Game 2

I had talked about how Game 2 would be a pitcher’s duel, and in a way it was, but it’s not your typical pitcher’s duel when the starters go an average of 5 innings.

The bullpens were great on both sides.

Holliday had 4 of his team’s 5 hits.  MVP, indeed.  Impressive. 

The problem is, the image most people will leave with is him getting picked off first base in a key situation down by 1 in the 8th.  That’s too bad if people blame him.  Postgame interviews had Schilling praising the advanced scouting for noting this was exactly the kind of situation where the Rockies like to surprise an opponent with a stolen base in a key situation, and Papelbon saying he hardly ever tries pickoffs, and never on his own, but the dugout signalled to him to try a pickoff, so he just followed orders and did it.

Credit the scouts!

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Game 1 is Done

Current Conditions:

A new record for largest margin of victory in a World Series game:  12 

A new record for most doubles by a team in a World Series game:  8

Well, the rust showed for Colorado, and the hot streak which had the Red Sox winning by a combined score of 30-5 over the previous 3 games got extended to 43-6 over the last 4 games. 

Despite the apparent dominance, this trend is not likely to continue. 

First, Colorado throws an outstanding young rookie starter out there in Game 2.   I don’t think he’ll be as affected by the layoff, since just being in the dugout for a live game will get him into game mode.  The only way the Sox get to this kid is if he gets nervous and tries to be too perfect with his pitches and misses his location.   Jiminez has a fastball in the high 90’s and an outstanding slider.  The Red Sox have disciplined hitters who’ll not swing at stuff that’s too far from the strike zone.  Jiminez will probably not be at the top of his game, but his stuff is good enough that he’ll be able to battle through it without too much damage.

Schilling has tons of playoff experience.  He’s the grizzled veteran pitching against the young rookie.  It’s an interesting story, isn’t it?  Old vs. Young.   Wily Veteran vs. Energetic/Athletic Youth.

Forecast:

In this game, the home field advantage and overall momentum of the Red Sox offense will make the difference.  It will be a pitcher’s duel, and much lower scoring for the Red Sox, but they’ll be able to string together enough hits, walks, stolen bases and sacrifices to eke out a couple more runs than the Rockies.

This game will probably be in the 4-2 range. 

I think the Rockies will get a boost in game 3, as Fogg, who beat the Red Sox earlier this year, will get a home-crowd boost, and the Red Sox will have to either play Youkilis in rightfield, or Lowell at shortstop if they want to have Ortiz, Youkilis and Lowell in the game at the same time.  In other words, either an important bat sits, or someone plays an unfamiliar position. 

With Lugo heating up, and having speed, and shortstop being such an important position, you can bet Lowell will either at 3rd base, or sitting.  In the last few postseason games, Lowell has struggled at the plate a bit compared to his teammates, so perhaps he’ll be the one to sit in game 3.  In game 5, the Sox would face a lefty, so perhaps Ortiz will be allowed to rest his knee that game.  Will Youk be asked to sit in game 4?  More likely, they’ll throw Youk into rightfield and pray for the best in game 4, and sit JD Drew.

In any case, most likely, the Rockies will also win game 4 (with Jonathan Lester starting for the Sox, barring a rainout) and the Red Sox will win game 5 behind Beckett, and return to Fenway needing just one more win to clinch.  This time, Schilling would rise to the occasion and close it out in game 6.   Beckett will set a record with 5 wins in a postseason, and win his 2nd World Series MVP.

Well, that’s my forecast.  It took watching a game to have it all come together in my head.

Of course, if there’s a rainout, Lester might not pitch game 4, and you might have Beckett pitch then.  If something like that happens, everything gets re-cast. 

Enjoy game 2!

How about a forecast?

OK, OK, alright already!  There was a lot to say, so I put it in separate posts!

The forecast for tonight is a pretty easy one, anyway.

Current Conditions:

Josh Beckett pitches for the Sox on a perfect amount of rest (1 day).

Jeff Francis, with a career 4.68 ERA and season 4.22 ERA, pitching in a division where the highest batting average among an opposing team’s regular player was .302, pitches for the Rox on way too much rest.

