Friday, October 17, 2008

9=8

A Pimp Named DaveR's Notes From ALCS Game 5

Or, more accurately, 9 = 8 2/3 = 8. If nine men play eight and two-thirds innings, they will score eight runs because the unquestioned AL Manager of the Year will somehow make some incredibly poor bullpen usage decisions.

AND THAT IS WHY WE DON'T LEAVE GAMES EARLY, PEOPLE.

So hey, how've you all been? You may have noticed my absence from these parts over the past few weeks (except when pressing Timlin news overrode all other considerations). The combination of the second-busiest time of year for tax people plus attending all the Sox playoff games = chaos in my life schedule. (I know, I know -- boo fucking hoo.) But historic comebacks call for heroic efforts to sneakily write up a post at lunchtime....

Before I go on with this, I have to give props to Bill Simmons, who (unfortunately for me) already wrote quite a bit of what I was planning to write. It's a good read, so go check it out, and come back here when you're done. I'll wait.

/plays spies

/plays spies

/collects save

So I'm a weekend plan season ticket holder, which means that I am not guaranteed playoff tickets, and am definitely not guaranteed my regular seats if I do get playoff tickets. The Sox ticket office (bless their hearts) have never failed to get us W-planners into the playoff mix, but I do get shunted out to the bleachers for the playoffs. (Which is fine by me -- it's cheaper, it's fun, and -- most importantly -- it's inside the park.) Last night, however, thanks to the Pimpette, I had a chance to take in the game from the left-field roof seats.



Did I mention that I'm a wee bit afraid of heights? Well anyhow, the seats provided me with a clear, unobstructed view of the arc of Bossman Junior Upton's high arcing fly that plopped itself (literally) almost to a standstill on the upper surface of the Green Monster.

Oh crap. Here we go again.

Truth be told, I didn't think Mothra pitched that poorly. He was doing what he should be doing: challenging hitters, trying to stay ahead of them with fastballs, and setting them off for offspeed out pitches. Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of cut on his cutter, and it looked like a lot of the TB hitters were sitting on the fastball, of which he threw some pretty poor ones. And poor pitches have tended to end up in the seats in this series.

I noticed something different in this game, though -- the real fans were back. Yes, we had absolutely nothing to cheer about for six long innings... but unlike the previous two games, the life had not been totally sucked out of the park by the early Tampa leads. Yes, people were leaving in the 6th and 7th -- especially after Blow Job Upton's 2-run double in the 7th. (By the way, I totally called the double steal, and have witnesses to prove it -- call me, Seattle! My managerial skills are still available!) But there were a hell of a lot fewer empty seats than I would have expected. And the roar when Papelbon came in was Old Skool. Sure, he didn't quite get the job done the way we had hoped, but he did buckle down and get Longoria to GIDP, saving a little face. Or so we thought.

I won't lie to you -- I thought the game was over. You don't rationally expect a 7-run comeback against a team that has bitchslapped you for 24 straight innings. "Just score a run," I said to no one in particular. "Go out fighting. That's all I ask." But what you don't do is LEAVE, as so many people did in these games. If it's your team, you stay. If you go grab your 2004 Playoff Run DVD set, check out the tail end of the 19-8 game. You may see me out there in the bleachers, surrounded by acres of empty seats. BECAUSE I STAY. That's what you do as a fan. You support. I left before the final out once -- last year, game 2 of the ALCS, when Cleveland scored 7 runs in the top of the 11th. And that was special circumstances, because it was like 1:30 in the freaking morning and my friend and I both had to work early, and it clearly was all over at that point. And I STILL feel a little guilty about leaving early. But I digress. The point is, if you're leaving when "your team" is down 7-0, good. Stay away. We don't need you. Teams don't need fans who are only there for them when they're up 17-1. You know what you leaving-people are? You're Paris Hilton. You're nothing but pathetic leeches sucking off the teat of success, because it makes you feel better about yourself. That goes for you, too, you 90% of Tropicana Field with your freaking cowbell crap. For the 4,000 or so real Rays fans who kept their season tickets when their team was racking up 90 losses a year -- I know how you feel, and feel bad for you. For the cowbell crowd: fuck you, you deserve this. And for the Fenway Non-Faithful: stay out and go cheer for the Celtics, whom you've presumably just discovered still play in this town.

But I digress. Lowrie's nice leadoff double in the 7th gave me hope that we'd get that run that I wanted. Black Holeitek should've been bunting, but at least managed to avoid lining out directly to the shortstop standing in front of Lowrie for the DP. (Hey captain -- maybe you should focus more on bat speed, and less on inserting your bat into the hired help, eh?) Kotsay -- the real hope I had for a run-scoring hit -- didn't get the job done, either. (More on Kotsay later.)

Which brought up Covelli L. Crisp. I've argued all year that giving away Coco for pennies on the dollar and handing the CF job to Jacoby Ellsbury would be a mistake, because you should NEVER give away talent, especially if doing so means committing to an untested young player. Not to say "I told you so" or anything, but I'd just like to point out that Ellsbury is 0-462 in the playoffs, and Coco Crisp has now had two of the five most important at-bats in the Sox's 2008 playoffs. Here, he didn't do anything spectacular. He didn't even drive in the run. He just did what he is paid to do -- he fought for a single, which allowed a legitimate MVP candidate to bat with runners on base. The Little Motor Scooter did his part -- you knew he would -- driving in the first run of the game. And so my wish was fulfilled. We had our run. They went down fighting.

