Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tartar Sauce - round three

Red Sox v New York - Tuesday night

It is actually pretty interesting the thoughts that go through your head when you attempt to keep a running blog on an entire Major League game. There is a great scene in 'The Weatherman' where Nick Cage portrays what allot of inquisitive men go through on a daily basis in the dark recesses of their mind. The Tartar Sauce syndrome. How it happens is that a thought occurs and a few seconds later, after a string of loosely related consecutive thoughts, the person in question arrives at an interesting juncture. Click here for Cage's fantastic Tartar Sauce moment in 'The Weatherman'. Below are my 'Tartar Sauce' like thoughts that occurred while watching the Red Sox take on the Yankees tonight in New York

''Welcome to Yankee stadium''
Looks like playoff baseball. Sounds like playoff baseball. Feels like playoff baseball.

Two top class lineups ready to go head to head

Red Sox

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
2. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Manny Ramirez, LF
5. Mike Lowell, 3B
6. J.D. Drew, RF
7. Jason Varitek, C
8. Coco Crisp, CF
9. Julio Lugo, SS
--Daisuke Matsuzaka, P

Yankees

1. Johnny Damon, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Andy Phillips, 1B
9. Miguel Cabrera, CF
--Andy Pettitte, P

Let's get it on.

Top of the first

''Dustin Pedroia stands in for the Red Sox..''
Nice running grab by Abreu for the first out and we're off and running.
(hard hit ball, nonetheless)

Youkilis up, did you know Andy Pettite threw 92? Everybody is amped for this one. Youkilis grounds out to Derek Jeter and there's two down. The low, steady 'boos' emanating from the packed Yankee crowd announce the arrival of Big Pappi to the plate. He lines out to Cano, who is playing in a bizarre softball position, in an awkward looking 'shift' designed. Fair enough. Three up, three down.

Bottom of the first

Damon up against Dice-K. He just doesn't look right with that 'clean cut' image. Looks kinda shifty. Having said that, hard line drive single of a straight forward Dice-K fastball and the Yankees have their lead off batter on. Now let's see if he runs. One running theme with the Sox is that they have always said they don't care about stolen bases. That was the stand they took fiv and ten years ago, it's the stand they take now, where pitchers are told not to employ a slide step and almost ignore the base runner at first. The idea is the pitcher focuses on making quality pitches. The simple problem, obviously, is it's easier to score from second. You could argue both sides of the coin reasonably.

Meanwhile, Dice-K fields a little squibber off the end of Jeter's bat and makes a nice throw to first, one down, Damon to second.

I would love to get Damon on a lie-detector and ask him, straight up, are you enjoying New York more than your time at Boston, or do you wish you could turn back the clock? Thing is, it's doubtful Boston would change things the way they are. Coco, who has given Boston some absolutely sparkling defense in 2007, has started to really crush the ball. Plus, he is allot younger, and, now anyway, has a cooler hairdo.

It's amazing how easily, when attacking Theo and the front office for mistakes like Drew people forget the great decisions they have made with people like Damon and, sadly, Pedro. Obviously they made the right choices on both counts.

The umpire completely misses a offspeed pitch that should have been strike three. Home field call for sure. Abreu gets another life. 0-2 to 3-2. Then the walk. That one is on the 'blue'. He should have been rung up.

Now for the real fun. Dice-K smacks A-Fraud in the back with the first pitch. Interestingly Nesn have Dice-K's previous 'hit Yankee batter' highlights ready to go. By the by, A-Dud has been hit 17 times so far this season. Gee. That's shocking. Ball one to Matsui with the bases loaded. Not a terrifically reassuring start so far by Dice-K, but if what has happened so far this season is anything to go by, he appears to almost enjoy pitching in and out of trouble.

Matsui hits a hard grounder to Pedroia's left, he makes the play but A-Rod takes Lugo out at second so the Sox only get one. Two down, however. Posada up and Dice-K almost hits him with the first pitch. The way he's batting that might not be a total disaster, putting him on base. Dice-K looks like he is going to pound Posada inside. Wouldn't you love to see each teams 'book' on the opposition? Posada lines a double to left and the Yankees are up 2-0. Dice-K needs to start showing Red Sox nation something at this stage. Stand up and be counted, as it were.