As good as Francis has been in his 2 playoff starts, he’s also had an occasional very bad outing, twice giving up 8 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings since mid-August, but still getting quality starts in 7 of his last 9 regular season starts. 

Francis is good, but Beckett has been much better, especially in the playoffs.

The Sox played an intense game just 3 days ago, at home, and didn’t have to travel anywhere.  The Rockies sat around for a week, then had to fly to Boston.

The Red Sox won their last 3 games by a score of 30-5 against a team which tied them for the best record in baseball.   The Rockies beat the Red Sox in 2 of 3 games, with a combined score of 20-5, but that was way back in June, and they did a similar thing to the Yankees at that time, then the Rockies went into a tailspin after that. 

The Rockies are capable of raising their level of play, as evidenced by their June play against the Red Sox and Yankees in interleague play, and by their winning 21 of 22 games with their "backs against the wall" most of that time. 

Forecast:

Don’t underestimate the Rockies.  However, in this first game, Beckett’s recent dominance and perfect amount of rest, and the Red Sox recent momentum at home combined with the Rockies long layoff and travel will all conspire against the Rockies’ ability to raise their level of play up enough to win.

This one should be an easy win for the Red Sox.  They should win it by 3 or 4 runs.  Maybe more. 

However, all bets are off after tonight.  Once the Rockies get warmed up again, anything can happen.   They’re a young team which is improving by the day, and which has confidence, and which knows they’ve been able to raise their level of play to a very high level when needed.  They know they are the best-ever in one area: defense.  Even though the Red Sox have edges in all other areas, being the best-ever in defense gives them the confidence that they have a right to be on this stage, and to believe that they can win.

Tonight will be a win for the Red Sox, but anyone who thinks the Red Sox will win the Series easily in just 5 games is looking too much at the "on paper" comparisons.   The Red Sox will probably win the Series, but it will not be easy.  It will go 6 or 7 games, and the Rockies might just pull out an upset in 7, but most likely it will be the Red Sox.

Post-forecast Dreaming:

The nice thing about that:  if the Red Sox do win it in 6 or 7 as I think will happen, they’ll win it in their home park, and can celebrate right away in front of their home crowd, unlike what happened in 2004. 

I have dreamed my whole life of seeing the Red Sox close out the final win of a World Series in Fenway Park.  It’s the one thing I’ll be cheering for this year.  So, yes, I WANT the Rockies to win at least 2 games, but no more than 3.  Strangely, if the Red Sox are up 3 games to 1, I’ll have to hope they lose game 5, so they can win the Series back in Fenway.

The Sox Pitching Roster

Tim Wakefield was left off the roster.  I didn’t quite hear all the reasons.  I think this was their reasoning:

1) Avoid knuckleballs in thin air.  They won’t move as much.  The knuckleball depends upon air friction against the seam of the ball to change its direction, as it rotates slowly, about 1 to 2 turns as it moves towards the plate.  Thinner air means less friction, meaning less movement.

2) Since Beckett and Schilling are your definite top-2 starters, they go 2 games each.  Beckett gets games 1 and 5.  Schilling can go 2 and 6 or 3 and 7.  That leaves Matsuzaka or Wakefield pitching game 4 only, and the other one pitching the pair that Schilling doesn’t pitch.

The only solution that didn’t have Wakefield in Coors Field is games 2 and 6 for Wakefield, with Dice-K in game 4. 

3) Wakefield was well enough to start game 2, but wouldn’t be able to recover in time to start game 6. 

Thus, the only options were to have Wakefield pitch long out of the bullpen, or leave him off the roster.  Since it would take a long time for Wakefield to warm up his hurting shoulder, they didn’t want him to be out of the bullpen, so they left him off the roster.

That allowed Kyle Snyder onto the roster.  What a thrill it must be for a guy who was released by the lowly Kansas City Royals last year.  How low can that feel? 

If the Sox hadn’t had such a crazy epidemic of pitching injuries last year, he might be struggling in the minors somewhere, but he got a chance to prove himself in a pressure environment, and did well enough to hang around. 

Off the scrap heap, and into the World Series, in just over a year.  You go, Mr. Snyder!

