Remember me? That guy who was made an author, wrote up one or two entries and then disappeared off the face of the Internet? Apparently I missed some fireworks, beginning roughly with the White Sox sweep and ending with Nick Markakis’ three-run bomb off of Mr. 1000, Mike Timlin. The last game I really watched or listened to before the middle of tonight’s was the first or second Chitown massacre.
My absence had nothing to do with the game itself–I just didn’t have time to watch or comment here at YFSF. So I write this with very little idea of whether our local SF’s have been swept into a panic, or if the YF’s are screaming 1978. (I’m guessing a qualified yes and no, in that order)
But it’s easier to be optimistic with the clouded eyes of someone who hasn’t really seen the shoddy play, the lack of "clutch," the repeated and fruitless flailings at countless mislocated Rocket deliveries. (I did catch part of that game. Never have I seen a pitcher miss so much without getting hit. Up, across the plate; he was all over the place and yet none of his mistakes were well-struck. At least, that was my impression at the time.)
So I write this with the box scores to go on, and a possible first-round playoff exit tucked away in the recesses of my mind. Because if the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals can win a World Series against the "slumping" Tigers, trends mean very little come October. Ergo, it’s not really worth thinking about. Yet.
The last time I wrote something like this was the beginning of August, when I cited the easy schedule as reason for hope. That was right after the third loss of the Angels’ series, and Boston went on to win 12 of their next 18 before blowing up in New York. For the most part, the Sox did what they were supposed to do, pounding Tampa and Chicago and taking 2 of 4 from the Angels at Fenway. Baltimore’s somehow turned themselves into a legitimate spoiler–for both our ballclubs–and have now taken 4 of their last 7 against Boston.
Trisk did a nice run-down of the Boston schedule already, so it’s not worth repeating. Simply put: Home Games good. The only non-NY teams the Sox play in September with a >.500 record are Minny and Toronto, and they’re only one or two up.
Sure, Manny’s hurt. And possibly Drew,
who I just know will turn it around and put the team on his back while Manny’s out who’s making it harder and harder for me to continue to support him. And Wakefield’s got a barking back.
But…OK, there’s no way to spin this: Injuries suck. That said, it’s far less of an issue on September 1st then it would have been on May 1st, what with the roster expansions and all. Over the next two days, it’ll be kind of exciting to watch Buchholz and Lester try to prove that they belong. And again: The teams Boston gets to play just aren’t very good; it’s real hard to drop 5 games in a month without the rival playing out of their minds. And if New York plays .750-.800 ball, we’re just going to have to tip our caps.
There’s some good stuff here, too. Papi appears to have found his power stroke, and when he’s on, he can carry the offense almost entirely by himself. Pedroia keeps on hitting, and Youk seems to be waking up a bit as well. Most important/surprising as far as the offense is concerned: Lowell’s showing no signs of his usual second-half nose-dive. And did I mention rosters are expanding?
I guess it’s not easy to be super-excited about the current state of the Sox, though a five-game lead in the beginning of September is about the very best I could have hoped for before the season started. Even so, and this is the important part: Schilling appears to be a productive 3rd, and both Matsuzaka and Beckett have been great against everyone but New York.
The offense, even without Manny, should be enough to scrape out a division title on the strength of the rotation and bullpen. Yes, I’m aware of Oki’s meltdown, but somehow I think he’ll be OK; ditto Timlin, who’s good for one of these catastrophes every two or three weeks. Gagne hasn’t pitched in a while but he’s also riding a 5 or 6-game scoreless streak. Point is, the staff is still relatively intact, and that’s all that’s mattered for most of the season.
I don’t really care if the team limps into the division win as long as they
get there relatively healthy, and I remain confident that that’s what they’ll do. In the
postseason, all bets are off anyway.