Cano hits a drive high to right centre field and a roar goes up around Yankee stadium.Yankee fans, meet Coco. He motors to the right spot, settles under the ball and hauls it in. Coco grabs everything out there. Everything.

Top of the second
New York leads 2-0

With Manny up Pettite throws a fastball to the exact spot Dice-K hit against Abreu. This time it is, apparently, a strike. Hopefully it isn't going to be one of those nights. With a 3-1 count Pettite tries to get an outside fastball past Manny. No, no, no...boom. Scorching line drove home run to right, Red Sox right back in it just like that. Couple of 'Let's go Red Sox' chants come up from the stands, semi drowned out by inevitable New York 'Boo!'s.

Lowell lifts a lazy fly to shallow left centre for the first out. Jerry Remy calls Mike Lowell the Red Sox second half MVP. I can;t argue with that. Lowell has hit absolutely everything. Except that last one, naturally.

Nice at bat by the Captain, as Varitek works a full count batting form the right side against Pettite, fouling several tough pitches off. Varitek finally walks on a low fastball. Great at bat. Nice to keep the inning going, keep Pettite throwing, keep the Yankees in the field. The commentary team tells us that the injured and rehabbing backup catcher Doug Mirabelli is now doing '90% baseball activities'. Lord knows that that other 10% of activities are, probably best no one ever finds out.

Coco strikes out in a poor at bat that completely wastes Varitek's fine effort before him.

Bottom of the Second
New York leading 2-1 now

Super duper play by Pedroia on a hot-shot by Andy Phillips, the deserving AL rookie of the year slides to his right, makes a nice pick and gets up to throw a bullet to first for the out. Give the dirty little bastard the award already. Milky (sic) Cabrera shoots a drive to centre field and, well, you know how that worked out (Coco's out there, don;t even bother hitting it out there!).

Oh baby. What was I saying about Pedroia? Damon grounds to right, Pedroia somehow gets to it, tumbles over (in a controlled manner) and gets up to make a sharp accurate throw to first for the out. Superb defense. Last season, and many seasons before, this inning would still be ongoing. Instead - it's three up three down, Boston get to bat. Nice defense.

Top of the third
Yankees still lead 2-1

Julio Lugo ladies and gentlemen, first pitch of the innings, hard line drive between the left and center fielders and the speedy little fella makes it all the way to third base. That's how you start an inning, leadoff triple. Lugo's bat is sizzling since the All Star break. Everyone who wrote him off pre mid season can now send an apology on to Fenway Park. I like watching Lugo play. He's animated, fast and feisty.

Pedroia, given a green light on 3-0, ground out to the pitcher. He then retreats to the dugout cursing himself to the high heavens. How can you not like this guy? Or at least, enjoy how he plays the game? Every single at bat seems to count.

Youkilis puts up a pretty decent, long at bat. The Sox are making Pettite work, fouling allot of his better pitches off. Varitek's was a ten pitch at bat, Youkilis working on a nine pitch stand-off of his own. Little roller foul down third and make it ten pitches. Camera shows Clemens sitting in the dugout looking surly. Juicy matchup tomorrow night. Clemens against Beckett. Jerry Remy says 'Couple of Texans goin' up against each other!'. Superb eleven pitch at bat by 'Youk' leads to a walk, runners on first and third, one out, and Big Papi steps to the plate. Remy suggest the Yanks might try to but Ortiz inside, let's see what happens.

Pettite actually works outside, and Ortiz lifts a sac fly to left easily. Looks like he just missed that one, but Lugo scores and the game is tied at 2-2. Manny comes up swinging and fouling off the first pitch. He looks like he might be getting into one of those 'streaks' where he hits seven home runs in ten games or what not. Just looks comfy up there at the plate. Pettite almost picks Youkilis off first, which would have been his 81st pickoff lifetime. If he gets Julio Lugo on first what odds he picks him off? 1/5? 1/7? Meanwhile, I obviously said too much, Manny swings wildly and misses, and the Sox are out in the third.

Bottom of the third
Game tied now, 2-2

Jeter and Abreu are out before you can say 'Matsuzaka' and there is two down. Interesting, that's six in a row down in order for Dice-K and the Yankees, rather foolishly, don't appear to be attempting to make the young Japanese hurler work too hard. This after Matsuzala showed a little wildness in the first inning. Just when I say that A-Fraud works a patient five pitch walk.