What about Gagne?

Many people complained that Julian Tavarez should have been on the roster instead of Eric Gagne.

While I still think that will be one of the worst trades in Red Sox history, I do believe the Red Sox made the right decision by having Gagne on the roster.  I just think he’s more likely to give them good performances.

Gagne’s performance has little to do with my opinion that it was a bad trade.  If Gagne had pitched perfectly over the last 3 months, it still was a bad trade, because he wouldn’t be returning to Boston next year, so it amounts to tossing aside a highly promising young starting pitcher and a top outfielder prospect for a 3 month rental of a reliever we did not need. 

The Red Sox bullpen was fine!  Yes, they were worried about Papelbon’s innings, and Okajima’s innings.  They rested both guys a lot, and got nothing from Gagne, and things fell apart somewhat, but they STILL had enough of a lead and enough good players elsewhere to get the best record in baseball, and make it to the World Series.   They didn’t need him, even if he’d been at his best.  They threw away 2 superb prospects.  What a waste.

Still, Gagne has shown signs of locating his pitches better lately, and getting hitters to take weak swings.  He’s looking more like his old self.  For the moment, he’s more likely to give you what you need in a World Series.  This guy is used to pitching in high-pressure situations.  Tavarez has always done well as a starter and poorly as a reliever.  Gagne is the right choice. 

Still, I’d rather have Kason Gabbard on my team next year than Gagne on my World Series roster this year!

Who knows?  Maybe Gagne will accept a setup role in order to have a chance to make a meaningful contribution to a winning team?  Maybe he will choose to sign with the Red Sox for another 3 years, and will return to his old, dominant self?  Unlikely, but if it does happen, it might make the trade halfway worth it.

Random World Series Sox/Rox facts

1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918,

1946, 1967, 1975, 1986,

2004

and now, 2007.

The first 5 were years the Red Sox won the World Series. 

The next 4 were years the Red Sox lost the World Series (in 7 games each time!).

The last one was (finally) another win.

The Red Sox are 6-4 in World Series.  In the last 5 World Series, they’ve won 16 games and lost 16 games, but won only 1 of those 5. 

There was no World Series in 1904 or 1994, so the Red Sox won the 1st, 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 100th.  Yes, 2004 was the 100th World Series.

The Red Sox made it, but lost in the 43rd, 64th, 72nd and 83rd.

This year is the 103rd. 

So who’ll win?

The Colorado Rockies have only been around since the early 90s, and have only made the playoffs once.  They’ve never been in the World Series.  This will be their first time there.  The entire Midwest must be thrilled.

It’s good to see a team like the Rockies make it. 

Of course, I’m cheering for the Sox, but it wouldn’t be so bad to see the Rockies win.  Either way, it’s a good story to me.  I guess that’s why I’m not quite as emotionally into this World Series as the last one.  That, and the fact that it’s been only 3 years since the last Red Sox win, instead of 86. 

One for All

So we have a game 7 after all.

Originally I predicted Sox in 7.

Earlier today I predicted Indians in 7.

What do I feel after seeing this game? 

I’m back to being uncertain.

Daisuke Matsusaka had his usual "implosion inning" after having pitched well for the first few innings in Game 3.  Still, the final score was only 4-2, thanks to a good effort from the bullpen to keep it close.  Westbrook was just better, as he threw a lot of first pitch strikes, and the Sox were patient, taking too many of them and falling behind in the count. 

What adjustments will be made?

Will the Sox swing at those first pitch strikes in the middle of the zone?  Will they get hits off of them?  Will that play into Westbrook’s hands?  Will he get all the double-plays he enjoyed last time? 

After scoring so much in the last 2 games, I think the Red Sox are more confident.  I think they’ll swing early in the first inning, to try to get Westbrook to adjust by starting to nibble with his first pitches, then they can go back to their regular game plan.  The key will be whether the Sox get hits off those first pitch strikes.

Another key is the venue.  Game 3 was in Cleveland.  When Daisuke gave up runs, he didn’t have the crowd to support him and lift him up emotionally.  Game 7 is in Fenway.  The crowd will be on his side all the way.  Schilling said tonight that the home crowd lifted his spirits many times and allowed him to fight through the rough innings.  Will it work for Matsusaka, too?

