Thursday, October 30

Boras: "Pinstripes bring out Manny's eyes"

Is it possible that Scott Boras is even more money hungry than Ari Gold? I'm sure Boras doesn't have the same kind of one-liners or the ability to bitch smack someone in their own office and walk out untouched.....but they're both all about the money. If MTV still had the show "celebrity death match" this would be a classic match up....with Ari Gold somehow severing Broas' body for the win. To me, Boras is more like Josh Weistien than Ari, both need a bitch slap of their own.

Anyways, let's get this understood, Manny Ramirez will go to the highest bidder. He has been sounding more and more like his ass clown of an agent lately, even going so far as calling himself a "five tool player" in an interview after his Dodger team got kicked out of the NLCS. Manny has made no secret about it, he's all about Manny being Manny, and all about the money.

From the shady details of the trade deadline deal, to his phantom knee injury, to absolutely torching the NL's weak pitching, Manny is indeed being Manny, but he's also playing the game like his agent. Enter the New York Yankees. It would only be right if the rumors floating along in the New York newspapers were true, that the Yankees might offer up A-rod like numbers to bring the "one tool" player to the Bronx to play right field. Short of the possible LA/Boston world series dream of a few weeks back, this may be the next best thing for the baseball media. Other teams with interest are reportedly the Mets, Dodgers and Bluejays, but none have the ridiculously deep pockets the Yanks have. Depending on who you trust or what day of the week it is, Manny is looking for a 4 to 7 (yes, 7) year deal in the area of 20+ million a year. Not many teams will promise that kind of money for that long of a contract to a 36 year old power hitter. That said, Manny could be lured into a shorter deal that included more money up front. Again, enter the Yankees.

Sadly enough, I could see Manny going to the Yanks and crushing the ball along with the rest of that lineup for the next two years. It would go against every reason why he left Boston, which is not surprising at all....good luck getting "mental peace" in New York buddy.

Tuesday, October 21

D-Lowe: Boston be my home

According to multiple reports, Derek Lowe has publicly stated that while money is a factor, more than anything he wants to go back to a place that is dedicated to winning, namely the Boston Red Sox. Lowe is putting Boston first on his list of preferred destinations now that he's a free agent.

D-Lowe made 10 million dollars in 2008 but put together a surprisingly good season in Mannywood land, especially down the stretch. He went 14-11, with a 3.24 era, 147 strikeouts and low whip of 1.13.....worth 10 million dollars?...most people say no, but the honest reality is (as Mazz correctly mentioned today) pitching commands a price of nearly one million dollars per win nowadays, amazing really.

As good as it may sound to bring in D-Lowe as a back of the rotation starter, let's remember where he put up those numbers...the NL*t, the Pirates could contend in the NL West. I think we all know how competitive the AL East will be in 09' and to expect those same numbers out of the 35 year old Lowe would be foolishly optimistic.

Word on the street is Derek Lowe will play for free in Boston and is even willing to pay the Sox if they promise to bring back Kevin Millar as a back up first basemen. Lowe also stated he would want Jacoby to grow out a beard (if possible). More on this story as/if it evolves.

Monday, October 20

Going Around the Horn...

As stated just because the Red Sox are done playing baseball until 2009 it doesn't mean there isn't still news to report. Mike Lowell had surgery this morning to repair his torn labrum in his right hip; Red Sox spokesman John Blake said Lowell also had a bone spur removed. Lowell's bat was definitely missed in the ALCS, as Youkilis, Drew and Bay all moved up in the order. Opting for an early surgery should allow Lowell to be back by Spring Training, which is only 4 1/2 months away.

In other news, Daisuke Matsuzaka told Japanese media that he was told he might have closed out game 7 against the Rays if the opportunity presented itself. Jonathon Papelbon was sore from pitching games 5 + 6, he didn't elaborate if it was sore arm or not, but one can assume so. The good news for Pap is he has the entire off season to rest. I was a little surprised to hear this today since Friday was an off day in the series between games 5 and 6, however I suppose at this time of the year everyone is a little banged up and tired, it's a long season.

Dice K said that if given the chance to close out the game, "I would have welcomed such a challenge." What a competitor.

Sunday, October 19

Sox Can't Complete Comeback, Rays Pass Final Test

I knew when I woke up today that I had the responsibility of writing ITM's wrap up post, and along with that, faced the possibility of also wrapping up Boston's season. I just didn't think I'd have to.

The Rays had to wait a few extra games to close out the series and celebrate, but they pulled it off tonight with a 3-1 victory. I'll keep this post short since we all watched the game. It was a well played and well coached close game. The way it should be. Both starters found their groves and settled in, but Matt Garza proved to have the better stuff in the end. It was a game that had me on the edge of my seat and screaming at the TV multiple times (then again, I do that during spring training scrimmages against Northeastern). For the Red Sox, the game was all but lost in the 8th inning when JD Drew struck out on a check swing with the bases loaded...the Trop erupted, and my stomach dropped. Given the situation, JD was the guy we all wanted at the plate, but Boston's inability to swing the bat well with runners in scoring position finally caught up with them tonight.

Maybe it was because it was game 7, but at no other point in the playoffs have I thought about Mike Lowell more. Missing his bat in the lineup really hurt this team, as well as Kotsay played, having Lowell's name on the lineup card could have given the Sox the offensive depth to pull this thing off, but it simply wasn't meant to be.

The Red Sox made a valiant effort in this series, pushed the Rays to a 7th game, but in the end, couldn't find that timely hit to complete the comeback. Boston deserves their credit, they didn't lay down and showed a lot of heart by pushing the series to an exciting end. When the game was just beginning, TBS was showing the Red Sox defense...I looked it over and thought to myself, "how are we still playing right now?" Turns out that feeling made sense in the end.

I have no ill will towards the Rays players (although the fans and their cowbells is an entirely different story). They earned their trip to the world series. They have proved everyone wrong all year and tonight passed the biggest test yet, beating the defending champs and moving on to the biggest show in the sport. I think they are a great team with amazing balance and an insanely high ceiling. As mad as MLB and the networks are about having a Rays/Phillies series, I'll be watching, and hoping the Rays take it home.

