Tag:Boston Red Sox
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:41 pm
 

Damon sorry to see Francona - "HOF manager" - go

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Boston is now four teams ago in his rear-view mirror but, nevertheless, Tampa Bay outfielder Johnny Damon is sorry to see Terry Francona and the Red Sox part ways.

"It's sad to see him walking away from the game right now," Damon said following the Rays' 9-0 stomping of Texas in Game 1 of the AL Division Series here Friday. "I love him as a manager. He stated he didn't have the clubhouse chemistry he once had, especially back in 2004 when we were able to do some wonderful things.

"To me, he's a Hall of Fame manager. He's always going to be remembered in Boston."
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:26 am
 

Thankful for day of rest, Rays look to Texas

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Best thing about Thursday for the bleary-eyed Tampa Bay Rays, of course, was simple: They're in. Somehow, some way, improbably, impossibly, incredibly ... they moved past Boston and into the wild-card slot for the first time since May at the very last possible minute.

Second-best thing about Thursday for the Rays?

In pulling off their miracle, they also avoided the dreaded one-game playoff with the Red Sox on Thursday.

Which means a team that has been in full-on sprint mode for weeks gets one very key day to rest its pitching before facing the Texas Airborne Rangers in Game 1 of an American League Divisional Series on Friday.

"It is very important not playing [Thursday]," manager Joe Maddon said amid the champagne showers in the Rays clubhouse overnight Thursday.

"Texas is very tough. Their numbers playing in their ballpark are sick. We've got to play our best baseball. We've got to be on our best behavior."

What Tampa Bay has had going for it all season is rich depth in its rotation. From James Shields to Jeremy Hellickson and beyond, the Rays can bring it on the mound.

But here was the state of Tampa Bay's pitching as the Rays were forced to chew through so many relievers during its wild charge this week that the bullpen stretched like salt water taffy: Starter James Shields, who beat the Yankees on Monday, was warming in the pen as the Last Man Standing in the 12th inning Wednesday.

Had the Rays been forced to play Boston in a one-gamer on Thursday, they would have had to get incredibly inventive to make it through (though perhaps not as inventive as chasing a trade with Kansas City for Bruce Chen).

"It's huge," All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria said of the chance to take a 24-hour breather before taking on Texas. "Those guys [the pitchers] have been grinding all year for us. You can't say enough about what the bullpen did [in Wednesday night's 8-7, 12-inning win over the Yankees]."

Now, Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey have a fascinating decision in choosing a Game 1 starter. Jeff Niemann, coming off of a sore back, or high-ceilinged prospect Matt Moore were in line to start the one-game staredown with Boston had it come to that.

Will the Rays elect to go with Big Game James Shields on short rest (he started Monday)? Niemann? Would the unconventional Maddon dare hand the ball to the rookie Moore?

It's all just one more good reason why Tampa Bay was thrilled to not have to play on Thursday: Gives them more time to think about these decisions.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:10 am
 

Rays pass Boston, seize wild-card on wild night

This Dan Johnson character ... c'mon.

He's not real, is he?

He can't be. Because what he did on Thursday night ... again ... was beyond fiction. He stepped to the plate batting .108, with Tampa Bay's season down to its final strike ... and he did it again?

He sliced a low liner of a gloriously colorful Tampa Bay rainbow that rifled into the seats just inside the right-field foul line to push the game into the 10th.

Then Mr. Triple Play, Evan Longoria, took it from there in the 12th, smashing a game-winning homer against Yankees reliever Scott Proctor within 10 minutes of Boston blowing one, final game in Baltimore.

And just like that, Tampa Bay's in.

Just moments after St. Louis staged the greatest comeback ever when Atlanta lost, the Rays topped them.

Tampa Bay's in.

It was unreal, unbelievable and for so long for the Rays, unattainable. They trailed 7-0 by the fifth. They were still trailing 7-0 in the eighth. Then they scored six runs, then came Johnson in the ninth and. ...

Dan Johnson? The guy is like the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. Daniel Ryan Johnson. In his fourth season, 31 years old. He shows up once or twice a year and ... wham!

When the Rays were staging their miracle World Series run in 2008, he clobbered a huge, late-season home run against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in Fenway Park at a time when the young Rays were trying to believe in themselves. The homer sent the game into extra innings.

He belted a game-winning home run against Boston's Scott Atchison at Tropicana Field last August that helped the Rays' playoff bid.

He crushed two go-ahead home runs against Phil Hughes and the Yankees last September that helped pave the Rays' way to last October even more.

That should have been enough, right? I mean, who does this kind of thing? Who does he think he is, Gates Brown?