Ellsbury hit the ball well in replacing Crisp.  He was robbed of a triple by Grady Sizemore, so he only had 1 hit, driving in a run and later scoring, but he definitely looked like he had more offensive spark and confidence than Coco Crisp.  Then again, the first Indians batter of the 7th inning hit a fly ball that he could have caught by just putting his back up against the wall and reaching up, but Ellsbury thought he was out of room and had to jump.  He missed the catch.  That led to a run, but it was too little, too late for Cleveland.  Still, that’s a play that Crisp probably makes.  Generally, though, Ellsbury is almost as good defensively as Crisp, and that’s extremely good. 

Will Ellsbury start again in Center?  It sounds like it.  Why mess with a lineup that produced 12 runs?  If the Red Sox make it to the World Series, I’d expect Crisp to start again in game 1, or at least against left-handed starters.  The mental break might do him enough good that he’ll come in and produce.

This game will be difficult to predict.  Cleveland had to use their bullpen longer than expected in this game, but in a game 7, all the previous starters are available, except the starters of game 6.  That gives both teams plenty of depth, but the Red Sox have the advantage, only needing 2 innings from the bullpen, and having those go relatively quickly, to Lopez and Gagne, who had struggled.  Those are big, confidence-building outings for those 2 pitchers, and could help the Red Sox in game 7 if the game goes to extra innings.  Cleveland will be in trouble if their starter is out early and it goes to extra innings, as their bullpen is a little more depleted. 

But barring that scenario, both teams should be able to get 4 or 5 innings of excellent relief from their game 4 and 5 starters, and from the best of their bullpen, so if either team is ahead in the 5th and their starter starts to struggle, expect a quick hook from their manager.

Given all that, and that Daisuke has often pitched 4 good innings, then had trouble in the 5th, I’d expect the Red Sox to have the upper hand in this game.  Most likely, the crowd support, and Daisuke’s preparation, will calm him and allow him to pitch better than last time.  Ortiz said that Daisuke was watching film of the last game all evening.  If Daisuke starts to melt down anyway, the bullpen will be able to go long.

Forecast:

The key will be an early lead for both teams.  If the game is tied after 4 innings, Cleveland probably has the advantage, and Daisuke keeping Cleveland from scoring in the 5th inning would be huge, and would shift the advantage back to Boston. 

If Boston is ahead after 4, they’re in the driver’s seat, as they would have room to let Daisuke pitch a while in the 5th before taking him out if he gets into trouble. 

If either team is up by 2 runs or more after 4 innings, that team wins.  Otherwise, the game comes down to whether Daisuke can pitch a scoreless 5th inning. 

So I’m not picking a winner, I’m just telling you what conditions to look for.  The early innings are key. 

Some Good ‘Ol Home Cooking

Current Conditions:

Coming home to Fenway Park, after a solid win in Cleveland. 

The Red Sox have to be feeling good in this game.

Schilling has experience coming up big in a game 6 after having pitched poorly earlier.  He’ll find a way to get things done tonight. 

The Red Sox offense should get a boost with Ellsbury hitting 8th, and just from being back home in a familiar and friendly hitter’s park. 

Word on the street is that the Sox fans in and around Fenway are already showing a lot more "buzz" and energy than in the first 2 games.  Perhaps they were overconfident in the first 2 games, and now they realize they have to respect the Indians.  It’s do or die.  They’re really into this game, because there is real concern in their minds that the Sox might not win the series.  The chance of losing seems more real to them than it did in the first 2 games, so they’re bringing more support, and feeling more real playoff suspense.

Forecast:

The Red Sox win game 6, but it will be an exciting, suspense-filled game.

I’m not as confident about game 7.  They’ll probably lose that game.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  First things first.  Take care of game 6.

If they do get to a game 7, the good news is that all pitchers will be available except Schilling. Wakefield could come in to relieve for a few innings, as could Lester.   Beckett could even throw an inning or 2, given that it would be his normal day to "throw on the side".