Lastly, ITM will simply not go into hibernation now that the Red Sox season is over. We'll be looking at trade possibilities, ways to improve, player contract options and negotiations over the offseason. Be sure to check in regularly for updates.
....go Sox.

Saturday, October 18

Seventh Heaven (starring Jon Lester, Matt Garza, and Jessica Biel)

Well, we're gonna get what we asked for after all. Probably not the way most of us thought it would go down, but damn you can't ask for an October roller coaster better than the one we're currently riding, Sox and Rays both.

The Red Sox pulled off a 4-2 victory to force a game 7 tomorrow, first pitch starting shortly after 8pm. Tonight was bound to lack the high drama of game 5, but there were still minor heroes to be found. Jason Varitek broke out of his 0-for in an absolutely huge way, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the 5th to put the Sox up for good. Youk was as reliable as ever, driving in two runs. Coco and J.D. continued to scorch the ball, and Papi, oh Papi, I'm sorry for doubting you, big fella. The doubt is like what Jason Bay says about his strike-outs: It's a big part of my game.

Perhaps the toughest performance of the day came from Josh Beckett, who pitched effectively through what looked to be considerable pain. A hanger inside to Bartlett was really his only serious mistake of the night. I refuse to call anything that B.J. Upton does a mistake. (I've said it before, but it bears repeating, Upton is as locked in right now as anyone I've ever seen.) Beckett made it through 5, then Okie came up with two big, hitless innings that really quieted the crowd and disheartened the Rays. Masterson started shaky but settled down quickly and got through a clean 8th. Pap made short work of Longoria, Crawford, and Aybar in the 9th.

Altogether, it was a workmanlike win for the Sox---if there is such a thing in an ALCS Game 6. At times they certainly seemed to be doing their impression of the playoff-Angels. There were, in total, 12 men left on base for the Sox. 12 men. But they just kept getting on and never seemed to doubt that they could push a few across when need be. And on that note, I'd hardly say the Rays were in panic mode, though the TBS broadcasters certainly took the Bartlett error (leading to the Youk rbi) as a sign of complete composure collapse. The fact is the Rays looked a little flat, but hardly worried.

There's going to be a lot of stories about Sox momentum in the morning, but I for one see this Game 7 as a tabula rasa. Except, of course, for the fact that these were the two best teams of the 2008 season, they know each other like the backs of their hands, and I don't doubt that every player on the field is going to be as hungry as you would expect for an ALCS Game 7. It should be a doozy.

Get some sleep, everyone, get a nice cup of coffee in the morning, and bask in the best damn feeling in sports. Win or lose, we've got an October Game 7 coming right up.

ITM Notes

---Can anyone from Tampa Bay testify about noise levels in the stadium? There was a lot of talk about it, but it never seemed to play a role from where I was sitting. Was I hearing that wrong or did they just get the wrong 6,000 extra people to fill in those seats? Pretty weak showing.

---Anyone else seem to think Tito was chewing tobacco instead of gum when Masterson was in pitching? That's an actual question. Was he that nervous or was I seeing wrong?

---Walking the streets of NYC today in a Sox hat, I had 6 people shout at me "Go Rays". There were only 2 "Go Sox" people. And one guy with golf clubs and Nantucket Red pants walking somewhere on the UES who asked me what time the game started. I pretended not to speak English. We didn't need that guy tuning in. Point is, America loves a Cinderella.

---Is Bartlett wearing magnets in his elbow?

---The pitching matchup tomorrow should be great. Lester v. Garza. Shields might be the Rays big-game favorite, but from what I've seen of the kid, Garza's got the real pair and isn't afraid to swing 'em around a bit. And for the Sox, there's nobody I want on the mound more right now. Lester's got a lot on his resume so far, but this would be quite a coup.

Friday, October 17

With New Found Life, Sox Turn to Beckett

I have a mental image of what Josh Beckett is doing right now, he's by himself, staring at the wall, focusing on another win or go home game tomorrow night in Tampa.....I'm assuming he's dropping a ton of F bombs as well. The question Red Sox Nation members are asking themselves is what Josh Beckett will we see? Another rendition of the same "Waaaay back Wasdin" performance that has defined the 2008 playoffs for him so far? Or will this be the kind of game that brings the old Josh Beckett out. I'm talking, the 96, 97mph, I don't care who you are, you can't hit me, Josh Beckett. Judging from other media outlets, the opinions are mixed, wishful thinkers are expecting the best, while the Debbie Downers are convinced JB has a torn oblique and the Sox should throw Lester in game 6.

First of all, contrary to some fluke report, Josh Beckett does not have a torn oblique. He simply would not be able to throw 92 or 93mph with one. It may be more accurate to report he is concerned that if he "lets loose" he will hurt himself. Either way, I trust the judgement of Tito and his staff, after all it's worked in the past.

My personal opinion is that we'll see the Josh Beckett from the regular season. It may be far from the 2007 or even 2003 JB, but it's a measurable improvement on what we have seen in the playoffs so far. This Rays team may be slightly rattled, but I don't expect them to look like the previously lifeless Sox at the plate tomorrow night. They will come out swinging, but if Beckett can hit his spots, and the Red Sox can build off their offensive momentum of last night's thrilling victory, they will be in the game in the late innings, which is where they'll rely on Masterson and Papelbon to force a game 7. The first few innings however will be the key, keeping the insanely hot Rays lineup in check and scoring a few runs of our own would go a long way in Boston's comeback attempt. One thing I've yelled all series, if the Sox pitchers are going to"miss", miss inside god damn it.

That all said, I can't wait for 8:07pm tomorrow night. ITM will of course be covering the game.... which will likely include another late night post....we're getting good at them by now.


(how could I not include the pic of Nasty Knobs getting tossed out of Fenway last night?)

A Tale of Two Games

I had this written in my head by 10pm, unnamed friends had changed the channel. I was watching the game with a few friends in my apartment and the game was literally serving as background noise, it was over. Pap gave up 2 more runs in the top of the 7th and it was just a matter of time. Cue the bottom of the 7th and that crazy Fenway Park Magic we've seen so many times in the last 5 years.

