Friday, October 10, 2008

Rays-Red Sox, Pitcher's Duel

Year-end stuff (I'm hoping to go over each team - maybe 3 or so a week) will start after the election/exam I have to take in early November. I finally got cable so I'll be watching the first game of the Rays-Red Sox series (which I consider to be the real World Series) and leaving some comments. On paper the Sox are the better team, but I think the Rays will pull it out and head to the World Series in their first wining season ever.

Top 1

* James Shields has a really good change-up, which he uses to K Jacoby Ellsbury to start the game. It was a very smart move (among many smart moves) by the Rays to lock him up cheaply.

* Potential MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia draws a walk. I now very reluctantly admit that Pedroia is a pretty darn good baseball player.

* David Ortiz flies to BJ Upton in center. Upton's power from last year has fallen off, but he's played some quality defense to make up for it (as well as walking at a high rate).

* Kevin Youkilis double down the right-field line. The ball bounces into the stands which keeps Pedroia at third.

* Back-to-back change-ups after some good set-up sends JD Drew down swinging to leave a couple stranded.

Bottom 1

* Daisuke Matsuzaka is a great example of why traditional stats are dumb. Without looking it up; he went (about) 18-2 with a 2.80 ERA but walked 4.61 per nine and had a solid (but not great) strike-out rate. True to form, he walks Akinori Iwomura. [Edit: Matsuzaka actually went 18-3, 2.90 ERA, 5.05 BB/9, 8.27 K/9]

* Upton flies out to left, but man did he just miss that fastball down the middle of the plate.

* The Sox have an infield shift for Carlos Pena, who squares to bunt before pulling the bat back. Pena shows his patience and draws a walk.

* Soon to be Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria up. Boy does Tampa Bay look smart for having signed him after just six games in the majors. Daisuke gets him looking on a cutter (?) on the inside corner.

* Carl Crawford is batting fifth for the Rays. That's pretty interesting, and I'm sure they have a good reason for it (besides his general lack of OBP skills). Except right then, when he draws a walk.

* Cliff Floyd grounds out to second to leave the bases loaded.

Bottom 2 (sorry, I got distracted)

* Dioner "Bandwagon" Navarro goes down swinging on a high fastball.

* Gabe Gross - one of those role-players that the Rays have been very good at utilizing - up next. Huh... apparently he's from Baltimore. I just became a slightly bigger Gabe Gross fan. Unfortunately he swings and misses a change-up for strike three.

* Jason Bartlett - the shortstop acquired in the Delmon Young - Matt Garza trade - was named the Rays MVP this year. It was largely a symbolic pick as Bartlett represented the vastly improved Rays defense. The thing is, Bartlett isn't even close to being the MVP of the left side of the Rays' infield. Still a solid player though. He pops out to Youk at third, and the game stays scoreless through two.

Top 3

* Jason Varitek out on strikes.

* Ellsbury pops out to short on the first pitch.

* As does Pedroia. Shields looking good.

Bottom 3

* Pena draws a two-out walk.

* Longoria whiffs on a high fastball for his second strike-out.

Top 4

* Youk lines a one-out single to left-center. He may not be the Greek God of Walks with the bat, but combined with his defense at both the infield corners, he's a valuable player.

* JD Drew grounds into a double play. Go Rays!

Bottom 4

* 1-2-3 go the Rays (that's not what I meant guys). Daisuke has 7 K's now. Quite the pitcher's duel going on.

Top 5

* With no outs and a runner on first, Mark Kotsay checks his swing but ends up at second with a double as the ball went down the left-field line.

* Jed Lowrie flies out to right, but Jason Bay (who had walked) comes in to score to give Boston a 1-0 lead.

* The Rays bring the infield in with Kotsay at third. Varitek hits it hard, but Iwamura is able to stop it at second and throw him out without the runner scoring.

* Ellsbury bloops one into short center, but Bartlett is there to make a nice over-the-shoulder catch. MVP...MVP...MVP

Bottom 5

* Another perfect inning for Matsuzaka.

Top 6

* Pedroia grounds to Longoria at third, with Pena making a nice pick at the other end.

* Shields K's Ortiz and then gets Youkilis to keep it at 1-0.

Bottom 6

* Yet another perfect inning. No-hitter still going.

Top 7

* Sox get two on with no outs, but a couple of pop-ups with a K in-between gets Shields out of it. Rays need some offense.

Bottom 7

* Crawford lines the first pitch into right for a clean single.

* Cliff Floyd follows that up with a single to left-center. Crawford flies around second and ends up at third easily.

* Navarro flies to left, but it's not deep enough for Crawford to score.

* Gross works the count full but strikes out on what would have probably been ball four.

* Bartlett grounds out and the opportunity is squandered.

Top 8

* Shields gives up a one-out single to Pedroia and lefty JP Howell will come in to face Ortiz.

* Pedroia steals second and Ortiz walks. Tampa Bay needs to keep it 1-0.

* Youk lines a pitch into left. Crawford slides but the ball goes off his glove and a run scores. Not looking good.

* Grant Balfour in... way in, as he drills JD Drew in the shoulder (very close to his head) with his first pitch. Balfour isn't exactly a control specialist.

* Bases loaded for Bay. Balfour throws the fastball by him for the second out.

* Kotsay pops out, and the Rays have two innings to score at least two runs.

Bottom 8

* Iwamura pokes one through the left side for a lead-off single.

* Passed ball allows Iwamura to take second. Upton smokes it to third where Youk makes a diving stop. The ball knocks off his glove a little and he can't get to it in-time, and Upton is safe at first. That will end Daisuke's day - he pitched very well, but the Rays are threatening.

* Hideki Okajima in to face Pena. 3-0 count and Pena flies out to right. It looked like he got a good bit of it, but the ball was off the end of the bat a little.

* Rookie right-hander Justin Masterson relives Okajima. His sinker gets Longoria to ground into a double play. Still 2-0.

Top 9

* Balfour and David Price combine to pitch a perfect ninth.

Bottom 9

* Jon Papelbon in for the save. He strikes Crawford out swinging for the first out.

* Cliff Floyd pops up to Youk; two outs.

* Navarro goes down swinging to end the game.

Despite a well pitched game by Shields, the Red Sox go up one game to none behind an even better performance from Matsuzaka.

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