Because Papi was going to strike out, or ground into the shift. He's not well, that's just the facts, and the inning's over. Hey, there's the bad swing again. Sigh. I miss the old Big Papi. You know Manny would have...

(crack)

It's very hard to judge the flight of a ball that's going away from you. Especially from the roof. So when Ortiz hit what I assumed to be a well-hit but routine fly ball into right field, my first instinct was to watch Gabe Gross, the right fielder. Hey, maybe he botches the ball or something. You never know.

Gross took three long strides.... and stopped dead in his tracks.

The ball, of course, was on its way to landing about 30 rows back in the right field grandstands. Gross could see that. I couldn't. But he told me. Oh yes... he told me.

Pandemonium. The real fans! Back! Good riddance to the early-leavers!

That Dan Wheeler got a tough out out of Youkilis was of no concern -- this was, against all odds, kind of a game again. The crowd was back into it, Papelbon had a dominant K-8-K inning against the middle of the order, and there was some energy left in the Red Sox season.

Now the Rays are still clearly in commmand, of course. They have their closer in the game, and two power lefties in J.P. Licks Howell and David Price waiting in the wings. And they only need six outs.

But....

Jason Bay walks on four pitches. Four pitches that weren't particularly close. And up on the roof, one Pimp is thinking -- "I know this. I've seen this before. This is how we used to do it." And all 4,000 of the true Rays fans are thinking, "Uh oh. Don't give them an inch." Like we always used to. Because you know what happens when you give a surging team the slightest of opportunities.

(crack)

J.D. Poo DREW knocks a 3-wood deep into the right field rough, that's what. Suddenly, it's a 7-6 game, and the "only six outs" has become "six long, tense outs" for the Rays. Two of them came quickly: Jed Lowrie took a good hack at the second pitch he saw from Wheeler, but got under it and flied to left, and Sean "Darling Of the EEI Fucktard Callers" Casey got through all of four pitches this time before striking out. (Heard from the Pimp immediately afterwards: "Varitek could have done that...") So with two outs, Wheeler faced Mark Kotsay.

Kotsay, to me, is the epitome of the Sox's offense in this series. If you haven't been watching the game closely, you may not realize that Kotsay has been tatooing the ball almost every time he's up. He's getting great swings and making good contact. And every time... it's right at someone, or -- in the case of the clinching ALDS game -- someone (Mark Teixeira) makes an "oh snap no he di'int" play on him. So despite looking like the second coming of Ted Williams at the plate, he was only hitting .225 or so for the playoffs. And that's been the Sox in a nutshell: it's not a problem with effort, or with ability, it's just that everything they did just somehow seemed to not work. Hits coming too late, good swings negated by good defense, or what have you -- the breaks were just totally absent from the offense.

Until they got the biggest break(s) so far this season: Dan Wheeler's 87 MPH fastballs. Kotsay took two balls, then tatooed (yet again) a ball into center field. But this time, Bossman Jr. didn't get it. He got a glove on it -- but it bounced off, and Kotsay stood at second base with a double (that easily could have been an error on Upton, had the official scorer been in a less charitable mood). And that's when Coco went to work. In an epic, 10-pitch at bat, Coco fouled off fastball after fastball, wearing down Wheeler and biding his time until he left one in the zone. Which, of course, he did. We all remember this script, don't we, Sox fans? That Coco was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double was irrelevant -- it was a good, aggressive baserunning play, and the important run scored. Let's raise a glass for Coco Crisp, shall we? Abandoned by the fanbase for pretty-boy Jacoby, Coco could have pitched a Jay Payton-like hissyfit and made himself a pest. But he didn't. He accepted his role with class and character, and contributed where he could. And for that, he has been rewarded. Loyce, you raised a good kid.

I thought, with the off day coming, that we'd see Paps for an unprecedented-in-recent-history third inning, but Terry Francona chose to go with Justin Masterson instead. Although he got ahead of the indispensible President Jason Bartlett 0-2, he gave up a solid single. Although he got behind Akinori Iwamura 2-1, he managed to get him to pop to left. Bossjob Jobster drew the inevitable 5-pitch walk. (It seems like untimely walks are now a hallmark of Masterson relief appearances...) Crap. To come back this far, only to have to face Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria with the go-ahead runs on base....

(crack)

OH MY GOD! THAT'S 2006 CARLOS PENA'S MUSIC!!!!! Pena, the pride of Haverhill, tapped weakly to second for the inning ending double play, kneed Longoria in the crotch, and ripped off his Rays jersey to reveal his old Red Sox uniform, whereupon he did Wonder Twin Powers with Papi and took the form of a bucket of victory Gatorade. (Note: Some of that may not be true.) Inning over. (I think I actually saw Masterson display some emotion, too. Maybe Papelbon is rubbing off on him.)

I think you know the rest of the story. Out, out, Longoria throws the ball away, walk, J.D. No-Longer-Poo, Dirty Water.

Wow.

Statistically, the odds are still pretty good that the Sox will get crushed 8-0 by Jamie Shields on Saturday night. But right now... I'm just going to enjoy this feeling for a day.

And you never know. That's why they play all nine innings.

3 comments:

Pepster said...

Tax person? Damn, I could have used you this week.

Oh yeah, congrats hysteriacs on the come-from-behind victory also!

Grimey said...

This post plays out exactly like the movie Blackhawk Down

Hazel Maes Landing Strip said...

I realize this logo is very similar to :

8===D