A chance, blown

Game 2, Yankees 4, Red Sox 3

Ouch! That one hurt. When you look at the number of hits for each team, it seems like the Yankees should have won easily, but looking beyond the numbers, you see that the Red Sox should have been able to win the game.

This is one of those games where some poor decisions and poor luck cost the Red Sox the game.

I’d said that if the Yankees were to win they’d need a multi-run lead after 1 inning.  I suppose I should have said "2 innings".  That’s how it went down.   A 3 run lead after 2 innings was good for a 1 run win for the Yankees.

I suppose the statement should be "Beckett is most vulnerable early, before he gets the feel of all his pitches".

Beckett gave up a LOT of hits, but most were singles, many of the cheap variety.  This is where the poor decisions and poor luck come in.  In the 2nd inning there were 2 slow choppers up the middle that eluded Pedroia who was shifted toward 1st base.  There was the chopper that Youkilis should have let go to Pedroia, but played instead, and Beckett should have run hard to first on, but didn’t expect to have to, and it became an infield hit.   

At other times there were 2 swinging bunts for hits.  Beckett was getting the Yankees to hit the ball hard into the ground, but they were getting hits out of them.  That’s at least 5 hits described above on hard choppers that are normally good for outs.  The poor decisions were when Youkilis took the ball that was more to 2nd base, as described above, and on one of the swinging bunts when Varitek took it instead of Beckett.  Beckett was to the ball much quicker. 

Then, Clemens was pitching well.  The Red Sox seemed to play it aggressively at first, which led to low pitch counts and quick outs.  They probably would have done better to just try running his pitch count up early.  They finally ran it up in the last 2 innings, getting him for 43 pitches in the 5th and 6th after just 55 pitches in the first 4 innings. 

More poor decisions go to Francona.  With Beckett above his season average of 101, having thrown 104 pitches, and having barely escaped a bases loaded jam in the 6th, and looking a bit less in control of location, it seemed obvious to take him out, especially with everyone except Delcarmen available in the bullpen, and such a dominant bullpen.  You have to wonder if Francona was trying to get Beckett the win.   If you’ve clinched the division already, you do that, but here, you don’t.  Francona will say that he was trying to save the bullpen for tomorrow’s day game if possible, or that he thought his best pitcher for that inning was Beckett, (reminds me of what Grady Little said the LAST time Clemens faced the Red Sox in a certain game 7 in 2003).  I won’t believe it.  Beckett gets 2 quick outs then leavs an off-speed pitch in A-Rod’s wheelhouse, down and in.  That was the margin in the game.

There’s no gaurantee the bullpen would have done better, but with a bullpen that good and well rested and a tiring starter having given up lots of hits, it’s a no-brainer of a decision.

The next poor decision was one I was calling loudly at the time.  Youkilis had just homered to get the Red Sox within 1 run, then Drew made an out, so there were now 2 out and nobody on in the 8th, with Varitek facing Farnsworth, and Rivera warming up.  You figure that if Farnsworth puts Varitek on, Rivera is coming in to face the bottom of the order, so your best chance to tie the game is for Varitek to homer off Farnsworth.  Varitek gets the count to 3 balls 0 strikes.   Do you give him the green light?   OF COURSE!!  That’s your best shot by far to tie it!  If you get a fastball down the middle, slug it out of there! 

Farnsworth threw a straight fastball right down Main Steet.  Varitek watched.  I let out a groan.  The next pitch was a high fastball which Tek swung under, then Tek finally drew a walk.  Rivera comes in.  Game over.

Now, I thought that given it was his 2nd straight night, and he’d be going for 4 outs would help, but having Crisp, Hinske and Lugo as the first 3 batters didn’t inspire confidence in me.  Also, after Crisp saw some borderline outside pitches called strikes on him the night before, he might be in a bad mindset.  Once again, a different umpire gave Rivera generous calls on his first 2 pitches, both of which must have barely nipped the outside edge of the plate by a millimeter if they were truly strikes.  On the second pitch, Crisp argued bitterly that it was low, which it appeared to be on replay.  On the 3rd pitch Crisp grounded out weakly. 

Hinske was in the same boat, with Rivera being given a big strike zone.  Come on.  He doesn’t need any help, especially against the Sox weaker hitters.

Pedroia, being a fastball hitter with a lot of confidence who can seem to hit balls out of the strike zone well, seems well suited to hitting Rivera well, and I bet he will if given enough tries, but this time it wasn’t meant to be.  Was that Pedroia’s first AB against Rivera?  Not sure.  He spoiled a good high fastball on 0-2 before hitting a slow grounder to end the game. 

Speaking of Pedroia, there’s another poor decision.  In his first AB after getting hit on the elbow by Clemens, which announcer Jerry Remy thought was on purpose in retaliation for Matsuzaka hitting ARod and others last night, Pedroia inexplicably tried to bunt for a hit.  It was a bad bunt, right back to Clemens.  Bad choice.  You’re not used to bunting, and you’re a fastball hitter facing a fastball pitcher.  Just swing away, for goodness sake! 

Too many poor decisions in this one, one each by Youkilis, Beckett, Varitek, Pedroia, Francona, and the whole aggressive hitting approach against Clemens.

The Red Sox play better in day games than night games, and a day game in Yankee Stadium on a weekday will probably feel more comfortable and less intense than these last 2 night games.  Thursday’s game is where the Red Sox bats will probably wake up and score a bunch.  The hope is that the Yankees bats won’t do the same. 

Game 3

Thursday’s game should be much higher scoring, although you never know with Schilling.  He does tend to rise to the occasion.  He might pitch a gem, and the Sox bullpen could easily do 3 shutdown innings.  I think the Sox bats will either get to Wang with runs or pitch count, and get to the Yankees middle-relief.  With Vizcaino used tonight, and Rivera 2 nights in a row, it’s likely that Chamberlain will be the Yankees only good option in the bullpen.  The key for the Sox will be to get Wang out in 6 innings or less, then pile on lots of runs in the 7th and 8th innings.

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