball right down the middle of the plate. Here’s some free scouting for the Sox pitching staff: When you throw the ball right down the middle, the Rays hitters will hit it a long, LONG way. Let’s keep in mind that this Rays team is young and impatient. It’s not a coincidence that Dice K has had the most success against them. He doesn’t throw anything in the strike zone. He nibbles at the edges, drives impatient hitters batshit crazy, and walks 15 batters a game.

Do that. Throw off speed junk on the edges and they will chase. You throw it down the middle and you’ll see more hits like Rocco Baldelli’s three run blast off the Sports Authority sign. That was fun.

Hitting: Look, I know the Rays have good starters, but they aren’t that good. Ortiz is fossilizing in front of our eyes, Ellsbury hits like Coco Crisp now (everything back to the pitcher or off the dirt in front of the plate), Varitek’s been an automatic out since August 1st, and Cora may as well be a pitcher in the nine hole.

It won’t keep up this way. Ortiz nearly hit a home run last night, Ellsbury will get his shit together, and Varitek will come up with a big hit before the series is over. What’s especially infuriating is the pitches are there. Ortiz is just missing the pitches that he usually crushes. Ellsbury and Varitek have been popping up balls that are right in their wheel house. The only ones still on their games are Pedroia, Youkilis and Bay.

Besides, the more often this lineup sees a pitcher the better they hit. They will figure out these starters. They better.

Why It Won’t Matter: Ortiz is either hurt worse than anyone knows or he has somehow fast forwarded to 2011. Varitek is done – he can’t catch up to good fastballs any longer and the Rays know it. Watch when they pitch him next and it’s all fastballs on the edges or high with one or two off speed pitches to throw him off. Ellsbury needs some major time off to fix his swing and regain his patience. He’s swinging at bad pitches all the time now. Take a breath and relax, dude.

Also, the Rays’ pitchers are really good.

Experience: Let’s face it, we’ve been here before. Between 2004 and 2007 this Sox team seems to NEED to be facing extinction before they wake up and start playing how their capable of playing. Again they’re down 3-1 and again they look like crap. Anyone remember the game 3 18-9 blowout in 2004? Me, too. That ass kicking was the catalyst for the entire championship run. Perhaps last night’s similar ass kicking will wake them up.

Plus, let’s not forget how young this Rays team is. Human nature is to believe they have this series won and let their guard down. The Sox, on the other hand, have been here before. Panic is not in their nature.

Why It Won’t Matter: Too many to count here, but let’s try.

- Injuries have taken a major toll on this Sox team. Ortiz’s wrist, Beckett’s side, Lowell’s hip (NOTE: recently announced that he is done for the rest of the year. Or one game if you’re keeping count), Drew’s back (still not convinced he’s 100%). You’ll notice this list includes many players in their mid 30s.

- This Tampa team is fearless. They don’t care what’s happened in the past and are fully convinced they are the better team.

- The Tampa bullpen is PHENOMENAL! Every time I think the Sox are rallying, Maddon brings in some guy I’ve never heard of who matches up perfectly with the next 2-3 batters and the rally is done before it even gets going.

- Good pitching beats good hitting.

- Maddon himself. The dude has proven himself to be the best manager in baseball. He pulls starters at the exact right moment, moves the infield around so they are nearly always in the right position and, most importantly, has this team relaxed, motivated and believing.

- Evan Longoria. Words escape me. Just watch him play and you’ll understand.

So there you have it. Don’t be surprised when this Red Sox team comes storming back. They need to improve on quite a few things, but they can do it.

Whether the Rays let them or not is an entirely different matter.

Today’s distraction: Score one for the good guys. The FTC just shut down the world’s biggest spam factory (they call them ‘gangs’ which makes me think of ‘West Side Story’ and gets me laughing while I envision spammers dancing down the street snapping their fingers). So if you’re tired of getting offers for cheap watches and free Viagra, thank the FTC for bringing down HerbalKing (among other names) which has been estimated to have sent over a billion spam emails over the last 20 months.

Good riddance.


French said...

Excellent synopsis here, JB. I agree with all of it...I firmly believe that if Ellsbury can get out of his funk, that will drive the rest of offense in some form. Having him on base makes things happen, and Pedroia needs men on base when he hits. Why not move Pedroia down in the lineup, is my question. Put him in the 8 slot. Youk, Bay and Kotsay have been getting on base and then they're left with Varitek and Crisp to get them home. No gonna happen. Put Pedroia down there, move Tek to the nine hole and bat Coco or Drew second.

I can't see them losing this series at home, I just can't. I think Daisuke will be good again tomorrow night and I predict a slaughtering of Shields early on.

Hammen said...

I hope to God you're right. Er, and wrong.

BeachBum said...

I'm a bit confused by the decision to start Kazmir tonight. Shields pitched well against them in Game 1 and Shields got shelled. Why screw around with the rotation when things are going well?

Hammen said...

Apparently because Shields is awesome at home and a bit shaky on the road, and also because Kazmir and the home plate umpire for Game 6 have a bit of a history (meaning Kazmir talked shit and now the umpire hates him.)

But I think that secretly, Tampa wants to throw Game 5 and try and celebrate at home.