I'm not even sure what to write, if I dwell on the first 7 1/2 innings for too long my friend Jill is going to complain to me the post is too long and she won't read it. I'll sum it up like this, from game 2 through the top of the 7th of game 5 the Rays had their way with the Red Sox, the bottom of the 7th started a brand new series. Pedroia had a rbi to right field which brought Ortiz to the plate with 2 on. It's worth noting I (and probably a couple million other people) said aloud, if Ortiz launches one here we are in this. SWING AND A DRIVE, and its 7-4 Rays. Vicino then calls me, "Are we in this? Yes, yes we are."

JD Drew smoked a two run shot to right field, flicked his bat and it was 7-6 in the bottom of the 8th. Then Mark Kotsay, who has been hitting line drives the entire series, doubles off BJ Upton's glove; also worth nothing Upton has caught everything this series. Coco then goes to a full count fouling multiple pitches off before tying the game with a RBI single to right.

Papelbon shut down the Rays in the top of the 8th and Masterson came on for the top of the 9th. There have been times this year Masterson hasn't thrown strikes and with runners at first and second with one out and Pena at the plate I wasn't feeling too good. Then Chip Carey says Pena has only grounded into 2 double plays all season, 4-6-3 twin killing double play in the 9th! Unbelievable.

Bottom of the 9th you just knew the Sox were going to pull it out. Pedroia and and Ortiz make two quick outs then Youk grounds to third and Longoria makes a great play but throws the ball away (Pena should have caught that, but he stretched for it instead of letting the ball come to him), Youk gets second. Bay was intentionally walked and JD F'n Drew doubles to right field, ball game, they came all the way back from 7-0.

Game 6 is Saturday night in Tampa with the Rays leading 3-2, and Josh Beckett is scheduled to start. Beckett hasn't had it this post season, but as Red Sox fan you have to feel good about him pitching. If there's a game 7 Lester will take the mound and in game 7's all bets are off, whatever the hell that means.

Game 5 was a tale of two games, and I'm thinking this might have just turned into the Tale of Two Series.

ITM notes from the game.

Maybe the best sign I've seen in a long time, "Manny is playing golf today, this is better". For those who remember the sign from the 2004 World Series Parade that is pretty funny.

Pena grounded into 2 double plays all season, his third happened in the top of the 9th, that is driving me insane!

I loved the post 7 inning shots of all the brand new Rays fans with their hands on their head wondering what was happening to their lead. That is the first time in 10 years anyone has ever worn a Rays jersey in Fenway park, please don't try and convince me otherwise.

I also loved the slow "Powell, Powell" chant in the bottom of the 9th by the Fenway Faithful. Anyone who left deserves to be shot, I don't care what the score was, you have tickets you stay, those are the rules!

James "Big Game Shields"? I demand to know who gave him that nickname. The kid is really good don't get me wrong, he was on my fantasy championship team I know, but big game?

Plan on reading a lot in the next few days about how the Rays bounce back from this HUGE loss.

Beckett and Lester games 6 and 7...

Wednesday, October 15

In Need of Some Special Kind of Magic...

Sure the Sox have been down 3-1 before. Sure they have pulled out that "magic" to rally past the likes of the Yankees and the Indians to get to the big dance...and I'm in no way waiving the white flag, but there appears to be some sincere differences in both the 2008 Red Sox and the clubs of the past.

First of all, the level of turnover from 2004 to 2008 is downright amazing, comparing these two teams would be looking at apples and oranges. But in 2007, the Red Sox were a different team, one that had an all-world ace in Josh Beckett, a playoff tested and resourceful Curt Schilling, some left fielder from Washington Heights who was pretty good, a healthy and powerful David Ortiz, a career performance from Mike Lowell, and an unsustainable level of play from Jacoby Elsbury(just to name a few). There was some series magic there.

This year, our all-world ace has been pilled all around the ballpark, there is a new word called "Mannywood", David Ortiz leaves the clubhouse without talking to the media after game three and points fingers after game 4...all while doing next to nothing at the plate, Mike Lowell is having surgery and is out for the season, and our collective leadoff hitters are 0-24 in the ALCS. Tough to generate magic with the aforementioned issues.

If this team has any chance of creating the magic of years past, it will require change. Change in the way the Fenway faithful scream for their team (seriously, the crowd has been terrible), change in the way our pitching staff goes after the Rays (pitch inside for once!, knock them on their ass if you have to!) and change in the raw confidence of the team ( we need Kevin Millar back?). I've typed the word change so much you'd think I'm working for Obama....

It starts tomorrow night with Dice-K on the mound at home. The fans need to be loud, excited and pumped. The players need to remember they are the world champions playing on their home turf.......and maybe with a little luck, the Rays will come back to earth and be susceptible to some Red Sox magic.

I'm knocking on wood, go Sox.

Tuesday, October 14

Rays Keep Rolling, Lead Series 3-1

Losing sucks, always has and I imagine it always will. I started typing this post in the top of the 6th inning not because I've given up on the Red Sox, but because the Rays look unbeatable right now.

When I played Little League there was one team we could never beat, Swifts Beach. Swifts had the best pitchers, the best hitters, the best 9 & 10 year olds, I think they're coach even bought them Gatorade every game. Point is they seemed unbeatable to me back then and the Rays look unbeatable in every facet of the game of baseball right now.

There's not much to say about the game tonight for Sox fans. The Rays took an early 3-0 lead when Pena and Longoria (this guy is killing us) went back to back in the first inning. Wake gave up another home run and that was his night after 2+ innings pitched; I give him credit he hasn't pitched in 2 weeks and you know he gave it his all but the knuckler just wasn't knuckling tonight. On the flip side Andy Sonanstine pitched a gem for the Rays, of course he did, this game was over when Pena went deep in the first.

