What do you mean they actually have to play the games?

First, a potentially devastating injury to the one guy the Sox need in the postseason. Then, what appears to be the pitching mismatch of the playoffs turns into…Jon Lieber throwing 20 pitches. In 7 innings. What the hell happened to this on paper stuff???

High pitch counts in the first couple of innings aside, Pedro looked pretty good last night. Unfortunately, as has happened so many times in the past, when Pedro is doing well, the bats go to sleep. And not only does Lieber spin a gem, but the one guy in the lineup who you do not fear at all hits a friggin homer. But when your masher representing the tying run going against the most dominant pitcher in postseason history, he misses a homer by about 5 feet before he strikes out.

Are the Sox done? Of course not. If they take 2 of 3 at Fenway (and obviously, they HAVE to do at least that), they come back to New York in the same position they were last year…down 3-2. Or they could come back to New York UP 3-2. Or, they might not come back to New York at all.

Optimally, they take the next 2, so that whoever is pitching game 5, be it Schilling, or Lowe, or Pedro (in the event of a rainout) has a little less pressure on them. ESPECIALLY if it happens to be Lowe.

They just HAVE to make it interesting, don’t they? I don’t need this kind of stress right now….

Does it mean more?

Well, there is no sense arguing anymore about if it matters or not if the Sox face the Yankees in the postseason. I would argue that had the Sox NOT faced the Yankees and then ended up achieving the ultimate goal, it wouldn’t have been any less of an achievment than if they are to accomplish this goal with the road they have to travel as of now…through the Bronx.

However, now that they ARE facing the Yanks, I’m going to admit something…it is more important than just the games on the field. The Sox winning this series will do quite a bit for every member of Red Sox Nation; especially those who have to deal with Yankee fans on a daily basis.

Now I don’t mean to paint all Yankee fans with a broad brush. I know PLENTY of Yankee fans who are no different than I am…they are ardent supporters of their own team, and they have been for a long time. I’m talking about the other kind of Yankee fan…the one who is more vocal, and more maddening. You know the type; I heard a couple on NY sports radio in the past couple of days:

HOST: The Yanks may very well be overmatched this time. Sox are pretty strong in areas that they haven’t been in the past.

CALLER: Yeah, but it’s history. They can’t overcome that.

HOST: So the pitching matchups don’t matter, the offense doesn’t matter, it all comes down to mystique and aura?

CALLER: EXACTLY.

I’m not a curse kind of guy. Never have been. To me, every April is a whole new set of teams…you know, hope springs eternal and all of that. And matchups aside, I recognize that any team can beat any other team on any given day, no matter what the lineups. And the best team doesn’t always win a playoff series, because the game isn’t played on paper. But those of us that have regular interaction with Yankee fans whose reasoning as to why the Yanks will beat the sox is “Because”…well, an ALCS win will be that much sweeter for us, if only for the fact that the ‘Because’ argument can be put to rest once and for all.

And before somebody chimes in in the comments section that I’m implying that a victory over the Yanks in the ALCS would temper a World Series loss…that is not the case at all. Obviously, if the Sox beat the Yanks this week, I want them to win the next series as well, and should they lose to the NL team, I will not take solace in the fact that they beat the Yanks to get there.

I just want a little bit of relief from the idiocy, is all.

That said, and of course, I recognize that I’m biased…here is my breakdown:

Starting pitching: Advantage Sox

I mean; there really is no argument here, right?

Bullpen: Advantage Yanks

But not as much of an advantage as the past. Hard to say how Rivera’s recent family situation will affect him, but as long as he’s at the back end, you have to give it to the Yanks.

Starting 9 offense: Advantage Sox

Yanks have an advantage at 3B, SS, and RF. Probably a push at C. The rest go to the Sox.

Defense: Advantage Sox

Again, I don’t even see how you can argue this as being close.

Bench: Advantage Sox

Some speed and some defense on the bench, as well as some decent pop. Is there anybody under 30 besides Bubba Crosby on the Yankee bench?

My prediction? Sox in 6.

EDIT: I was thinking about this this morning, and I wanted to add (as if I have to) that beating the Yankees should finally also help silence the annoying doom and gloom portion of Red Sox Nation…you know the type…the curse believers and those who ALSO think the Yanks will win ‘just because’.

Oh; and look what you can buy on mlb.com: Who’s your daddy shirt. Grrrrrr.

Captain Caveman

Johnny Damon may not be the best centerfielder in Sox history (I\’m convinced Fred Lynn was about as good as it gets from 1975-1979), but he may be one of the most clutch players in Sox history.

Damon went 7-for-15 in the ALDS against the Halos and his defense, which has been hampered over the years by a limp left arm, may not truly be appreciated by fans. Damon has made so many running catches to the wall and almost has never not caught a ball he gets to, whether he is leaping the wall or diving or sliding or lunging. He catches everything. It\’s automatic. Fenway is not the easiest home park to field in, but damon makes it look easy.

Watching Damon this year has been a pure joy. He batted .304 with 20 homers and 94 rbi, which we\’d all be happy with if he were trot nixon, but is all the more amazing out of the leadoff spot. What he did on Wednesday set up yesterday\’s sweep situation. And of course, there he was ripping a shot single off Frank Rodriguez in that 10th to help set up Ortiz\’s Famous Shot.