More promos on Clemens v Beckett. How amped is Beckett going to be facing a guy I am sure he looked up to as a young Texan pitcher. Should be a cracker anyway. A-Rod steals second on Matsuzaka, Varitek doesn't stand a chance with Dice-K's slow approach to the plate. Beautiful offspeed pitch leads to a Matsui pop-up and the Sox are out of the inning, Matsuzaka finding something of a groove.


Top of the fourth
Game still tied 2-2

Mmmmm...beer. Beer and baseball go rather well. Beer and Tuesday nights, maybe not so much.

Iron Mike leads off the inning for the Sox. Line drive single to start the inning. Don Orsillo purrs that Boston have never scored 10 runs in five straight games, as yet anyway. There's a nice challenge for the evening! JD Drew up, last ten games he is hitting .303, those of you who enjoy verbally attacking the Sox right fielder. Tough assignment for Drew tonight, at least until the Sox get Pettite out of the game. Drew strikes out wildly on a low outside fastball. Hard to see how he can do damage against a good lefty, which leads you to wonder why he is batting sixth on this occasion, against a pretty good lefty. Varitek fouls out too first and Lowell is in danger of being left stranded.

Crisp is down 0-2 and the Yankee crowd, so far silent basically, stirs a little. Nervous, much?

Damon makes a nice running grab and the half inning is over.

Bottom of the fourth
Tied at 2-2

Very interesting. Posada goes after the first pitch from Matsuzaka and pops up to third. One pitch, one out. What is going on? Where is this patient Yankee offence you always hear so much about? Don't they know who is pitching? Why on earth are they helping Dice-K out, swinging at absolutely everything? Cano obviously not too concerned, ground out to third. Phillips swings at the first pitch too, foul to right. Eventually Dice-K is going to figure this out and really mow through these guys. Unusual tactics from a team desperate to stay in contention in it's division.

Dice-K finished Phillips off with a tasty offspeed offering on the inside corner for his first 'K' of the night, inning over.

Top of the fifth
Hanging tough at 2-2

Nice catch Mr Damon. Lugo lines out to left to start the fifth. Damon gets a bad jump on the ball but recovers well. With two outs in the inning and Pedroia on first Big Papi is up. Funny incident as the Yankee fans are up standing with the count 2-1, because the scoreboard is showing 1-2. Most noise they have made all night. Ortiz finally strikes out after a couple of foul balls and sends his bat flying into the stands.

Bottom of the fifth
Tight game, tied 2-2

Dice-K has thrown 60 pitches, only 50% of those for strikes. So, guess how the Yankees lead off batter starts the innings? Milky C lines out to the pitcher on the first pitch. That's the last three lead off batters for the Yankees going after the first pitch.

Dice-K has now retired 11 of the last 12 batters he has faced (maybe this is the part of the movie where he shows Red Sox fans that 'something' they were looking for?).

As is often the case, I spoke too soon. Yankee captain Derek 'by the dive of' Jeter lines a home run to right which just creeps over the right field wall. Yankees lead 3-2. That wakes the Yankee fans up. That's Dice-K's 19th home run allowed of the 2007 season. Sounds a tad high, no? It's the most on the Red Sox staff. To his credit he gets Abreu to ground out to first base, seemingly not too perturbed by the home run.

Top of the sixth
Yankees lead 3-2

Crucial part of the game. Can Boston work Pettite a little and get him out of the game early, or will he put a strangle hold on the Sox the rest of the way? Manny starts the inning with a stinging line drive up the middle, lead off batter on for Boston to start the sixth.

Nice little fact, guess who the last two Red Sox were to share the player of the week honours, before Big Papi and Mike Lowell? That's right, Pedro and Varitek, five long years ago in 2002! Lowell flies out and Pettite is up to 98 pitches.