On one of the most exhilarating nights of baseball in memory, the playoff field is set.

Detroit at the Yankees and, incredibly, Tampa Bay at Texas.

And Arizona at Milwaukee and, yes, incredibly, St. Louis at Philadelphia.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 9:15 pm
 

Raindrops not falling on sleepy Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Sometimes, scoreboard watching turns into schedule watching.

That's where the Angels were Friday as they shrugged off not only a crushing loss in Toronto on Thursday night, but an overnight flight that didn't get them back to Southern California until after 3 a.m. Friday morning.

So when word came that one of the key teams the Angels are chasing -- Boston -- was rained out Friday in New York, Angels manager Mike Scioscia grinned.

"Can we not play today and play a double-header Sunday to match up?" Scioscia quipped.

Um, no.

"The last time I remember looking at my clock, it was 4:04 a.m.," Scioscia said.

But as he insisted, "the page was turned."

We'll see. The Angels were one loss and one Texas victory away from elimination in the AL West as they headed out to face Oakland to begin a weekend series on Friday. They were watching both the scoreboard ... and the schedule.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:08 am
 

My theory on Manny Ramirez

Manny was arguing with his wife over the dwindling supply of female fertility drugs in their Florida home.

(Kidding.)

Likes: It was weird flying on 9/11, but only for a little while. The airports seemed normal, and my flight from San Diego to Chicago wasn't unusual. Still, reading the Sunday papers and the 9/11 tribute stories along the way, you couldn't help but look around the plane and wonder what things must have been like on that awful Tuesday in those hijacked planes. There was one reference to 9/11 on the flight, and it was subdued and classy: After we landed in Chicago, as we were taxiing toward the terminal, one of the Southwest Airlines flight attendants simply and somberly asked for a moment of silence aboard the plane in memory of the tragic victims from 9/11. Everyone complied -- including the shrieking toddler one row in front of me that, shall we say, contributed to making the flight seem very normal. ... Landed in Chicago about 30 minutes after the Bears dusted the Falcons in the NFL opener, and it was very cool to taxi by Soldier Field and see hundreds of folks tailgating after the game on a drop-dead gorgeous Chicago day. ... The deep dish sausage pizza at Gino's East on Superior St. ... Great run along Lake Michigan on Monday, and you never know who you'll see. Coming at me from the opposite direction about halfway through my run? Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers' general manager. Hard to miss him, what with the old English D logo prominently displayed on the chest of his T-shirt and on his shorts.

Dislikes: Sure hate to see the Border's Books, a mainstay on Michigan Ave. in Chicago for years, gone.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Better ask questions before you shoot
"Deceit and betrayal's a bitter fruit
"It's hard to swallow, come time to pay
"That taste on your tongue don't easily slip away
"Let kingdom come I'm gonna find my way
"Through this lonesome day"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Lonesome Day
Posted on: September 8, 2011 6:14 pm
 

Brewers need to ditch T-Plush, keep Morgan

I met this Tony Plush dude in another life.

And I'm here to give the Brewers plenty of advance warning: If he's not fenced in, and soon, this is a guy who will sabotage all the great things happening in Milwaukee this summer.

Know where I got that idea?

From Tony Plush himself.

Yeah, I met Nyjer Morgan's alter ego, sort of, this spring when he was with the Washington Nationals. Back then, Morgan was going to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Nationals. Then-manager Jim Riggleman even said Morgan had been "outstanding" so far in the spring after a disappointing and controversial 2010.

Now, here's what Morgan told me in early March:

"I want to prove to myself and to the organization that the player in '09 is who they're going to get in '11, instead of the immature player from '10. I left Tony Plush behind."

That was my introduction to T-Plush.

"Tony Plush," Morgan told me, grinning. "That's from back in the day. Me and my friend. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.

"It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass."

And in Milwaukee, he has been kicking butt. He's hitting .313 with a .360 on-base percentage. He's stolen 12 bags in 15 attempts. He's sparked the Brewers.

But as we saw Wednesday night in St. Louis, Morgan has regressed badly in the professionalism department.

The uncalled for showdown with Chris Carpenter was bad enough. But referring to Albert Pujols as "Alberta" on Twitter later that night? Come on.

Clearly, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin does not plan to tolerate the antics. He said as much during a radio interview Thursday, noting that manager Ron Roenicke would talk with Morgan.

That conversation apparently has happened: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy spoke with Morgan on Thursday afternoon and tweeted that Morgan told him, "I'm Tony Hush today."

The guy is smart and clever (Morgan, not McCalvy, though Adam has his moments, too). He's a wonderful talent and great fun to watch.

But by his own admission to me in March, he needed to mature and he vowed he had "left Tony Plush behind."