It was 3-3, 7th inning at Angels Stadium, and Rodriguez wasn\’t exactly bad on Wednesday (far better Friday at Fenway). Damon reached on a sharp hit fielder\’s choice that forced out pinch runner Dave Roberts (Mueller singled). F-Rod had to keep Damon close and was very concerned about him as Bellhorn was at the plate. Damon then stole off of him and quality backup catcher Jose Molina. A bold move which was followed by Bellhorn\’s walk and eventually a GW-sac fly by Manny. A probably already forgotten moment in a great game, but for me (I was sitting in great seats, lower view section above home plate) the play of the game. Varitek\’s home run was by no means diminished as well, but to take that lead at 4-3 right there in the 7th inning was just huge. He had rattled FRod there, and he may have helped his exit in that 10th inning yesterday with his shot leadoff hit.

We have a lot of Damon fans with his hair (the wife bought a caveman t-shirt) and he seems to exemplify the Sox free-spirit, clubhouse atmosphere. He is a spark plug on the field and a great clubhouse guy. Ask me about Mike Stanley-Clubhouse Leader for those who remember my CanLand posts at Boston.com.

Johnny Damon is the Sox MVP. And what\’s amazing is Manny Ramirez is the Sox MVP and David Ortiz is the Sox MVP, Curt Schilling is the Sox MVP, Etc, Etc. Maybe that\’s why this team is special. And maybe it leads to that World Series title.

I appreciate Johnny Damon\’s worth to this club. Without him, the team would be sorely different.

signed,
Fred from Medford

GOOD TIMES

Ortiz was DY-NO-MITE last night!

I go to several games a year with a friend of mine who is a season ticket holder. So I was very happy to hear from him earlier this week when he called to ask if I could go to Fenway for game 3. A no-brainer, right? We got to Boston around noon, and had a good lunch at An Tua Nua. Then we decided to wander around and soak in some of the atmosphere. We headed into the Cask for a couple pops, and then ventured into the park around 3:00.

Amazingly enough, the crowd milling around the inside the park before the game was very subdued for what was a potential series-sweeping playoff game. Thankfully, that changed once the game started.

Our seats were tough for the first couple of innings; the sun was setting over the .406 club, and shone directly in our eyes. You all saw the effect when the Angels let that ball drop in shallow left. By the 4th, it was all good..and the Sox appeared to be cruising to an easy victory.

But of course, they have to make it interesting, don’t they?

I know some people will get on Tito for pulling Arroyo, but we have no idea how much gas he had in the tank. In my opinion, the only bad manegerial move Tito made all series was leaving Meyers in when Scocia countered with a righty after Meyers was announced. (A side note…I had always noticed, with a chuckle, that when Myers is announced, the Fenway PA blasts ‘Halloween’ music. Last night I noticed that when Meyers runs in from the pen, they play the theme from Austin Powers.) Other than that, the Angels were sorely outmanaged….nobody left on their bench, NOT USING PERCIVAL IN ANY GAMES? Hey; who are we to complain?

So after the game was tied, we spent a few innings of angst. And then, when Washburn came trotting in, my buddy says ‘Ortiz is gonna put one over the monster here’. Well, we all know the result.

Fenway Park after that shot was absolute bedlam. Unbelievable. It was fantastic. After the players finally left the field, they showed the locker room celebration on the scoreboard…and nobody even considered leaving the park. We finally left after about a half hour…and even the streets were crazy. People high fiving eachother, going nuts…fantastic.

So I don’t know about you folks, but I don’t care who wins the ALCS, as long as it goes 5. And then, the quest continues on Tuesday.

Something in the water…

…in the visiting manager’s office at Yankee Stadium.

I can see bringing Nathan in for the 9th..but to not have somebody ready is inexcusable. Granted, any team is happy to split the first 2 road games in a 5 game series, but the Twins should be up 2-0 right now. Oh, well. At this point I’m hoping for the Sox to finish off the Angels on Friday and for MIN/NYY to go 5.

What a game by the Sox and Pedro last night. Seven strong innings, 3 hits all off of bloops and dribblers. Schilling and Pedro in top form makes this team a tough, tough out. I’ll be there Friday, sitting in the bleachers.

One down, 10 to go.

Sox won very convincingly yesterday. Schilling looked like his normal postseason self, and the bats were definitely not asleep. A good outing by Pedro tonight could raise this area to a fever pitch.

I fell asleep around the 7th inning of the Yankee game, but it turns out I didn’t miss anything. Am I the only one that noticed according to Fox, Mussina kept ‘getting stronger’ as the game went on, and Santana merely ‘stayed out of trouble’? Funny stuff. Anyway, in my opinion, there is a real good chance that both AL series will be 0-2 after tonight..and that bodes well for Boston and Minnesota.

The Baltimore trip was a rousing success, and I want to thank the psf.commers who attended…Fanatic and his wife, Bosoxfan, Rock, and an appearance by Soxrates. There were offline friends and family as well, in addition to people who got tickets via Craigslist or other sites. A great time was had by all. Although next year I might bring the kid, because my liver can’t take weekends like that anymore.

In Baltimore…

So when I bought these tickets last March, I worried that these games would be meaningless. Well, they are, but they are for the right reason.

We’re here now, waiting for the rest to arrive and commence festivities. We’ll keep you updated with all the fun you aren’t having.