The Rays are up 3-1 in this ALCS and other then the day off tomorrow I only have one piece of encouraging news; the Sox have been here before. I won't dwell on it but the Sox do have Matzusaka, Beckett and Lester lined up to pitch games 5, 6 and 7. Matzusaka looked great in game 1 and Beckett and Lester can certainly win a ball game on their own. Are the odds slim at this point, yes, but the the Sox have been here before. I'm not throwing in the towel quite yet.

I'm done with game 4, lets move on to some quickies:

ITM Notes:

The Sox lineup weren't the only ones not to show up; where the hell were the Fenway faithful. I don't even know if that helps but it be nice to hear some noise from the fans.

Ortiz, Ortiz, Ortiz, not that anyone hit tonight but come on guy. I jumped on someone who posted because they had no faith in Ortiz at the plate...I've been wrong before I'll be wrong again. Ortiz did manage a triple in the 7th, maybe that will get things started for him.

At work I asked a couple guys what they thought about tonights game, one guy answered the Sox would get killed and he had no confidence in Wakefield. It's worth noting this is the same guy (who is a sports fan) said that Brady was due to get hurt this year. I am not talking to this guy the rest of the week.

The Sox did get the offense going a little bit in the bottom of the 8th, but it was obviously too late. Hopefully this carries over to game 5, putting 10 up on the Rays would make me and a few other Red Sox fans feel better. Also I forget what cheering is like, and it would be nice to hear the announcers ball wash the Sox for a few innings. Oh no I'm getting bitter...

At this point its one game at a time starting Thursday at Fenway with Dice K on the hill. My Little League team never beat Swifts Beach, but maybe the Sox can, metaphorically speaking.

Change: Yes We Can......lineups

The lineups are out and Tito has made some changes in an effort to spark the Sox to a game 4 victory. JD "don't call me Sally" Drew is batting leadoff and Coco is playing center as Jacoby, and his 0 for forever stats are on the bench tonight. Sure JD has been an OBP guy in his career, but it is the Sox hope that he'll see some fast balls as a lead off hitting and get on base for the only guy that has been hitting all series (and season), Dusty P. Naturally, with Wakefield pitching Kevin Cash will be catching, and in a somewhat surprising move, Jed Lowrie will be batting behind him in 9th. My initial thoughts are that Tito is looking for Jed to continue innings for the top of the order to knock him around the bases. We'll see how it shakes out, but here is the lineup:

1. J.D. Drew, RF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. David Ortiz, DH

4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B

5. Jason Bay, LF

6. Mark Kotsay, 1B

7. Coco Crisp, CF

8. Kevin Cash, C

9. Jed Lowrie, SS

-- Tim Wakefield -SP

ITM Pregame notes:

-My how fast the national (and local) media has gone from loving the Sox in this series to hating them.

-For the first time in my life I saw Rays fans in the city today, still odd.

-Apparently Tek is pissed about being lifted for pinch hitters....dude...generate some bat speed for once and Tito might leave you in there.

-Tim Wakefield is under a lot of pressure to keep the Sox in the game, but it'll be up to the offense to put some crooked numbers on the board to win tonight, Wakefield hasn't pitched in 16 days.

-Screw Pacman Jones, throw his ass in jail for good (this is completely random I know, but I have strong feelings on that topic)

Columbus Day Calamity

Believe me. The last thing I want to do is give a wrap on Game 3. I had proposed we just pretend it didn't happen and hope everyone might get confused into playing it over, but ITM insists we take the good with the bad.

Jon Lester threw 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), walking 2 and giving up 2 dingers. Paul Byrd then came in for the final 3 and a 1/3 and put up eerily similar numbers. The Rays owned the Sox last night. No two ways about it.

On the offensive side, Pedroia and Kotsay were the only life, and that wasn't enough. Ellsbury and Ortiz continue hitless. Hitless. Anyone want to claim they'd foreseen that type of playoff performance back in April? For the Rays, Upton and Iwamura had big nights, but the real star was Rocco Baldelli, who went 3 for3 with a home run. Hate to see it happen at this precise moment, but glad Baldelli seems to be coming back stronger.

For the Rays pitching, Garza was sharp and didn't look intimidated one bit by playoff baseball in Fenway. The Rays bullpen proved once again that they've got a lockdown on the later innings.

And that's pretty much that. A bare bones report, but like I said, and I suspect you feel the same, I can't stomach much more than that. Let's just tip our hats to the Rays for coming in and making a hell of a statement game their first time in Fenway in October, and hope that someone puts a jolt of life into the Sox before Game 4.

Maybe this is Wakefield's moment. He's been a hero before.

Sunday, October 12

Where is Josh Beckett?

Who was that guy who started game 2 for the Red Sox and what has he done with Josh Beckett? One problem with the recent success of Boston sports is that we as sports fans have become spoiled and expect certain things, Josh Beckett included.

Saturday Josh Beckett went 4.1 innings giving up 8 earned runs on 9 hits. This is the second straight playoff start Beckett has been roughed up and there is certainly cause for concern in Red Sox Nation. Perhaps more concerning then the 8 earned runs is Beckett's velocity and control issues. Usually Beckett touches 96 on the gun and can put his fastball where he wants it. In game 2 Beckett topped on at 92mph and struggled with his location.

The Sox maintain that Beckett is not hurt however he did receive a shot of painkiller and anti-inflammatory on the last weekend of the season when he injured his oblique. I don't know if Beckett is still hurt, or maybe he just doesn't feel comfortable pushing himself for fear he will re-injure himself. If the Sox are lucky, Beckett is still fighting rust issues as his throwing schedule has been dramatically altered over the last 3 weeks.

With the series tied up at 1 the Sox send Jon Lester to the mound against Matt Garza in game 3 Monday at Fenway, 430pm start time (I myself will have to get creative and find a way to watch it at work). Lester has yet to give up an earned run this postseason and is filling the role of ace vacated by the troubled Josh Beckett.

ITM notes from game 2:

-Despite losing the Sox bats did heat up, unfortunately so did the Rays. Pedroia homered twice and Bay and Youk also had good games at the plate. Ortiz still remains in a slump, perhaps I was quick to jump on an earlier comment about his ability to come up with a big hit this series.

