Thursday, August 19, 2010

2011 ALCS: Game one - Yankees @ Red Sox

A glimpse into the future, as the Red Sox take on the Yankees in game one of the 2011 ALCS


Clay Buchholz (26 years old) out pitched an erratic AJ Burnett (34) as the youthful Red Sox blasted past the ageing Yankees 8-0 in last night’s opening ALCS game in front of a rowdy, sold out Fenway Park. Boston, riding the wave of their break-out 106 win season, took their grip on the game early and never let go.

Buchholz: dominant

In the first inning, Jacoby Ellsbury (26) was hit by a pitch leading off as Burnett continued to have control problems. The Yankees ace by default (earning $16.5 million) thanks to Sabathia’s health/injury riddled season, hit the speedster Ellsbury (earning $496,500) with the first pitch of the game. Ellsbury took off on the next pitch and stole second easily as once again Yankee catcher Jorge Posada (40 years old earning $14 million) and shortstop Derek Jeter (37 years old earning $23 million) failed to connect. All season long teams have been stealing on the ageing Yankee catcher and shortstop, both slowed by several niggling injuries and the rigors of a long MLB season.

28 year old MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia brought Ellsbury home to score with a line drive single to right that was bobbled by one of the youngest players on the Yankees playoff roster, 30 year old Nick Swisher.

Buchholz, who won 19 games in the regular season as part of the Red Sox young, talented rotation (Hard to believe the Red Sox paid Buchholz a stunningly low $443,000 in 2010), put of zeroes early and often, mixing his pitches well to navigate through the Yankee lineup, struggling with the absence of (36 year old earning $34 million) Alex Rodriquex, once again held out of the lineup because of an undisclosed ‘health issue’. Many are speculating that this is the same ‘health issue’ that signaled the start of the end of known steroid abuser Jason Giambi’s career. Rodriguez lost weight, went into a 3 for 52 slump and was placed on the DL by the Yankees, who reports say are distraught to be on the hook for 30 million a year for the next several years for the self admitted steroid abuser.

The Red Sox knocked Burnett out of the game early and then feasted on the paper-thin Yankee bullpen, shorn of its once great closer. The crucial inning was the fifth. Youkilis led off with a ball hit to Derek Jeter’s left that the creaky infielder couldn’t get to. Victor Martinez, fresh off his superb 30 home run, 110 RBI season, followed with a double to right leaving runners at second and third with no outs. A clearly angry Girardi lifted the ineffective Boone Logan (5.60 regular season ERA) for the equally inefficient Chad Gaudin. Gaudin walked Adrian Beltre on four pitches and then gave up a booming, deep grand slam to right hit by the Red Sox promising young outfielder Ryan Kalish (only 22).

Given a lead the Red Sox young, ferocious bullpen slammed the door on the Yankees. The Red Sox were 78-4 during the regular season when leading after the seventh inning, thanks to the young, hard throwing combination of Dubront (22), Bard (25) and Papelbon (29). One of the highlights of the game from a Red Sox perspective was Bard striking out the side in the eighth innings on final pitches of 99, 100 and 101 mph. Dubront, who showed signs of breaking out in ’10, had a stunning ’11, proving completely unhittable to left handed batters throwing mid nineties with a killer curve. Dubront abused the only batter he faced, striking out the clearly over matched left handed Nick Swisher on three pitches. Papelbon came in for the ninth despite the score needing some work, and set the Yankees down 1-2-3.

Meanwhile the Yankee bullpen is in complete disarray after the once great Mariano Rivera (now 41 years old) was placed on the DL with lower back stiffness. Age appears to have finally caught up on the greatest closer of all time, after a disastrous late season collapse that saw him blow seven out of ten save opportunities.
‘You know, you are trying to close out games with guys who just haven’t been in this position before, yes, of course we really miss Mo’
said a frustrated Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, who is trying to mix and match between injury prone Kerry Wood (34), erratic Jobba Chamberlin and inexperienced David Robertson. Girardi went on to say the Yankees were just going to have to get used to life without Mo. Sources close to the Yankee closer indicate he may be finally close to retiring.

Tonight the Yankees will send struggling CC Sabathia, to face Cy Young candidate Jon Lester. Sabathia, fined coming into Spring training because of his weight gain, struggled early and often to a 12-13 record, seemingly losing stamina late in games, perhaps as a result of his ample girth. The 31 year old Yankee is listed in the Yankee media guide as 290 lbs however sources in the Yankees training staff indicate Sabathia touched 360lbs during the regular season. In previous years he displayed an exuberance and athleticism despite his weight, however this appears to have finally caught up on him. Sabathia was shelled by the light hitting Oakland A’s in his only ALDS start.

Meanwhile, Lester, the heart and soul of the spectacular, young Red Sox rotation, cruised to a 21-5 record at age just 27. Lester’s salary? $3.7 million, dwarfed by the salaries of the top starters in the Yankee rotation.

A boisterous Fenway proved a complete opposite to the morgue like atmosphere at Yankee Stadium in the season ending series between these two sides. With the Yankees ten games out of first and battling for the Wild Card, Yankee Stadium was relatively empty, particularly the exorbitantly priced $2,500 seats that surround home plate. Major League Baseball has denied calling the images of a half empty Yankee Stadium ‘an embarrassment’ however it is no secret the Yankees over priced seats are causing the front office severe issues.

During the broadcast the commentary team alluded to the fact that Fenway was a much more intimidating place to play than the echoey, empty and mystique less new Yankee Stadium. When asked about the Fenway crowd, Dustin Pedroia said;
‘’Hey you know, we love those guys, they fill the seats out every single night, no matter who is playing or whatever, they come on in to see the Laser Show, and of course we ride that to as many wins as we can, you have to play hard for these guys. I don’t know about the Yankees but I wouldn’t be able to get going in that atmosphere, how much are those seats, $2,500? That’s more than Bard and Buchholz are earning, right?’
The latter part was alluding to the young Red Sox pitchers low salaries.

What is clear is the old, tired and injury hit Yankee squad has its work cut out for it against a young, talented squad of Red Sox players, who appear to be entering a phase of domination eerily mirroring the early nineties Yankee teams. Call this a passing on of the torch if you will.

The only problem of course, is the once great but now ageing Derek Jeter might drop said torch on the transfer.



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

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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