Back on August 6th, under the same title, I offered six items to replace Youk’s thumb. Some were abstract, others clearly linked to the Red Sox success over the last months. I mean the chances for success. Last week, on the Baseball Reporters, Tony Massarotti told us that “this thing has been over for a long time.” In so many words, he added, If you thought the chances for the postseason were eclipsed by the Rays last week at Fenway, then you haven’t been paying attention. Well, I was still in the game, still thinking of miracles and long winning streaks a’ la Colorado. Yes, I was still dreaming but paying attention at the same time.
And, yes, I enjoyed it. When Ryan Kalish hit that grand slam, the room witnessed more fist-pumping and joyous dancing than it had seen in a while. Kalish delivered again yesterday, during a game few were watching as the football season began. This is just to say that Kalish has fulfilled his spot in the six-point plan. Papi has too. I can go on with the promises and disappointments of filling in for Youk and Pedroia. After all, the Sox seem loaded with young talent. In light of that, I can restate the obvious, losing Dustin and Youk is what finished us. So there it is: I’ve uttered the words of conclusion. of finality. But even in this wait-til-next-year postscript frame of mind, the sounds of cheering, not merely their echoes, remain.
ESPN’s number three top play of the day is Nava’s diving catch. In Red Sox top plays, it is number 1. My other top play is Papelbon’s save, one of the best performances by any closer this year. He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes, while using every one of his pitches, including a 97 or 98 mph fastball. Mike’s Napoli’s whiff was a work of pitching art. For his 29th save, his numbers were almost identical. I know I am skipping over the painful blown save, but let’s look at Papelbon at his best. Dan Shaughnessy recently reported that there are only two other closers with better numbers than Pap. Mariano Rivera and Christy Mathewson. I can’t solve the debate about the closers, but I do know that two pitchers like the Bard and Pap are what most teams can only dream about. Give him the contract he wants, Theo. And hold onto the Bard. Many of our one-run game losses result from a rickety pen.
After the great win last night, with Nava’s stealthy dive, two things are important. First, momentum. How many times this year have we felt the high of a great win, with the premonition of the beginning of momentum, thinking, “hey it begins here, we will now win 12 of 14 or something.” Only more games and time will tell. Secondly, Nava’s hunger, along with his workmanship grit is all over that play. Watch the replay a few more times and what comes to mind is how bad he wants to play in the bigs.
One often wonders how the huge contract gets between the ears of a player. Jayson Werth of the Phillies comes to mind. A mid-season slump may have something to do with trade talks and his free agency. It might be a romantic notion to suggest that in this game money changes the intangible desires to win and prove oneself, but look at the young talent on this team. Watch Ryan Kalish getting advice last night from J.D. Drew after catching a fly ball either of them could have grabbed and you might see what’s in the blood of a younger player. Maybe we ought to let Pap keep grinding his teeth to more saves without the big payday.
After Friday night’s loss, a Globe headline haunted me..”Sox Come Up Short.” Would this be the phrase we would be chanting until October? Third place behind the two best records in all of Baseball is coming up short. Looking at all the injuries is knowing and thinking about what could have been. But there are still many games to play, including next weekend’s series against you know who. Four games that might define the season.
photo by Kelvin Ma, Boston Herald
Another question always comes up. I am happy not to have the responsibility of deciding when to bring relief in from the bullpen. When I watched Clay walk out of the dugout as his beautiful start and shutout disintegrated, my only thought was that a pitcher like Buchholz wants the ball in the 9th, especially with our rickety pen. As the Monday morning pitcher, I think we wait until he gives up his own shutout. Why am I bemoaning a another comeback victory, and even when Ramon I bemoan Ramirez is now in the National league, perhaps where he has belonged all of his short career? I am happy to have witnessed Ramon’s best strikeout of the year before his departure. He threw a great splitter to Miguel Cabrera on Friday night and made him look foolish. Was Ramon actually throwing some nasty pitches on the eve of his trade? This was something Pap couldn’t do yesterday. But enough of that.
Scutaro will continue to have a huge impact. With the Ortizian magic and poise in the ninth inning two games in a row gives one the feeling that there is a potential to keep coming back, to sweat it out until the wheels come off. Is it the great bunt or the throwing error? Is it the long at bat that ends in the walk-off? It’s a victory no matter what. Two of three from the Tigers after a sweep of the Angels? We couldn’t ask for a better way for August to come upon us.
Right of the Pesky Pole Notes:
How do we not say anything about Ryan Kalish? There was some Kalishian magic, too, this weekend, and local celebrations were sparkling with Ryan’s first appearance at Fenway. Kalish was born in California but grew up and played baseball in nearby Shrewsbury, NJ, about 15 minutes up the road from where I write this. Tito’ heaped some Green Monster sized praise on the young player, comparing him to Trot Nixon. We could use another Trot, don’t you thnk?
In the other dugout was Jeff Frazier, from Pt Pleasant, 15 minutes in the opposite direction. With Anthongy Ranaudo’s (Jackson,N.J) rise I am starting to think that it’s truly possible to grow baseball players in the Garden State. If you look at some of the National All-Star games for High School players, you might assume that California and Georgia have the only fertile soil.