-The Sox bullpen performed great in game 2, again the Rays were just a little better. When Timlin came in I think a lot of fans thought that would be it, sure enough it was. Perhaps bringing in Paul Byrd might have been the better option.

-One question I would like Francona to answer is why he let Beckett pitch to Longoria in the 4th inning? Longoria already had two hard hits off Beckett and it was evident he didn't have his ace stuff.

Saturday, October 11

Who is the Pressure Really on Tonight?

Dice-K and the Sox took game one last night and the pressure is now squarely on the Rays right? Absolutely, but there is someone else who is facing a lot of pressure in tonight's game....someone who is used to the spotlight and usually drops F bombs by the dozens...per inning. Yep, all of RSN's collective eyes will be on Josh Beckett tonight as Boston looks to take complete control of the best of seven series that moves north to Boston after game two.

Beckett looked rusty in his game three loss to the Angels, well short of the high expectations set by both himself and RSN. Part of the problem, fortunately for the Sox, is that the bar continues to raise higher with Dice-K pitching well and Jon Lester's dominating run through the ALDS. Tonight, with Beckett operating on six days rest, will give the Sox a good idea of what to expect from their "ace" for the remainder of the playoffs. Some say Beckett is still hurting as his fastball was only touching 93mph instead of his normal 96mph in his last start, others think he'll be ready and showcase the unbeatable Beckett seen in prior Octobers. Tony Mazz had an interesting article in today's Globe calling JB more of a question mark than an answer nowadays.....I'm not ready to throw one of the greatest post season pitchers in MLB history under the bus for one rusty performance, but I will admit there is a lot of pressure on him to perform tonight.

Even with all that said, the bulk of the pressure is on the Rays here in game two...either win to split the home openers, or go down 2-0 and head to Fenway to face Jon Lester. It's a big game for a young franchise that has shown its resiliency all year, tonight is another test.

....ITM Note...I'm getting sick of typing the word "test" when it comes to the Rays, I'll be happy when they continue to compete in years to come and we can stop including that word in every sentence that has Tampa or Rays in it.


Red Sox

(FYI JD is out because it's a tough lefty in Kazmir going tonight, NOT because he's a sally)

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, RF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. David Ortiz, DH

4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B

5. Jason Bay, LF

6. Jed Lowrie, SS

7. Jason Varitek, C

8. Mark Kotsay, 1B

9. Coco Crisp, CF

--Josh Beckett, SP


1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B

2. B.J. Upton, CF

3. Carlos Pena, 1B

4. Evan Longoria, 3B

5. Carl Crawford, LF

6. Cliff Floyd, DH

7. Dioner Navarro, C

8. Gabe Gross, RF

9. Jason Bartlett, SS

--Scott Kazmir, SP

Thursday, October 9

October Experience

The 2008 Tampa Bay (don't call them Devil) Rays are one of the best stories in baseball. I am required by law to say that, but lets talk about what could be the x factor in this American League Championship Series, experience.

The Red Sox have been in 4 of the last 6 ALCS's, Tampa just got on the big stage. True they never blinked all year when everyone was predicting they would crumble under the pressure, or because of their September schedule, but now there are 4 teams left, soon to be 2.

Last year the Sox were down 3-1 against the Indians in the ALCS, and I can't remember one person saying the Red Sox weren't going to the World Series. Beckett pitched and won game 5 in Cleveland and then it was really over, because the Tribe was not winning in Fenway. That was part of the post 2004 feeling they say every Red Sox fan has. Yeah maybe, it's also called the experience factor.

In 2004 the Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees and exercise all their demons from the previous 86 years. Big deal right that was 2004? Wrong. You can't teach experience. The Rays are young, fast, full of energy, and underdog which are all good things, but they've never been here before.

Experience doesn't win ball games, I'm not saying that, but it can certainly go a long way in helping. I'm interested to see how the Rays react if they are down 2-0 and Jon Lester is pitching game 3 at home on Monday. I'm looking forward to see how the Rays recover from a 6-4-3 rally killing double play in the bottom of the 8th inning and go on to lose games 1 or 2 at home. I want to see how Joe Madden manages his bullpen, and if he pushes guys, and when he takes his starters out. I want to see how their starters bounce back if the Red Sox jump out to an early lead. Maybe they handle everything perfectly and Tampa goes to it's first World Series in team history, that would truly be an amazing story.

The Sox will still have to make the right pitches and hit at the right times to win the series, but if they are down 3-1 in the series going into game 5, I'm not writing them off, because the Sox have the experience card.

As stated, Sox in 7, play ball!

Wednesday, October 8

Pitching May Indeed Win Championships, but the Sox Need to Find Their Bats:

So much attention has been given to the pitching match ups, starting rotations, and overall team health, that hitting (or should I say the lack there of) has been overlooked by many media outlets.

This series may ultimately come down to pitching and defense much like the ALDS did, but one thing is for sure, up and down their lineup, the Sox need to hit better. Give some appropriate credit to the pitching staff of the Angels if you’d like, but this is the playoffs, and hitting .250 for a series (as the Boston did in the ALDS) and you’re not going to beat the Rays, not this year….and perhaps not in the foreseeable future either.

Dustin Pedrioa, I love ya man, like some serious man love (as if that can possibly sound anything else than weird, but I assure you it’s not), you’re my regular season MVP and you remain incredibly underpaid (dude "only makes" 457k..although his time will certainly come to cash in)…but man, RSN is in need of some of your laser hits to the gaps and subsequent sprints to second as if you really were fast for someone your size. Maybe Tito needs to start letting you win in cribbage for once, but the ITM staff will be looking to you to make sure our lofty post season predictions live on. Batting .059 won’t cut it in the ALCS. We all know you have the confidence and skill…if you need me to call you a Sally on this blog to fire you up, I’ll do it…..however, I’ll then quickly lock my doors for fear that you’ll find my apartment and threaten my life.

As much as Jacoby is the “driver” for this lineup in the lead off spot, you are the gas in more ways than one. From knocking Jacoby around, to going deep into counts and being a difficult out in every at bat, your ability to hit anyone at anytime is what pushes this lineup from a good one to a special one, capable of putting up crooked numbers in any inning.

