ALDS Game 3: Learning from A Loss

 

alds game 3

Tropicana Field, ugh? Courtesy of blogs.suntimes.com

Let’s review what the Red Sox learned during the ALDS Game 3 loss to Tampa at the Trop.

The team does a heck of a lot better at home. Why? Because Fenway Park is a real baseball field, with real grass, and much better lighting. It does not have catwalks, and a dome built for a football or hockey arena. Balls should not bounce off obstructions in the air, over the playing field. The only obstructions should be in foul territory. Those obstructions cause teams to lose.

Clay Buchholz froze up, got too far inside his head in the latter part of the fourth, and then definitely in the fifth inning. TBS cameras showed a shot of him in the dugout while the Red Sox were batting. You could see that he was in head. Then when he went back out for the fifth he just seemed to be throwing more sliders and curves in the high 80 MPH range. Clay lost confidence in his pitch selection. He can’t let that happen. Buchholz is far too good a natural talent to be so hard on his ability to perform.

Again, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew are just not producing. Napoli is still looking to hit balls as hard as humanly possible. Just make good contact like Jacoby Ellsbury. People are all over Ellsbury and his bloopers. He’s making contact and moving people around the bases, this was especially the case in the early innings. Drew just needs to start his swing sooner. I don’t know what to do with this guy. He’s been defensively solid, but he was even off there last night. The middle of the lineup worries me.

Our middle reliever situation needs some switching up. You cannot put Craig Breslow in when the game is tight and the team is behind the eight ball like they were last night. I am not sure if Ryan Dempster is available, but I would like to see if he could provide support in the middle reliever role. He’s always been good for a couple of innings. I also believe Koji Uehara could go for two innings, and I know other fans agree with me here. Uehara should pitch in the eighth and the ninth. It may have helped him physically last night. What happened with Koji last night was unfortunate.

Finally, the fans learned do not touch the sting rays in the outfield tank. This is verboten.

ALDS Game 2: Don’t Overlook the Great Defense

ALDS game 2

Courtesy of boston.sportsthenandnow.com

Well, it was a bit, emphasis on the “bit,” of a tighter ALDS Game 2 for the Boston Red Sox. Pitching seemed to be the issue during this game, though bats were “going steady” like two teenage sweethearts.

That said, John Farrell must come to the realization that sometimes he needs to pull his starters a bit sooner. Just a bit, I’m not talking a whole inning sooner. He just needs to know when to pull the plug. Our middle men were a bit exploited during this game, which is a phenomenon that leaves fans worried, or worse laying blame on the starter. John Lackey pitched a decent game Saturday night, not his best but still good enough to keep Tampa’s bats at bay. This leads me to impress upon you the importance of defensive play, the unsung hero of baseball.

What redeems this Red Sox team, game in and game out, is strong defense and, yes, a consistent offense. There is a lot of emphasis placed on offense in baseball because that is where all the action really happens save for a game saving catch, or a notable blunder. Game two showed the prowess of Stephen Drew, Dustin Pedroia, and first baseman Mike Napoli in the infield. Drew made a perfect opposite field double to left field in the bottom of the fourth, but he also made a great catch, near third base in the 8th inning. A couple of double plays were made or attempted. Defensive play is easily overlooked. Why? Fans love the bottom of the 8th homers by David Ortiz. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love myself some Papi, but there is more to the 2013 Red Sox than an impressive offense. People need to know that good fielding is just as important as run production.

Hopefully, the Sox are showing the world through their work in Game 2 that they can go the distance because of their defense. They certainly have warmed this worried heart with their well-rounded play.

