The Kid's Alright: Birthday Boy
In a few words, the game this afternoon was
painful. Very painful. And Iíd rather not dwell on what I saw broadcast on
NESN a few hours ago. Last night, on the other hand, was a different
This Birthday Boy had a nice night at Fenway Park.
Well, actually, my special day is tomorrow, but Friday night Yankee
tickets with Pedro on the hill arenít exactly easy to come by. So it was a
Wednesday night affair with the intimidating Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The
real B-day boy, one Nomar Garciaparra, put up an 0-fer, as he turned 30.
Never fear though, Trot Nixon came through, blasting home 5 RBIs on two
home runs, including a grand slam. And though Iíve seen my share of
grannies on TV, to be honest this might have been the first Iíve been
witness to in person.
An electric thing it was, that whole 7-run seventh.
Just after complaining about Doug Mirabelli getting the at bat he slipped
one up the middle and found himself on first. I should have known:
EPSN.com tells me Dougieís hitting .339 with nobody on and .400 when he
leads off an inning. Then came Johnny Damon. Dare I say it, but I think he
might be breaking out. Damon is hitting .333 since the break with an OBP
of .379. Last night, he was patient at the plate and drew two walks. His
biggest contribution came in the seventh, with Gabe Kapler pinch running
for the aforementioned Mirabelli. Damon turned on a Travis Harper offering
and launched a moon shot over Peskyís Pole. Johnnyís dancing on his way to
first must have convinced the umps as they ruled it a fair ball. Iím not
saying it wasnít fair, but those calls are always tough to make, and
frequently go against the Sox. Such is the life in Boston, right?
A Todd Walker double, Garciaparra ground out and
Ramirez intentional walk later, David Ortiz laced a double down the line
in left to plate one. Bill Mueller drew a walk to set the stage for Trot.
Nixonís blast in the third was the Sox first run and his granny in the
seventh would be their last, as that swing put the Sox up 10-4 for good.
Iím not just trying to convince myself it was a
good game, Iím pretty sure it really was. Of course no Sox game is
complete without a big offensive barrage. That barrage, in this case,
covered up a host of blunders from the Sox during the first six and a half
innings. The game started with lousy base running. Damon was doubled off
on a Nomar pop fly in the first. Manny led the next inning off with a wall
ball double. To be honest he was done at second base, but the Rays
mishandled the tag. After a David Ortiz strikeout, Bill Mueller sent a
blooper into shallow left. Julio Lugo caught up to it, and Manny, running
like the wind, was already around third. The Rays doubled him off without
much trouble at second. Just like that and the Red Sox had played two
innings, but only forced the D-Rays to get four outs.
The game went along well from then and the Sox took a 3-2 lead into the
bottom of the sixth. Trot laced a two out single to right. Jeremy Giambi,
0 for 2 with two Ks to that point in the game, knocked a ball high off the
wall. Running on contact, Nixon was on his way home with a run that would
put Boston up two. At that point in time, before the seventh inning
explosion, the Sox needed all the runs they could get. But Giambi, perhaps
pressing his luck in the face of his sub .200 average, tried to stretch
his wall ball single. With Nixon two steps from home plate, Giambi was
nabbed at second. The crowd sank and as Wakefield surrendered two solo
homers the next inning and Sox looked up from a 4-3 deficit, Giambi was
being fit for the villainís costume on the night.
Damon and Nixon bailed Giambi out, as well as the
rest of the team. Itís tough to complain after a 10-4 victory. But there
are plenty of spots. The base running gaffes, early and late, are errors
we might expect the blundering Devil Rays to commit. Iíll admit it, I
really think this is the best team the Sox have put on the field, at least
since Iíve been paying attention. And with the addition of Sauerbeck, who
looked decent in an inning of work against righties and lefties alike, the
pen is stronger. The rotation is nothing intimidating after Pedro and
Lowe, but everyone gets the job done. We all know about the offense; it
is, simply put, a juggernaut. But some games things just arenít going to
work real well, pitchers might struggle or the offense might fall silent.
In games like those a team that canít run the bases, a team that looks
like it doesnít know how to run the bases, will be in big trouble.
There are plenty of rules about running you learn from little league on
up. With two outs, you go on contact. With two outs and a full count, you
go on the pitch. On balls deep in the outfield, you go halfway. But most
important of any rule is common sense and always being aware. The Sox were
not aware the bases last night. It didnít cost them, but eventually it
probably will. I might sound overly negative and just be nitpicking. But
hey, itís my birthday and Iíll complain if I want to.
- JJ Feigenbaum (he's only 16 for
24 more hours, like that matters)