Maybe the poor hitting numbers in the ALDS lead us directly back to pitching and its overarching significance in the playoffs….but either way, the Sox (and specifically Dusty) need to find their collective strokes against the Rays this weekend…..taking both games may be overly optimistic, but taking 1 of 2 is all Boston needs to do to swing the momentum.

Tuesday, October 7

Pitching wins Championships

The Angels are back in California working on the basics of the suicide squeeze and the question on everyone's mind going into game 1 of the ALCS against the Tampa Rays is, who is starting game 1 for the Sox?

Before I attempt to answer that question, at least give my opinion, lets lay out some things we do know. The American League Championship Series is a best of 7 series, so each team will have to carry 4 starting pitchers as opposed to the 3 the Sox had in the division series. Expect Tim Wakefield to be starting game 4 for the Red Sox and Paul Byrd to pitch out of the bullpen. Jon Lester is definitely our best pitcher right now, but game 1 is Friday and that would leave Lester to pitch on 3 days rest.

So here is my take; I think Matzusaka starts game 1 for a couple reasons. First his record on the road is 9-0 this year, so you can argue he's not easily rattled on the road with the crowd and their cowbells (really cowbells? come on Tampa, try the wave if enough people show up). It's also the Dice Man's turn in the rotation to start, keeping some kind of consistency and the starters fresh, giving them more rest when needed. Dice K would also be pitching on 6 days rest, historically he pitches better when he gets more then the normal 4 days rest.

Game 2 is anyone's guess at this point, however I think Beckett starts game 2 in Tampa. He seems healthy and there were definitely signs of rust on Sunday, so I'm not sure holding him back again is the right answer. At the same time the Sox main priority should be to maximize Jon Lester's starts right now. However, he did throw 210 innings this year, which is a career high, so maybe holding Lester back to game 3 isn't a bad idea for extra rest. The good news is which ever rotation Francona and Theo decide on it will enable Beckett and Lester to pitch games 6 & 7 if they are necessary.

The Rays will probably keep their rotation the same throwing James Shields in game 1, Scott Kazmir in game 2, Matt Garza in game 3, and Andy Sonnanstine in game 4. That's not a bad starting rotation either if you like young unproven guys in the playoffs. Seriously, those guys are good, but I've seen better men cry on the mound in October, see exhibit a CC Sabathia.

I could be 100% wrong though, the Sox might pitch Beckett on regular rest on Friday, and bring Lester back for game 2 on Saturday, giving Matsuzaka even more rest before game 3. No matter what the Red Sox Brass decide, it's not a bad problem to have this time of year.

Let's Fight....

Call it destiny, call it fate, call it whatever you want, but this is the way the season was supposed to end in the AL....two good teams with bad blood, who know each other inside and out, going head to head, for a chance to get a ring......more ITM coverage to come.....I'm just so excited I had to post something.......Until then, take a look at some great celebration photos from last night (

Monday, October 6

Red Sox Going to ALCS

It's going to be Sox-Rays. Just like it ought to be.

None of that 100 win in the AL West junk anymore. The heavyweights of the AL East are going to slug it out to go to the Series. And the best rivalry of 2008 is back, so let the smack-talk begin. Jed Lowrie for Rookie of the Year. Longoria Who? Ozzie Guillen would say F**k the Rays, but then again, Ozzie's going home for the winter.

The Sox punched their ticket in style---a walk off, with Lowrie squeaking a grounder through the right side to score Jason Bay. Bay was on after after his pop fly sliced just out of the reach of Reggie Willits and went into the stands. With one out and Bay on, Mark Kotsay (looking more and more like Jesus, no?) hit a rocket down the first base line, but Mark Teixiera made another diving play to his left to keep the Angels in the game. Then up came the Rookie, and in came Jason Bay. Bay, the Ragin' Canadgin' started his slide about ten yards out and seemed to have an invisible curler sweeping his path. He got a nasty spike to the hand, but when he came up he wasn't feeling anything but postseason glory.

John Lester was the ace again, throwing seven scoreless innings before handing it over to Okie, who got two outs before walking Teixeira. Masterson came in, and a walk, a wild pitch, and a Torii (are you chanting my name? you don't know me, fools) Hunter single tied up the game. In the 9th, disaster loomed when Kendri Morales led off with a pinch-hit double. This was when the ill-fated Willits came in, and when he reached 3rd with one out, the Angels went for the ultimate gutsy play. They went for the squeeze, with the ALDS on the line. Mike Scioscia has big iron balls. But Delcarmen cut one hard past a baffled Aybar, and Varitek came out like a bat out of hell. Seriously, the man was possessed. Gear clanking, knees creaking, Tek ran Willits down and squeezed it long enough for the umps.

That was all the momentum the Sox needed. The new blood took care of the rest.

With any luck, the Sox'll take that magic right down to Florida. And with a little more luck, we'll get to enjoy another round of October baseball like the one we just had. Full of heroes, nerves, latenights, Lester and lots of Papelbon-sprayed champagne.

Bring it on Rays. Let's show the NL what October passion looks like. If you show up to the ballpark, that is. I expect this ALCS to be a blast. Go Sox.

Angels Force Game 4.

Mike Scioscia said the Angels were not getting eliminated tonight; 5 1/2 hours later he was proven right. The Sox would have been lucky to win tonight had they pulled it out. The Angels continued to struggle catching the ball in the outfield, allowing a Jacoby Ellsbury pop up to fall in between Tori Hunter and Howie Kendrick scoring 3 runs on the play.

Josh Beckett struggled to throw strikes tonight in his first post season start. Beckett threw 30 pitches in the first inning and never really located his fastball at any point tonight. Beckett and Varitek had 3 separate meetings at the mound in the 1st inning, once being joined by pitching coach John Farrell. Hard to know what they were talking about but it didn't seem that either of them were on the same page as far as pitch selection. Beckett didn't seem to be affected by his oblique strain at all so it doesn't appear health was an issue; his last start was 13 days ago so we might have seen some rust and perhaps the weather was a factor.

