Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

I was away last weekend and did not get back until Monday evening. Then I left for San Antonio on Friday. This, not the mini-swoon the Sox undertook in games 2-4, explains the lack of Sox Talk the last few days. But we have a game seven upon us in a matter of just over three hours, and the Thunderstick has things to say:

Thunderstick: Sox stuff--first last night--obviously there are two big stories. First was Drew getting redemption for his whole season in one at bat, crushing that grand slam. Sox load the bases and you can hear the buzz, but after Manny and Lowell went down, you could hear the air come out of the place with such low expectations for Drew. It was dead silent. Then he cranks that grannie and the place didn't let up the rest of the game. Second big story was Schil coming through again in a game where they were on the ropes. He had to fight a bit in the third, but he fight he did and got through it and gave us just what we wanted--we got 7 innings from him and we got to use the two relievers we don't want to see at all in tonight to finish it up.

So we move on to Game 7 (cliche alert), the two most exciting words in sports. Here's why I like the Sox chances--they have the momentum, they have everyone in the pen rested and ready to go and I have trouble seeing us use anyone out of the pen other than Beckett, Delcarmen, Timlin. Okie and Pap unless we have to. If we do, we can use Lester and Waker. We should only see Gagne and Lopez if this game goes 16 innings. So it'll be (cliche alert #2) all hands on deck today and I like the hands we have ready to go.

I also think that you made a very astute observation last night--after Victor Martinez hit that home run in the 2nd and took about 12 minutes to circle the bases, I texted you and said "I don't mind him taking forever, but I better not hear anyone else on the Tribe whining about what Manny did after that display" to which you responded something to the effect of "yeah, that's why we're going to win, because we don't let shit like this get into our heads." In the 2nd inning of a game 6 yesterday with a chance to go to the World Series, but down 4-0, it was more important for Martinez to do something in response to a perceived slight from Manny than it was to circle the bases and pump his team up.

That said, here's why I don't like the Sox today--one word: Dice. I'm scared to death about him today. He's the one guy on this team that does seem to let things get into his head. I have no idea what his mental state is coming in to tonight. I have no idea what will happen if he gets touched for a run in the first. But it'll be a short leash tonight. I think if you see Dice give up 2 runs in an inning, he'll be out. So my prediction, we tag Westbrook for a few in the early innings. Dice probably gives up a few as well, but Beckett comes in in the fourth and calms things down and it's the 3 innings he pitches in the middle of the game that are the difference tonight--not quite as heroic as Pedro coming in in game 5 with an injury and throwing 6 innings of no hit ball, but it'll be remembered equally as fondly. That said, I'm praying that Dice finds it in himself to give us 6 innings of 1 run ball and that Westbrook doesn't continue this run that he is on. He's got a bit of the Derek Lowe in the 2004 playoffs going on where nobody expects much of him but he is very, very solid with some spectacular moments.

dcat: As long as we're praising one another's brilliance, and since you mention Lowe, I'll also point out that you were spot-on last night when you texted me that this is the situation where we really miss Derek Lowe. I am more aware than most that the sabermetrics types (from whom I borrow, but whose work I am incapable of replicating because of the whole math thing) deny that there is such a thing as clutch, but I think they are wrong. Clutch may not be a predictable thing, but it exists as something we can identify after the fact. We've seen it with Papi, and we saw it when DLowe came up big for us just days after being left off the ALDS roster in 2004. People forget that Lowe's name at the end of the 2004 regular season was, if not in a league with Gagne's right now, at least comparable to the way Sox fans have felt before last night about JD Drew. But when it mattered, when it truly counted, he came up huge. So my hope is that Dice, who has not been awful, but has been sporadic in a way that we cannot afford in the playoffs, will come though tonight in a DLowe sort of way. I'd love 8 innings of one hit ball. But really what we want is for him to come out, give 6-7 innings, and to avoid that three or four run inning. As we saw with Drew last night, ill fortune can turn quickly. I want Dice to come up big enough to keep us in the game into the fourth time around their order. If he does that, I think we'll win.

A few words about the Indians. They are a good team. They are, I suspect, one of the two best teams in baseball. I know that now is the time when everyone is jumping on the Rockies' bandwagon, and they have had a spectacular run, but I don't think they are all that good, and I believe that whichever team escapes from tonight will pummel them. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. There have been some annoyances in the series, of course, as will always be the case in any seven game series between closely matched teams, and I do believe that they have been less good at blocking out the extracurriculars and the distractions than we have. This should be a team that will make noise for a long time in the Central and the AL. Who knows, maybe we are even startinga new rivalry along the lines of the one that started to gain traction between the Sox and Indians in the second half of the 1990s.

But back to tonight. I think we win. I think Tito knows how to handle the bullpen in games such as this. I think we have the bullpen lined up perfectly, as you say, and that we are ready for any sort of game. I think that we now are back to where we want to be with the bats. I think we are the better team, if only slightly. If I'm wrong, I'll tip my hat to Indians fans, will mourn for a few days, and will enjoy the Patriots and BC and the start of the new NBA season. I'll rue at least four more games of hearing that insipid, invidious "Cleveland Rocks" song during inning breaks. But it does not feel like today marks the end of the 2007 Red Sox season.

Oh, what the hell -- just for old times' sake: We Believe.

Enjoy the game.


Thunderstick said...

I love the last part of your post--today doesn't feel like the day the Sox season ends. I'm totally with you on that. THat doesn't mean it won't but despite my worries about Dice (which have gone from butterflies when I woke up this morning to vampire bats about 5:30 this afternoon and will no doubt be full-fledged pterodactyls in less than two hours), it just doesn't feel like the Sox season ends today. We tend to be a fatalistic, pessimistic bunch here in New England, but even with the worries, my outlook remains on the positive side.

One other thing we forgot to mention about the Indians--they haven't won a world series in like 60 years. They have history hanging over their heads, and as we know, you don't erase history like that easily. You only do it by kicking down the door. You do it by (in a happy memory) coming back from 0-3 for the greatest comeback in sports history or by (sad memory) coming back from a 24-6 halftime deficit to your archrivals (aided of course because someone wasn't man enough to get down to the two lucky pre-game chili dogs). I don't see you doing it by going up 3-1 and then hanging on for dear life while the other team makes a massive run at you. I can't believe I'm saying it, but for the first time ever, I think the shadow of history that will be over this game will be on the Sox's side. Tribe fans have to be feeling like we did before game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 and 2004. It's not a good feeling.

Matthew Guenette said...

Am I picking the crow from my teeth? Gladly. In my defense, doubting the Sox is a strategy I employ so I can have it both ways: if they lose, I'm not disappointed; if they win, I get to feel surprised....

What's your prediction? Sox in 7?

Thunderstick said...

Great ballgame last night. Tense until the Sox opened it up in the bottom of the 8th. That Cleveland team is good and is going to be good for a long time, particularly once they get some experience. Unfortunately for them, they are a team from Cleveland which means they will always come up short.

dcat said...

The latest "Dirty Water" gives my views of events past and future.