Postseason, Fenway Park Draws Fans of all Ages

postseason

Game 1, postseason: The Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. They win by a landslide, 12-2. The fans go wild, but I have to say, I was slightly perturbed by the number of fans who were, at the bottom of the eighth, on their way out and making their way to the exits through Fenway – the opposite direction to which the game was being played. Why was everyone leaving so soon? They were winning and yes it was by a landslide, but come on, it’s the playoffs, game 1! Fans need not miss a waking moment at this point! It’s the playoffs for crying out loud! Who would have thought we’d get this far in the first place?! Well, in retrospect, no matter, it gave me a chance to get down on the action. It was time to hit the bars, but first I needed insight from the innocent. As I was walking down Yawkey Way I scouted out a few young fans; fans that were at Fenway for their first time. Hannah, 9, Evan 6, and Meghan 8, took a trip with their dad to Fenway to see the Sox play their first game in postseason. I’m glad, for their sake, the team pulled through and won. All the way from New Hampshire, these kids were more than excited. They were ecstatic. You could see it in their demeanor and in their eyes. When I asked what their most memorable moment was, Hannah replied, “when Big Pappi hit not one, but two homeruns!”

JD Drew is Evan’s favorite player, while Big Pappi and Dustin Pedroia are Meghan and Hannah’s respectively. Coming all the way from New Hampshire, these young fans show great pride in their Boston team. As their first time at Fenway came to an end, I could not let them go until I knew just how cool it was for them. Their responses were nothing more than whimsical: Two “Awesome!” and a “Great!

I had the opportunity, game 1, to interview others so stay tuned for those interviews about a diehard Yankees fan and what brought him to Fenway, the double Dan’s and what the Red Sox have in store for the upcoming postseason games, and predictions based on preseason’s flawless performances.

ALDS Game One: A Catalyst Creates Momentum and A Big Win

ALDS Game One

David Ortiz tees off in Game 1 at Fenway. Courtesy of nydailynews.com

The Red Sox have hustle, drive, and the speed to turn singles into doubles. They make great contact with the ball offensively and field balls easily. The fans know a win is possible the minute this 2013 team hits the field, yet there is still one factor standing between exceptional skill and a win.

In ALDS game one against the Tampa Rays, the Sox played a sound game. There was just one more additive to the game, which they needed and received: momentum. The magic of overcoming inertia and thus creating momentum is what changes the atmosphere of any sport. Momentum, as I feel I spoke about all season, is crucial to winning. An action has to kick off that momentum: this is a catalyst. The catalyst may be subtle or blatant.  Nevertheless, the catalyst turns the tides and makes a win possible. The catalyst during this game was one Will Myers, a right fielder for the Tampa Rays; a botched play in the bottom of the fourth inning lead to David Ortiz earning a ground-rule double placing Dustin Pedroia in scoring position at third base. In that moment, the switch was flipped, and the Red Sox knew they had the physical and psychological advantage. They knew Pedroia and Ortiz, among many others, would score. Fans knew we had the Rays exactly where we wanted them, with their backs against the wall, winning the game 12-2.

It is a beautiful thing when a catalyst like this opens the game up in such a big way.  Fans saw this happen during the regular season in other high scoring games. One batter or two; get a series of men on base and as they say, the hits just keep on coming (but, of course, in a good way!) It is magical when it happens. Then during games where Boston squeaks by, or worse, loses, fans wonder where the hit parade went. It is all because no one created that magic moment, that catalyst to clinch the win.

I look forward to more catalyzing tonight at Fenway Park.

Time to Worry? Boston Red Sox Face Tampa in ALDS

Boston Red Sox face tampa

Oh no! This is exactly what I did not want to happen, but yet I knew it would. Fairy tales are fairy tales for a reason; they are not based in reality.  Cleveland vs Boston in the ALDS just wasn’t meant to be. Terry Francona will not come back to Boston. The B- reel of nostalgic moments from 2004 and 2007 will not air on Friday night. Still, fans must march on, now more concerned than ever. The Boston Red Sox face the Tampa Bay Rays today at Fenway Park.

The Sox have a slight edge over the Rays, winning 12 out of the 19 regular season games. This is only a 5 game win margin between the two teams. Feels tight to me, but maybe I am just your typical nervous Boston fan.