Next thing we know, Tony Plush is back, and raging.

Both the Brewers and Morgan need to figure this out and get a handle on it pronto. Because this could be the most special season in Brewers' history.

Or, the man Melvin smartly acquired in late March -- just 3 1/2 weeks after Morgan promised me it was time to grow up -- could torch it all by himself.

Or, all by himselves.

Likes: Stephen Strasburg back in action. ... Texas-Angels, still close (hey, we've got to have at least one good race, don't we?). ... Ian Kennedy flourishing in Arizona. ... The way Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have continued to pitch lights out and not uttered a word about the criminal lack of run support they've received in San Francisco this year. ... Always look forward to Michigan-Notre Dame. ... Looking for my guys at Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central to earn another W this Friday night, over Grosse Ile, and run that record to 2-1. ... Bob Seger back out on the road this fall.

Dislikes: Tim Wakefield's got to get his 200th win one of these starts, doesn't he? Poor guy is 0 for 7 in trying to get No. 200. ... Eddie Murphy hosting the Oscars. What's next, the Yankees starting a game at 11 p.m.? ... Finally catching up to this season's Entourage, which I thought jumped the shark last summer. Through the first couple of shows and it's lackluster enough I may not even finish this season.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It seems that all my bridges have been burned
"But you say, 'That's exactly how this grace thing works'
"It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
"But the welcome I receive with every start"

-- Mumford & Sons, Roll Away Your Stone
Posted on: August 22, 2011 1:48 pm
 

If you can't stand the heat ... get out of Texas

All this talk about Dan Uggla, Andre Ethier and hitting streaks this season, the Rangers have had quite the hit streak of their own lately, you know:

Nearly two weeks ago, Aug. 11 to be exact, snapped a streak of 40 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas. A record? Close: It just missed the 1980 Dallas-area record of 42 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.

That the Rangers played on, unaffected, and continued to thrive is yet another testament to the current group of strong-willed players constructed by club president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington: When was the last time you heard talk that the Rangers won't make it to October because they'll wilt in the heat?

Used to be an annual topic of conversation.

Yet this summer, the hottest on record in Dallas since Pat Corrales' Rangers went 76-85 and finished fourth in the AL West in '80, so far hasn't even come close to melting Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Co.

As the Red Sox arrive for a three-game series starting with an excellent pitching match-up Monday -- new Boston acquisition Erik Bedard vs. C.J. Wilson -- the first-place Rangers have produced their third-best record ever after 128 games (73-55).

"We monitor it," manager Ron Washington says of the heat. "We go out in it, we don't go out in it, we've still gotta play in it.

"You work in it less. We'll have weeks where we will have worked out in the heat for three days, and on four days we did not. But you've gotta get your work in to get used to it."

During the 40-day streak of temps of 100 or higher, the Rangers played 22 home games. They went 16-6.

"It's our home-field advantage," pitching coach Mike Maddux says. "We take our pitchers out in the heat of day. That's when we do our running, and throw in the bullpen.

"We see it as a challenge: 'I'm going to out-last the other guy.'"

The absence of third baseman Adrian Beltre, out since July 22 with a strained left hamstring, has hobbled the Rangers more than the heat has suffocated them.

And it remains scorching: When the 40-day streak of 100 ended on Aug. 11, it wasn't exactly with a cooling trend. The temperature reached 98 that day.

More of the same is awaiting the Red Sox and Rangers this week: Highs of 104 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, 102 Wednesday and back up to 104 Thursday.

The Angels follow Boston in on Friday for another AL West showdown. Again, the high is predicted to be 104 on Friday.

"There are nights when we're dragging," Washington says. "But really, who wouldn't drag in that stuff?"

Likes: Absolutely fantastic job by the Padres on Sunday in the ceremony retiring legendary closer Trevor Hoffman's No. 51. One of the best I've ever seen. They presented him with a 1958 Cadillac convertible, based on the stories Hoffman has told regarding how his late father, Ed, loved to drive the family around in a convertible. They brought plenty of ex-teammates and coaches back. And in the best move of the day, the Padres tracked down an old video of Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem at Fenway Park on opening day in 1981 when Trevor's brother, Glenn, played for the Red Sox. Watching Trevor, his wife Tracy and his mother Nikki watch that video -- and brothers Greg and Glenn -- if your eyes weren't moist, then you weren't human. ... Reading the book ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun. Some entertaining stories, and it's written at a fast-moving clip (oral-history style). But it's a guilty read, too: I can't help but think, don't I have more important things to read? ... If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to Netflix (or rent or whatever) Win Win on DVD. It's terrific. Paul Giamatti as a small-town New Jersey lawyer and wrestling coach who is struggling in both areas. ... College football in less than two weeks.

