Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Red Sox 3; Angels 2

One of the reasons baseball is such a great game is because occasionally you end up with wildly unpredictable results. Santana shutting out the White Sox for instance, back when the White Sox offense was at least average. Ramon Ortiz outdueling Pedro Martinez in 2000. Little David Eckstein hitting walk off grand slams. Adam Kennedy hitting three home runs in one playoff game. Of course, the reason these moments are great is because day after day, play after play we see almost nothing but the predictable. That's what makes the unpredictable so exciting.

Tonight was an example of seeing the predictable, over, and over, over. The most shocking thing about this game is that it took the Red Sox until their last at bat to win. The Angels should have been hammered. Let's break it down:

Lackey: I've never seen a pitcher so afraid of a lineup. This is a guy won a seventh game of the world series as a rookie, yet he refuses to throw anything in same zip code as the strike zone when he faces any of the Red Sox big hitters in a pressure situation. Three straight walks, a wild pitch (thanks, Bengie), and he trails 2-0. The miracle is that he escaped having only allowed two runs.

Scioscia: This can be broken into three categories.

1) The bullpen. As much as I want to blame him here (and believe me, I do), he's currently saddled with a pen that simply can't get anybody out. He has one guy with some promise, and that's Escobar, who was excellent tonight. A problem completely of his own making, however, is his refusal to use his closer in a tie game on the road. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen him do it. I understand that to win, you still need to retire the home team in the bottom of the last. But saving your best pitcher for a hypothetical situation is akin to refusing to start a well rested Roger Clemens in game six of a World Series you trail 3 games to 2 just in case you get to a game seven. A relief ace unused is a useless relief ace. But this has been Scioscia's M.O. for his entire managerial career, or do I have to remind anyone of Bernie Williams' homer in game one of the 2002 ALDS? He's not going to change now. Of course, Frankie sucks right now, too, so there's no guarantee he would have done any better. Regardless, the bullpen, and Shields in particular, blowing this game was completely predictable. Embarrassed about all of those losses out of the pen, Scot? Well, get used to seeing one more.

2) Erstad hitting fifth. What the fuck? I mean seriously, what the fuck? I realize this team has little power, but that's not an excuse to just punt the power spots in the order (no pun intended). Vlad on base four times. Vlad left on base four times. Completely predictable.

3) Finley. There is no possible explanation for this move that would satisfy just about anyone who has watched this team on a regular basis. Did he need a lefty? Bullshit. If the platoon advantage is so great against knuckleballers, why do many of the capable switch hitters actually hit from the right side against Wakefield? Was it because he's due? Yeah, and he has been for about 5 months. He's not due, he's done. Honestly, this move was completely unacceptable. Unacceptable, yet predictable.

Ultimately, this wasn't a game I expected them to win. Frankly, I don't *expect* them to win any game, and I haven't since the D-Rays series. But what makes it tough to stomach was the completely predictable nature in which it was handed over to the Red Sox. When you have a certain segment of your roster underperforming, and a manager that feels the need to accentuate that group's failures, you're going to lose a lot of games. Opposing managers don't need to look for a weakness on the Angels. Scioscia and company are putting those weaknesses on full display for all to see.


Joe said...

I agree with your assessment on Lackey. I'm a Sox fan living in Southern California and it happens that I see way more Angel games every year than Sox games.

I was watching the game with a few buddies who are Angel fans and when Lackey was facing the big boys, I mentioned how he's not challenging them. He's 2nd in the AL in strikeouts and he's got a great defense behind him. I've seen him mature in the last year and not give up the big inning. His next hurdle is clearly believing in himself and challenging whomever he's facing at the dish.

Ironcheffie said...

I thanked god for 3 things today:

1. David Ortiz
2. Steve Finley
3. Maria Sharapova

Pops said...

As soon as Finley was announced as a pinch hitter, I KNEW they would lose the game. All the tension and excitement just died because there was no way Deadweight was going to do anything but ground out in a manner that would keep a run from scoring.

Escobar was lights-out, though, wasn't he?

Patrick J. Fitzgerald said...

Barry Bonds is coming off DL soon, beware!