Lead off single wasted. JD Drew hits into a double play. Getting a bit tight in terms of this game, Yankee take a valuable 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Bottom of six
Yankees up 3-2

Hey Cameron! Cameron Diaz is at the game. Sitting in the stands like any Joe Punter. That's pretty cool. Wonder who she's rooting for. A-Rod up first, and hey, guess what, he pops up to right on the first pitch of the inning! Un-freakin-believable. If I was a Yankee fan, and I am not, I would be tearing my hair out in large chunks. What on earth are they doing? That is four, yes, four straight innings where the lead off Yankee batter has made an out on the first pitch of the inning.

Varitek makes a sweet play on a squibber by Matsui and gets him at first, two down. 2:09 am in Dublin, Ireland, at this stage.

Manny being Manny raises it's head with Posada dropping a little bloop-de-bloop in front of Manny, who then bobbles the ball allowing Posada to reach second, and scoring position. Cano up to bat. Crucial part of the game. The astute, knowledgeable Yankee fans chant 'Manny sucks! Manny sucks!' - indeed chaps, he sucked all the way over the right field fence earlier on.

Jerry Remy says Cano is 'born to be a .300 hitter'. Was JD Drew born to be a .256 hitter?

Question for you, as Cano calls time late, is granted it, and Dice-K throws the pitch anyway. If time is called and everyone steps away from the batters box, if the pitcher hit the batter, what would be the story there? Hit batter? Or 'no pitch', or what? Interesting! I would like to see that happen.

Oh boy, maybe Cano was premature, he swings and misses a pitch above his head to end the inning. Matsuzaka does the job, negating Manny's silly little error. Time to score runs.

Top of the seventh
Yankees leading this pitchers duel (yes, it's a pitchers duel now) 3-2

Pettite is over the magic 100 pitches now. Let's see if Boston makes it move.

Orsillo mentions it's a 'beautiful night in New York' for the eighteenth time. Varitek leads off for Boston. One swing of the Captain's bat and the game is tied at three. Long, high drive to left on pitch number 106 for Pettite. Is Joe Torre awake in there? Why is Pettite still going? Oh hang on, Vizcaino is up and throwing in the Yankee bullpen. Torre must have woken up.

This is now officially a good game. Tight, well pitched and well defended by both teams.

Crisp strikes out for 'K' number six for Pettite. Lugo lines out to centre and just like that there is two out in the inning. Which way is this game going? Hard to tell, but Boston should get into the Yankee bullpen before the Yanks get at theirs. Pettite gets Pedroia to ground out and we go to the bottom of the inning.

Bottom of the seventh inning
All tied up at 3-3

So Newflash, Manny is out of the game. He may have hurt his back hitting a single earlier. Bobby 'Redser' Kielty is taking his place. That's not terrifically wonderful news. Matsuzaka in around 95 pitches to start the inning. Phillips becomes the first Yankee lead off batter in the last five innings not to make an out on the first pitch. Now that's progress. Furthermore he lines a single to left field. Possibly not a great thing to let lower-half of the Yankee order on ahead of the big boppers. Joba 'Jabba' Chamberlin is up and warming in the Yankee bullpen. Betemit drops a sac bunt down and everything is happening now. Runner on second one out with the top of the Yankee order now up. Let's see how Dice-K deals with this little 'sitch' we have developing here.

Not too well is the answer. Johnny Damon pops a little 'excuse me' 315 drive to the 314 part of the ridiculous Yankee right field fence. That would be an out in 95% of Major League ballparks. Damon takes a curtain call to celebrate his 315 foot pop up. Sometimes this game just isn't fair. Yankees take an imposing 5-3 lead. Matsuzaka walks Jeter and his night is over, Tito pops out and takes the ball off him.

First pitch Abreu ground into a potential double play but mistakes are starting to seep into Boston's play on the night as Pedroia's throw takes Youkilis off the bag. Now A-Fraud and his bajillion home runs gets to bat with a runner on.

Delcarmen comes on and limits the damage by going right at A-Fraud and forcing him to pop to left. Nice to see the young guy show no fear and go right at the Yankee bopper.

Top of the eighth
5-3 Yankees

Joba 'Jabba' Chamberlin, let's see what the kind can do. He will be facing Youkilis, Ortiz and Kielty. His first two pitches miss, looks like he throws hard though. Big kid. 'Jabba' is so going to stick. Pitches are coming in at 96, 95 and 97.

