Tag: John Lackey

Making History at 65 Miles Per Hour

There’s a reason why half the planet tunes into the Super Bowl every year. There’s a reason why you can buy Red Sox hats in 20

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different colors. There’s a reason why ESPN has aired multiple sports trivia shows over the years and why FX now has a sitcom about a Fantasy Football league. We are absolutely addicted to sports. All of us. Big, small, black, white, rich or poor, sports captivate us all. It’s the richest form of theater there is. Shakespeare couldn’t write a better script than the way the ’04 ALCS played out for the Red Sox. MacBeth doesn’t hold a candle to the story of 1980’s U.S. Olympic hockey team’s win against the Soviet Union.

Sports is compelling and it affects us on an emotional level because it’s real life. Nothing is scripted or predetermined. Nobody ever knows what’s going to happen and some of the things that occur are so heroic, so unexpected and phenomenal that true fans can’t help but get a little choked up.

Wake has had a rough go of it lately

I know some of that narrative may seem a little over-the-top but the fact is, I’m passionate about sports and there are a ton of people out there who are just like me. I love a dramatic, overtime sports game with unlikely heroes the same way I love the plot of Good Will Hunting or a movie like Shawshank Redemption.

As a Sox fan, Tim Wakefield has carried this same kind of emotional appeal over the years. Wakefield is about as surprising a hero as Rudy or Rocky Balboa. His fastball is barely over the Mass Pike speed limit. He looks like Larry the Cable Guy. Heck, Wake didn’t even start pitching until his early 20s when a scout told him he’d never make it to the majors as a first basemen.

Twenty years and 199 wins later, Wakefield has become a symbol of

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perseverance, a beacon of strength in a

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sport that chews up and spits out athletes by the dozens. He’s the ultimate survivor and Sox fans love him. Every time Wake has pitched this season as he inches closer to win number 200 and eventually victory number 193 in a Boston uniform (which would pass Roger Clemens and Cy

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Young for the most ever), Fenway has cheered for him … desperately.

As the 45-year-old takes the hill for his seventh try at win number 200, the cries will be as desperate as ever. And why not: with Wakefield struggling and Andrew Miller suddenly becoming a viable option as the number five starter, if Wake doesn’t get the job done in his next game (probably next week against Toronto) it could be his last start. I think it should be.

I’m all for inspiring narrative and underdog tales but there comes a point

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where we all just need to move on. Isn’t Wake’s recent failure just getting kind of sad? His record since notching win number 199 is 0-3 with a mediocre 4.97 ERA. Even before the

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dry spell, Wakefield wasn’t performing at a particularly high level. In his last win, he gave up seven runs

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and Wake hasn’t allowed less than three runs in an outing since June 14th in Tampa. That was 13 starts ago.

Miller's looked terrific since returning to Boston's rotation

While Wake has been struggling, Boston has been able to solidify the rest of its rotation. Nobody’s ever going to confuse John Lackey for Nolan Ryan but he’s at least gotten better as the season has worn on. He’s won seven out of his past eight decisions and he’s pitched into the sixth inning in each of his last nine starts. Lefthander Erik Bedard has looked solid since being acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline (3.46 ERA in five starts). And since being reinserted into the rotation

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August 19th, Andrew Miller has been lights out: he’s 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA.

In two days when the Sox make September call-ups there could be even more options for replacing Wakefield. Kyle Weiland, who got a taste of the big leagues earlier in the season, has performed well for Triple-A Pawtucket this year (3.46 ERA in 23 starts) and Felix Doubront (2-5, 4.22 in Pawtucket this season) showed flashes of potential during his 12-game big league stint last season (2-2, 4.32). Both players along with Miller and long-relief man Alfredo Aceves (9-1, 2.86 in 42 appearances) could compete for Wake’s spot in the rotation.

I’m not suggesting the Sox completely kick Wake to the curb. Hey, given Wake’s age and the unpredictable effectiveness of the knuckleball, I think the fact that he’s at 6-6 with a 5.10 ERA this late in the season is incredible. I’ve been shocked by the productiveness of both Wakefield and fellow dinosaur Jason Varitek (.234, 9 HR) this season. Both of these guys can still play in this league.

That doesn’t change my opinion though. Wake doesn’t belong in the rotation: at least not right now. Terry Francona

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to buckle down and lock up the division title. Even with a patchwork starting rotation that includes has-beens like A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees are still only a game and a half back. Francona can’t keep worrying about making Wakefield last five innings every night just

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so he’ll have a chance to get his 200th win.

Wake’s done a lot for the Sox over the years, but this isn’t his team. It’s Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez’s team. And it’s a damn good one too. This is the best squad Boston has put together since they won it all back in 2004 and in time it could be even better than that one.

If you want to win the World Series, you have to put the best players out on the field at every position. Right now Wakefield isn’t one of them. There’s a time for breaking records and appreciating milestones. Just a few weeks ago Jim Thome reached 600 home runs and back in July Derek Jeter collected his historic 3,000th career hit. But this is September baseball. It’s win or go home.

I hope I’m wrong about Wakefield. I hope he proves that he belongs and wins number 200. But I also think he

can still help this team out of the bullpen down the stretch as New York and Tampa Bay nip at Boston’s heels in the ultra-competitive AL East. It might not be next week in Toronto but we all know

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Wake’s time will come. If there’s one thing I’ve learned by watching 15 years of Tim Wakefield it’s to expect the unexpected.