The game remained tied 4-4 from the in the top of the 12 the Angels finally broke the 4-4 tie and the Sox were unable to create any Fenway Magic in the bottom of the inning. The Sox had their chances with the bases loaded in the 11th, but Krod was able to snake out of it.

Game 4 is Monday night, first pitch at 8:37pm, with any luck the game will be over before Midnight. Jon Lester will pitch again for the Sox and John Lackey starts again for the Halos. The Red Sox lead the series 2-1.

ITM notes from the game:

Mike Lowell is getting the job done at third, but just barely. He looks pretty terrible at the plate, I have little confidence in him to drive the ball with his hip injury. Lowell was lifted for a pinch runner in the 11th, I can see him riding the pine tomorrow.

The Sox bullpen pitched 6 scoreless innings, however Javier Lopez relinquished the lead in the 12th. It was encouraging to see Delcarmen, Okajima, Masterson, and Papelbon pitch well. Pap was bringing some serious heat tonight.

JD didn't start tonight because Joe Saunders is a lefty, JD did PH for Tek, however he struck out.

Tito used all the 3 catchers on the roster, pinch hitting for Tek and Cash and bringing in David Ross in the bottom of the 12th.

Dustin Pedroia has yet to get a hit in the series, not sure what's going on with him but the Sox need him to figure it out.

The Sox had won 11 straight playoff games against the Angels before tonight.

Saturday, October 4

We're in Their Heads...

"I got your timing down Vaughn"..... There is no better way to spend a hungover Saturday than watching Major League Two when you're feeling great about baseball. In the movie, Jack Parkman had Rick Vaughn's number in their regular season meetings, but when it came down to the playoffs, Vaughn walked the bases loaded to get to Parkman...and took him to school with the old terminator.

Now back to real life, the Red Sox have the Angels number, and I think it is safe to say the Sox are thoroughly in the head of the Halos. With last night's amazing 7-5 victory, the Sox have now won 11 straight playoff games against the team who finished the season with the best record in the AL. Once again, the Sox hit big home runs (JD and Jay Bay) and Pap closed it out to go up 2-0 in a series that now heads back to Boston with some pitcher by the name of Josh Beckett taking the rubber on Sunday night at 7:30. And once again, as Cinco Ocho and Tek congratulated each other after a game ending strikeout, the Angels players and fans looked defeated and emotionally crushed.

The Angels came into this season with a ton of confidence, and they deserved to; a great season, a rested team and facing a injury-plagued Boston team, they should have been confident. But yet again, the Red Sox are showing they've done this before, the know how to win, and they play as a team. The Angels are getting hits (albeit singles) from Vlad "I won't learn English" Guerrero and Tex, but it ends there, Dice-K was typical in giving them chances to cash in, but shut the door before they could scrounge anything up.
Simply put, the Angels have yet to show they have what it takes to win the big games, they lack timely hitting and perhaps the mental focus needed to get them over the top.....and the Red Sox are reminding them of that so far, let's hope Beckett sends them a final reminder tomorrow.

Too bad Major League Three sucked...they had a good thing going there.

Friday, October 3

Game Two Lineup: No Mike Lowell

Dice-K takes the mound for what is, in all intents and purposes, a must win game for the Angels tonight. Two members of the ITM crew will be taking in the game together at a Boston bar while consuming way too many alcoholic beverages...should lead to a few good posts and stories tomorrow....i'd say we'll keep a running diary a la Bill Simmons...but it would be just incoherent blabber by the 4th inning....


1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Mark Kotsay, 1B
8. Jason Varitek, C
9. Alex Cora, SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP

Go Sox

Speaking Openly to Rays Fans before Fear and Hatred Overtake Me

There's really not too much to say.

Evan Longoria homered in his first two postseason at-bats and added an rbi single in the 5th. But you already knew that, likely.

All I wanted to say, Rays fans, is enjoy it. I'm not saying "Enjoy it," like I'm giving you the eye and saying you better have a good time now 'cause the Sox are gonna bounce you in the next round. I'm saying "Enjoy it" with all the sincerity I can muster and no condescension because many of you are new to the postseason and new to the moment when one of your players suddenly shows a flash of brilliance that makes you think "Holy s**t this feels good." Then you pause, and you look at your roster and you think, "Holy s**t, it might feel like this for a long time."

It's something special when a player shows that he's ready to step up in October. Not many are. So enjoy it. It's the best part of baseball, in my book. And enjoy the idea that there might be a lot of Octobers for Longoria and the Rays to come.

Thursday, October 2

Sox Take Game 1 and Momentum

A quick recap of the game since its after 1am on the east coast.

Jon Lester pitched around some first inning trouble going 7 innings giving up 1 unearned run and striking out 7. Lester definitely got stronger as the game went on, touching 97 in the 6th and 7th innings. He also struck out the side in the 6th inning, maybe his best inning. Control seemed to be a problem for Lester in the first, but he straightened things out to shut down the Angels the rest of the way.

Both offenses had their chances to break things open, the Angels really only in the bottom of the first. The Red Sox had Jacoby Ellsbury on third base twice early in the night but failed to get him home . After looking terrible in his first two at bats Jason Bay destroyed (seriously it was crushed) a 2 run home run to left putting the Sox up 2-1 in the 6th.

Bottom of the 8th was an exciting inning. Ellsbury made another amazing diving catch for the first out and Youk threw out Vladimir Guerrero trying to go first to third on a flare over first base. Not sure where Vlad was going on that play, but it brought me to my feet, might have been the play of the game. Plays like that are funny, sometimes it sets the tone for the series, I'm reminded of Chuck Knoblock phantom double play in the '99 ALCS, the Sox never recovered from that blown call. (not that the Vlad call was a blown call, just a goofy play that everyone remembers the series for)

Sox added insurance runs on rbi singles by Elssbury and Ortiz in the top of the 9th driving Scot Shields from the game. Angels fans can't be thrilled with their bullpen, as they gave up 2 important runs in the 9th. Ellsbury went 3-4 with two stolen bases, definitely the type of game you want from you're lead off hitter; the Sox offense will go as Ellsbury does.