Yankee stadium pretty loud finally with a full count to Youk. Jabba deflates the crowd slightly by walking Youk on the 3-2 count with a poorly placed slider in the dirt. 'Not even close' says Remy, suggesting Jabba is maybe a little phased, this being his first experience of a Boston v New York game.

He's not too phased though, as he gets David Ortiz to pop to right for the first out. I feel bad asking, as I know nothing compared to the big guy, but why was he swinging at the rookies first pitch after he had just walked the lead off batter? Would it not have been an idea to have a look at a few of his pitches. All that did was settle Jabba down, and he mows down Kielty with the help of a dubious call on the outside edge.

Just like that, two down.

Lowell extends the inning with a little single to center on a pretty flat slider from Jabba. Two on, two out. I am still wincing at that first pitch swing from Ortiz. Why? Why? I don't get it at all.

JD Drew up in a big spot with a huge, huge, enormous chance to finally endear himself to Boston fans a little. He can really help himself out here by plating a run or two, or even just keeping the inning going. 2:56 am in Ireland by the way.

JD Drew works a full count and the Yankee crowd goes ballistic that the blue won't call a pitch two feet off the outside edge. Gary Mathews was right, those Yankee fans really know the game so well.

JD Drew declines the chance to up his status a little with Red Sox Nation by striking out in a very timid fashion. That's about as nice as I can put that. Yuck.

Bottom of the eighth inning
Yankees still lead 5-3

This actually does not look like it is going to end well for Boston however I have come this far and an extra 15 minutes isn't going to make tomorrow any harder! Interestingly, after striking out Belinda Carlisle, sorry, I mean JD Drew, Jabba the Chamberlin, pumped his fists hard and stared down the Red Sox dugout. Interesting behavior for a rookie who is playing on a team eight games behind the leaders of their division. Unusual stuff, to say the least. The Sports Karma Gods may have something to say about that before the AL East season is over.

Hey! Tiger! Tiger Woods in the crowd. Unsure if he knows Cameron Diaz is there too. Wonder who he's rooting for?

Delcarmen deals with Matsui and Posada for the first two outs.

Bobby Kielty is also out of the game now, and also with lower back spasms. That's two left fielders down with the same injury. Need outfielders? Can you say 'Jacoby Ellsbury'?

Mariano Rivera is up and warming in the Yankee bullpen, by the by. Meanwhile, woah, Coco misplays a ball a little. Well, he didn't misplay it as much as take a little bit of a poor route to the ball. Either way it may have dropped in. Delcarmen has to keep the runner on third now or this game might be over.

Enter Wilson Betemit. Explain to me why New York pitched Proctor basically every day for three years and then traded him for a scrappy but relatively unproductive backup infielder? Unusual trade, to say the least. I guess they really believe in Jabba the Chamberlin. Delcarmen does nothing for Red Sox Nation's health by going 3-0 on Betemit before throwing a strike. He blazes a 97 mph fastball right by Betemit to make it a full count and then blasts a 98 mph inferno ball right through Betemit's over-matched bat to end the inning.

Top of the ninth
Yankees lead 5-3

Here we go. It would be kinda nice to have Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar around for this. They always seemed to give Mariano trouble. Manny is out of the game, Kielty is out of the game. Wily Mo is blasting home runs like they are going out of fashion in Washington. Eric Hinske it is, I guess?

Rivera's stats are odd. He has given up over a hit and inning but has only walked 8 all year and has struck out 58.

The Sox go at the issue with Varitek, Crisp and Lugo and Varitek is down 0-2 faster than you can say 'Where did Wily Mo go again?'. He strikes out on an inside cutter and the Sox are in deep trouble. I have to wonder, if New York takes this, and the other two games of the series, how damaging would that be to Boston's psyche? It certainly makes Beckett's start tomorrow night rather important.

Coco works the count to 2-0 but Rivera is handed that Yankee outside corner for 2-1. Low ball three is followed by low ball four but the blue again hands the Yankees a gift of a strike. That's seven non-strikes called strikes by my count tonight, all for the Yankees. Sure enough Coco strikes out looking for the second out. Do I even need to tell you what Lugo did?

Bla, whatever. Kind of an odd game.
Tomorrow night is suddenly huge.
Goodnight from Dublin.



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Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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