Dislikes: Where, oh where, are the exciting playoff races?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"In between the stops at the Cracker Barrel
"And 40 movies with Will Ferrell
"I need some way to occupy my time
"So I'm writing you a road song
"I sure hope you don't mind"

-- Fountains of Wayne, A Road Song

Posted on: August 21, 2011 7:36 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Not-So-Golden State edition

Late August, and if you're looking for stretch-run drama, well, you'd better go find a good book. May I recommend David Halberstam's Summer of '49? Great book chronicling an epic Red Sox-Yankees pennant race. Sigh.

There's still time for things to change, of course, but as we sit here today (unless, of course, you're standing), there is less than a four-game difference in only one of eight potential playoff races. (I'm dismissing the half-game separating the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East because both clubs have all but formally qualified for October: The Red Sox own a 7 1/2-game margin over Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card chase).

No, after Detroit's beat-down of Cleveland, the only real drama heading into this week is in the NL West, where the Giants have pulled back to within 1 1/2 games of Arizona. The Diamondbacks were and are a nice story, but not quite so much after getting swept in Atlanta.

Anyway, for all of this, I blame California.

The Not-So-Golden State right now is playing harball at a level ranging from head-shakingly bad to maddeningly sporadic and is in danger of being shut out of postseason baseball for the first time since 1999:

-- The World Series champion Giants, playing catch-up with Arizona, currently rank 29th in the majors in runs scored and seemingly have more players on the disabled list than on the active roster. Carlos Beltran, hello?

-- The Dodgers' back-to-back NLCS appearances in 2008-2009 currently are tied up in divorce/bankruptcy court.

-- The Padres' 90-win season of a year ago has turned to dust.

-- The only way the Athletics will see October is in Moneyball -- literally. The movie opens Sept. 23.

-- The Angels were nearly extinguished by Texas last week before rising from the ashes with a four-game winning streak that has moved them back to within four games of the Rangers.

Starting in 2000, the Angels have made the playoffs six times, the Athletics five, the Giants and Dodgers four each and the Padres twice.

Now? The Giants are clawing and the Angels have regained a faint pulse. Those two right now are a couple of the last hopes to goose a stretch-run that is threatening to boost football's television ratings even more.

Now, with colleague Danny Knobler hopefully somewhere with his feet up and an ice-cold lemonade nearby ... on to this week's 3 to Watch:

1. Time was, the Red Sox looked loaded and dangerous. Aw, truth be told, they still mostly look that way, but with Clay Buchholz out until mid-September, Daisuke Matsuzaka done for the season and Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury all hurting, they're vulnerable. The pitching situation in particular is why they acquired Erik Bedard at the July 31 deadline, and it is Bedard who takes the ball in the series opener of Red Sox at Rangers, Monday night (8:05 ET) at the Ballpark in Arlington. It's an intriguing four-game series for a few reasons, not the least of which is because, if the season ended today, these two teams would face each other in the first round of the AL playoffs. One thing to watch between now and then, though: The Rangers' schedule down the stretch is more difficult than the Angels, with seven games against the Red Sox, six against Tampa Bay and three against Cleveland (the Angels have two against the White Sox and three against the Yankees, but they also get Baltimore again).

2. Speaking of tough schedules, what Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians are facing is pure torture, and the Indians did not get off to a good start in Detroit over the weekend, where Cleveland was swept. Thanks to early rainouts, the Indians are in the midst of playing 45 games in 44 days. They've got two home doubleheaders -- White Sox and Twins -- the final full week of the season. Before that, though, Seattle pulls into town on Monday, and Cleveland dives into its double-dips with Mariners at Indians, Tuesday afternoon and evening (1:05 and 7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. It doesn't get any easier with rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis (hamstring) on the disabled list and with slugger Travis Hafner nursing a right foot strain (he left Sunday's game in Detroit and the Indians will know more Monday).

3. Two teams struggling mightily to tighten a couple of AL races hook up for a quick two-game series, and by the time Chicago rookie Zach Stewart is finished facing Los Angeles' Jered Weaver in the finale of White Sox at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium, we'll have a better idea of whether Ozzie Guillen's club is in or out in the AL Central, and whether the Angels are serious players in an AL West race that right now is Texas' to lose. The White Sox took two of three from the Rangers and are five games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Thanks to the Sox, the Angels were able to gain a couple of games back on Texas to pull to within four in the AL West. Considering that Texas pushed the Angels to six back last week and was one out away from seizing an eight-game lead on the Angels last Thursday night, Mike Scioscia's club is living large.
 
 
 
 
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