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Sox In 1st Again and Continue To Make The Yankees Their Daddy In 2011, Yawn

The New York Yankees came to town Friday tied with the Red Sox atop the A.L. East, but left Sunday finding themselves looking up at the Red Sox once again.  The Red Sox relinquished the top spot in the division for the first time since the middle of June after Jon Lester and the boys lost the first game of the series Friday night.  However their time in second did not last long as the Sox, behind their sticks and solid outings from Lackey and Ace Beckett, took back first place by winning the next two against the Yanks.  The series victory continued the Sox success over the Pinstripes in 2011, improving to 10-2 against the Bombers and clinching the season series.  Here is a quick look at the series:

– Game 1 NYY 3 BOS 2:  Unfortunately I did not get to watch much of this game because I am not a complete loser and was out having a couple cocktails, but highlights and the box score suggests it was a pretty clean game.  The Sox took an early 2-0 lead but a shaky 6th inning for Lester lead to 3 runs for the Yankees and that was all their bullpen needed.  Lester’s line was far from terrible, he surrendered 5 hits over 6 innings pitched leading to 3 earned runs while striking out 7, but struggled with command walking 4 batters on the night.  No team is better at taking advantage of free passes than the Yankees and two of Lester’s base on balls were issued in that game deciding 3 run 6th inning handing Lester his 5th loss of the season (11-5).  Bartolo Colon did not factor in the decision only going 4.2 innings, the Yankees bullpen tossed 4.1 innings of shutout baseball with Boone Logan picking up the win.  A cleanly played game here, the Sox just came up a little short.

– Game 2 BOS 10 NYY 4: The Sox were able to rebound and even the series Saturday with a blowout victory over the Yankees and their horse C.C. Sabathia. This game displayed a couple impressive performances from two guys having disappointing seasons. John Lackey continued his redemption tour pitching 6 strong innings and allowing 3 runs while picking up his 10th (thats right his 10th) win of the season. This was an extremely encouraging start from my new best friend Lackey, the Big Hoss was able to command all of his pitches and hold a very dangerous lineup to only 3 runs, let’s hope my man can keep it up.  Carl Crawford followed up his 2 hits Friday by scoring 3 runs while going 4-4 at the plate.  Crawford has been very streaky for the Sox this season and has seen his fair share of troubles against left handed pitching, 3 of the left fielder’s 4 hits came off the southpaw Sabathia.  Hopefully the 142 Million Dollar Man will start to show some confidence at the plate for the stretch run.  Finally, Jacoby Ellsbury showed no signs of cooling down and continued his MVP campaign by collecting 2 hits in 4 plate appearances, poking his 19th long ball of the season and driving in 6.  Ellsbury has to be the only man in America not concerned with all the struggling economy headlines dominating the news these days.

– Game 3 BOS 3 NYY 2 (10 innings):  The rubber game of this 3 game featured a couple of unlikely heroes in another extra innings walk off for hometown boys.  Josh Beckett took the bump in this first place deciding game for the Sox, and continued his bounce back season with another strong start against their rivals from the Bronx.  The trend continued as the Red Sox gave their right handed ace very little run support resulting in another no decision for the rock steady Beckett.  Joshua Patrick was not as efficient with his pitch count as we have seen out of him this season, throwing 101 pitches in 6 innings of work but surrendered only  1 run on a Fenway friendly homer off the bat of ARod fill-in Eduardo Nunez.  Beckett has certainly put his last season struggles against the Yankees behind him, dominating the Bombers to the tune of a 4-0 record while posting a 1.00 ERA in 2011.  The Yanks put a tally in the run column courtesy of a solo shot from weak hitting Nunez, and the Sox were carried offensively by clutch hitting of…wait for it….Marco Scutaro?  Scutaro went 4-4 on the night with an RBI and scored the game tying run after leading off the 9th with a wall ball double off of the great Marino Rivera (Scutaro already had a walk off HR off of Rivera on his resume, glad to have him on the roster). Lowrie is scheduled to come off the DL this weak and it looks as though Scutaro isn’t giving up any playing time without a fight.  Daniel Bard pitched a clean frame in the top of 10th, setting up the dramatics that occurred in the bottom half of the inning.  After Youkilis flied out to center to start the inning, an Ortiz double off of Phil Hughes followed by an intentional walk to Crawford set the stage for Josh Reddick to join Scutaro in the hero’s circle.  Reddick singled home pinch runner Darnell McDonald by lining a first pitch curveball from Hughes to the left field corner, leading the Red Sox to their third walk off of the week and sole possession of first place in the American League East.

 

After this series it is hard for me to believe the Yankees would be able to matchup with the Sox in a 7 game series.  The line ups can both put up runs but the Sox starting pitching and defense cannot be matched by the boys in pinstripes.  The only area where I see the Yankees having an advantage would be the bullpen.  The Sox have the 8th and 9th innings locked up but the middle of that bullpen can certainly be rattled, the Yankees’s bullpen (especially Robertson) was very impressive this weekend and they will have to continue their great work into October to make up for the lack of starting pitching depth.  At this point I am far more concerned matching up with the Rangers, Angels, Tigers, and even the Indians, the Bronx needs to step it up if they want to prevent Theo and the boys from steamrolling through the American League.

After some nice home cooking the Sox now hit the road for 6 games. Tim Wakefield takes another stab at 200 tonight as the Red Sox begin a three game set with the Minnesota at Target field before heading out West to take on the Mariners.

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