Here is another statistic that mirrors the one regarding our regular season games against the Rays: the Red Sox won half of their games, plus a few extra, each month to get to the post season. I know, you are probably thinking, “No, duh, that’s how it works.” The point I am trying to make, and boy am I belaboring it, is that this Red Sox team is squeaking by and winning. The come from behinds, and blow-out 20 run games have all been exciting for many reasons, but mostly because they have allowed fans to forget the losses along the way. It was no different in 1967, or in 2004. So can we do it in 2013?

Here’s the bad news, the stuff we don’t want to hear about Tampa. The Rays played twice in the last week and have won five of the last five games, the last two getting them to the ALDS. They want this pretty bad. On top of their consistent play throughout this week, they have a strong record on the road. And just for icing on the cake, pitcher Matt Moore has the start for them this afternoon. He is 17-4 for the season.

Boston Red Sox face Tampa

The good news is the Red Sox are their strongest at home. This first game will set the tone for the rest of the series, as three games are scheduled to be played in Boston. Pitcher Jon Lester is 15-8 for the season, so he’s just nipping at Moore’s heals.  Offensively, players like Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, and others continue to surprise fans and rise to the occasion when the pressure is on. Plus, they have an extensive 19 game history with this 2013 Tampa team. They know their enemy well.

With all this said, great, bad, and indifferent, where do you think the ALDS series is headed?

What Are Your Post-Season Traditions?

post-season traditions

A 2013 tradition that seems to have caught on with the players. Courtesy of rhogroupee.com

Here’s an interesting question as we head into the post season: what are your post-season traditions or superstitions? Are you going to rub the same rabbit’s foot you did in 2007, while sitting on your lucky barstool? Or will you just keep doing what you have been doing all throughout the 2013 regular season? Both have their benefits, as each person has their own way of celebrating, or helping to secure a win for the Red Sox. I think I am going to stick with this year’s regular season traditions. They seem to have worked, thus far, and they have provided me with as much benefit as they (may) have the Red Sox.

Number one, and perhaps, the most important tradition; I have been watching the games with family and friends in the comfort of our various homes. Number two, I read up and learned more about the statistical side of the game. I learned about Sabermetrics, ERAs, ABs, and BBs (how would anyone ever know that BB represents a “walk?”). I watched John Farrell work hard as a manager translating these numbers into wins. He is the manager of the year in my eyes. If the MLB does not see this, then they must be blind. From 69 wins in 2012 to 97 in 2013, that’s quite the turnaround. A turnaround made possible by Farrell putting the right players in the right positions, even if that meant changes on a daily basis.

Also, I spent more time around Fenway Park, thanks to my work with Yawkey Way Report. The investment in this organization allowed me to get more invested in the Red Sox organization. I am even on Yawkey Way when I do not need to be. As I work nearby, I have been known to take 3-4 mile runs mid-day, throughout the summer, to just be around the ballpark. It is such a different place when a game is not about to be played. It is quiet, calm. Still, the energy and history crackles in the air. It is an indescribable experience. Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, and Jason Varitek are all there with me as I run by, hoping to get back to work in under 20 minutes. Watching the food and delivery trucks pull up, and the Red Sox staff mill around at the gates, are all a small part of the preparations for the day’s game. I feel blessed as I run, listening to my music. I get the tingles, just as I do when I walk up the ramp, into the stands from the lower concourse with the beautifully manicured park in front of me.

post-season traditions

Courtesy of the author

This Red Sox regular season has been a gift, in so many ways for fellow fans, Red Sox players, and me. The opportunities were hard to imagine a year ago. Who would ever imagine that the Red Sox would clinch the AL East Division? Who knew I would interview minor league players, or sit in a minor and major league ballpark’s press box? Who knew that young, 20-somethings from the Portland Sea Dogs (our Double-A affiliate), would play on the grass at Fenway all in the same season? I was blessed to see Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. work their way up the system to live their baseball dreams. It is truly a pleasure to see such talented cream rise to the top.

So many great things happened this season that I know if I keep up my regular season traditions throughout the post season Boston will succeed. No rabbit’s feet and definitely no barstools for me. I’ve got a whole season of experience that proves that I am doing everything right by this team. Let’s go, Sox! Let’s go all the way.