Monday, June 30, 2008

Eighth Inning Doom, Mayhem And Disaster...Astros 3 Red Sox 2

For the first time since May 14th, Boston manager Terry Francona summoned his lefthander Hideki Okajima with a man or men on base. A wild pitch allowed that runner, Miguel Tejada, to scamper to second base. A pinch hitter strode to the plate, none other than old friend Mark Loretta, who promptly laced a flat slider (I think) into the outfield for a base hit, scoring Tejada. That proved to be the winning run as the Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox by a score of 3-2.

Josh Beckett again pitched well enough to win, going seven innings and allowing only two runs on eight hits, striking out four and walking one. David Aardsma, who allowed the potential winning run to reach first, was lifted after recording one out and it was Okie time. You know the rest. Okie has allowed 12 of 25 inherited runners to score, and this one hurt. It moved the Red Sox to second place as they prepare for a three game series with the pesky and potent Tampa Bay Rays, who will have their three best starters ready to go, beginning with Sox nemesis Scott Shields. Mike Lowell had this to say about the AL East frontrunners and the three games to come...

"They've played damn good baseball for three months. I think that's a pretty good track record. This is a big series for us. We want to play well. But I don't think it's a be-all or end-all. It's a big series," Lowell reiterated. "The media are going to want to hype it up. It's a series that whoever wins will be in first place at the end of it, and that's important to us."

Peter here, and Mikey, that's important to me, too. Teammate Julio Lugo added this...

"This is the biggest series so far for them," said Julio Lugo, who played for the Rays in 2003-06. "It's early in the season, but it's the biggest series for the franchise right now. They're playing good and they have a good team. To be in first place, you have to have a higher level and they do. We're going to go out and do our best. We're just going to go and play ball."

So...the stage is set, the rivals are ready. As Jim McKay said, will it be "the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat?" Yesterday, the still hot Dustin Pedroia and Manny Ramirez homered, but two runs were simply not enough. But the NL/AL games are over, and with their departure comes the DH rule, so Sir Manny, who is still nursing tender hamstrings, will not have to play leftfield. And either will Coco Crisp, at least for the next five games. Look for Ellsbury in center, JD Drew, who has cooled off considerably, in right, and, I believe, Brandon Moss in left, unless Tito elects to start Manny in the field. After the three DHless games in Houston, I would seriously doubt that, though. We'll see, and we'll see soon, in roughly 13 hours. Here are the pitching matchups for the Rays series...

Justin Masterson (4-1, 3.43 ERA) vs. Shields (5-5, 3.76) tonight
Tim Wakefield (5-5, 3.88) vs. Matt Garza (6-4, 3.76) Tuesday
Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.21) vs. Scott Kazmir (7-3, 2.28) Wednesday

Get ready for seven straight days of competitive American League baseball, with the stop in Tampa Bay and then four games in beautiful New York City, the home of the floundering Yankees. What a way to end June and start the festive month of July. I hope the only fireworks will be those in the sky over the three day Independance Day weekend.

On a personal note, my weekend site hit numbers (Friday through Sunday) were alarmingly low, but it's summer, people go out of town or to the beach or the pool or just about anywhere but their living rooms, so I understand. But the numbers are so much lower than in years past. I haven't missed more than an isolated day or two since I started this chronicle of the Red Sox in November of 2005. It's getting a little discouraging when I have 23 hits, at least 6 of them mine, in a single day, but I'm not going anywhere, at least for this full season. That means every morning, God willing, I'll be right here with a post, an early morning post. I don't like to leave something undone, so I won't. It's fairly simple. I take great joy in all the friends I've met through this blog and the blog kingdom, and I continue to meet new friends every week. So please, Constant Readers, keep on checking in for your morning dose of Red Sox stuff. I thank you for that. If you'd like, click on the title of this post for full coverage of last night's game and Okie's recent troubles. As always, BE WELL. FOREVER.

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