Papelbon closed out the 9th striking out the side. Pap has yet to give up a run in his postseason career and the Angels are 2-42 off him in October baseball. As the camera pans across the stadium there are a lot of Angels fans with their heads down, I love it. That's also 10 straight playoff wins over the Angels tying a MLB record, tying who you ask? The Oakland A's handed the Sox 10 straight defeats from the 1980's-2003.

Red Sox are up 1-0 in the series. Next game is Friday night, Matsuzaka pitches for the Sox. All of a sudden that 8-1 record the Halos put up against the Sox in the regular season doesn't seem to be holding much water.

ITM notes:

John Lackey didn't pitch bad, but his woes against the Sox continue.

Someone needs to review with these umpires what a check swing is, both teams had some terrible calls go against them.

JD Drew looked okay, didn't really see him do anything to test his back. Mike Lowell made all the plays at third base but he didn't look comfortable at that plate, jogging out a couple weak ground balls. It will be important how these guys bounce back, the day off tomorrow will be key.

Memo to Angel fans: when you're team is in the field and the pitcher has 2 strikes on the batter and there is 2 outs you stand up and cheer, you just do it.

NL Division Series Update:

The Phillies beat the Brewers 3-1 in the afternoon game. Cole Hamels went 8 shut out innings giving up 2 hits. Philly's last postseason win you ask...1993 against the Blue Jays, Curt Schilling was the pitcher of record.

The Dodgers beat up the Cubs 6-2 behind the bat of James Loney. Ryan Dempster didn't help himself walking 7, not a typo he walked 7, thats not how you win ball games. Dempster loaded the bases in the bottom of the 5th before giving up the granny to Loney. Old friends Manny Rameriz and Derek Lowe had nights for themselves, Manny added a home run that he hit off his shoe tops and Lowe got the win.

Thats all for tonight, goodnight.

Wednesday, October 1

ITM Playoff Predictions:

With the Playoffs about to's about time to take a look at all three ITM contributor's playoff predictions. This post will definitely be referenced in the future as it will hold bragging rights for the person who has the most accurate predictions.....

D. Vicino:

Red Sox over Angels in 4....It appears the Sox will have reasonable health for the series, if Beckett goes in game three, we've got it in 4.

Tampa over Chicago in 4....I hate Ozzie, and I think his team/pitching is simply gassed. Tampa's young confidence will pass another test.


Cubs over the Dodgers in 5 ..... as good as Manny has been, Boston West won't get past a very good Cubs team. Plus I'll be in Chi-town next week, so they better win. (The Cubs may be the most AL-like NL team in a while)

Brewers over the Phillies in 5.....I'm riding the wave here....Brew-crew bats have been hot and CC is a huge horse (that's what she said).

Sox over Tampa in 6...young confidence finally meets its end as Beckett gets us two Ws.


Cubs over Brewers in 5....the wave ends here....CC is spent and the Cubs finally get back to the Show.

World Series:

Sox over the Cubs in me a homer, but I really think this will be an all time great series, with two great teams. I give the edge to the Sox with their three stud starters.

Tim Murhpy:


Sox over Angels 4, Lester wins two games, Beckett pitches game 3. Angels still can't beat the Sox when it counts, at least they don't get swept though.

Rays over White Sox in 4, people have been waiting for them to fail under pressure all year long, hasn't happened yet.


Cubs over Dodgers in 4, too much talent for the Dodgers, too much pitching.

Phillies over Brewers in 5. Sabathia can't pitch every game for the Brew Crew.


Sox over Rays in 7. I'm looking for a great championship series here, should test the limits of each club. Pap on the hill to close it out in Tampa in game 7.

Cubs over Phillies in 6.... Phillies don't have the pitching to win a 7 game series.

World Series:

Sox over Cubs in 6 to Win World Series. the curse of the billy goat continues...sox too much as the American league remains superior. Pedroia is your series MVP. Mark it zero next frame.

Joe Murph:


Sox over Angels in 4. Beckett doesn't pitch, but Lester comes through twice and Wakefield wins Game 3.

Rays in 3. I think it'll take three games before it even sinks in that they're in the playoffs.


Dodgers in 4 over the Cubs. Manny goes 17 for 16 in the series.That's right, 17 for 16. I don't know how, but mark it now.

Brewers over Phillies in 5. I just can't get excited about Philly, but I'm very excited about the Brewers.

Sox in 6. Rays have an early case of nerves, then come back strong, but it's too late. I have absolutely no reason to think they'll be nervous. Hasn't happened all season, but maybe that just means they're due.

Brewers in 7. Sabathia pitches 23 innings.

World Series:

Sox over Brewers in 6.


Fighting Phills take on the Brew Crew

The Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers haven't won a playoff game in a combined 41 years, and as they say, somethings gotta give.

The Brewcrew send Yovani Gallardo to the mound in game 1 and the Phillies counter with their ace Cole Hamels. Gallarado is only making his second start since tearing ligaments in his knee, he went 4 innings in his last start giving up 1 run. CC Sabathia is going to start game 2 and 5 (if there is one). Brewers manager Dalve Sveum toyed with the idea of starting Sabathia in every game of the series however he was talked down off that ledge by the GM. The Brewers have to be hoping that Sabbathia can win his two starts and they can somehow squeak another win out in this best of 5 series. I don't know how effective Ben Sheets will be battling an elbow injury and the Phillies will be sending Jamie Moyer out to pitch at some point, he is 72 years old.

Each team has the ability to score a lot of runs. The Phillis line up boasts Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard; it is worth noting that Pat Burrell left after BP yesterday with an injury, I haven't seen a lineup for todays game, no word on if he's playing. The Brewers will look to Prince Fielder (vegetairan?) and Ryan Braun to carry the load.

If the Phillies have the lead late they have one of baseballs best closers in Brad Lidge. Given that he won't have to face Albert Pujoles in this series he should be ok in a save opportunity.

Game 1 is today at 3:05pm at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philly, PA.
Custom Search
Free Blog CounterEnglish German Translation