Friday, September 23, 2005

Sox Start Stretch Run One Game back of Yankees

I think I was a little too disgusted by the performance the other night to even try to post anything. I didn't want to say some things that I thought I would regret later on. I think the Sox' off-day actually came at a good time for me, as well as for all of Red Sox nation, even if they may not have cooled of as much as I have.

I took yesterday as a rest from baseball. Watching the Red Sox for 30 days in a row puts a toll on you, it really does. The Red Sox finished that stretch of 30 games 17-13. They saw their lead in the AL East evaporate from being FOUR FULL games ahead of the Yankees on September 10 (When Schilling beat the Yankees 9-2 in New York) to now a FULL ONE GAME behind them today. It was sort of refreshing to not turn on the TV and have to watch a team that has been faltering daily the past month. It was refreshing to sit back, drink a few beers, and watch something other than the Red Sox. To not get frustrated, not get anxious, not get pissed off. It really did feel good.

However, that feeling is sure to dissipate for at least the next ten days, hopefully more, as the Red Sox enter the stretch run. Tonight, Bronson Arroyo looks to put a stopper on the bleeding as he faces an Oriole team that has taken 8 of the last 13 from the Good Ole' Boys. The Yankees open a three game set in New York against the Blue Jays, then will go to Baltimore to face the Orioles for four, and then to friendly Fenway for a three game set with the Sox, that right now, looks like it is going to be an extra playoff series for either team.

But the thing is, I have gotten over that excruciating lost to Tampa Bay the other night. The weird thing is, I didn't spew expletives at the TV like I am used to doing. I didn't immediately go on my trusty laptop, and start venting on message boards about how incompetent Tito is, or how the Sox just can't seem to help Wake out whenever he pitches a great game. I was at a bar with my buddies, watching the game over a burger and a few beers. We had our own TV to watch in the booth that we were sitting at, but I thought the game was pretty much in the bag. I didn't have any worries all night, and when Manny hit his 39th dinger to put the sox ahead 4-2, I felt confident, I really did. But then, things went down, how they have been going all too often this season. And after the Devil Rays plated their fifth run of the eighth, I found myself just starring at the TV. No words, no emotion, except that fiery adrenaline rush building up in my stomach. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to drink anymore, I didn't even want to talk to anyone. After a few minutes, the feeling dissipated a little, and we finished out drinks and left. I went home, got in my bed, and didn't turn on Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight like I do every day. I just went to sleep. I didn't want to deal with it. Didn't want to see the debacle unfold again before my eyes. I didn't want to believe that the Sox were now behind the Yankees, AGAIN.

One out. All they needed was one lousy out, and the AL East would be a dead-heat, instead of the Sox being a game back for the first time since June 22, when they were one full game behind the Baltimore Orioles. Hopefully, that much-needed day off did some good for the Sox. Arroyo hasn't exactly pitched well against the Orioles, he's 1-1 with a 6.94 ERA in three games against the Orioles this season (oh, and just in case you all aren't mathematicians out there, that ERA equals 9 Earned runs in 11.2 innings pitched, ouch), but I'm confident. He pitched well his last time out against the A's, and hopefully he'll repeat that performance again tonight. I know that is a pretty high hope, but I think the boys will pull through, I really honestly believe that.

The one other think I wanted to comment on yesterday, but couldn't get to it, was the Keith Foulke situation. Apparently, his left knee is bothering him each time he pitches, and it has gotten to the point that he has changed his mechanics, and in turn, his shoulder is beginning to bother him. Today, he said on WEEI that he is shutting it down for the season, but I have to wonder if we will ever see Foulke pitch in a Red Sox uniform again. With young arms in the bullpen already like, Delcarmen, Pappelbon, and Hansen, is it even worth it to keep him around? But what can they really do? He's owed 7.25 million next year, and the sox have a club option for him in 2007. I don't think any team is willing to take on that salary, especially after the season he had this year, so what do they do with him?

The thing is, I have always been a huge Foulke supporter. I don't really know why. Maybe because he was so clutch last season, and maybe because to me, he gave off that "gamer" attitude while out on the mound. He acts like a bulldog, and I like it. I wanted like hell for him to get healthy, and turn things around this season, but it hasn't happened. The thing is, the previous six years before this season, his ERA was never over 3.00 (the highest was 2.97 in 2000 with the White Sox.) According to Foulke: I'm Done for the Season , the article on Boston.com today:
"In fact, between the beginning of the 1999 season and the end of 2004, Foulke was 26-21 in the regular season with a 2.43 ERA and 171 saves. Mariano Rivera, by comparison, was 25-21 in that span with 252 saves and a 2.20 ERA."
Those numbers say something. He's one hell of a closer, when he's healthy. The one knock I've always had on him though, was that he doesn't throw hard. I love hard throwing closers. A guy that will come in and just fire one in on your hands, intimidate you with his velocity, like Rivera. Foulke has never had that, but it seems the Sox may like that type of closer as well, as it looks like Craig Hansen is going to get every single opportunity to close next season. I really don't know where to go on this debate. I love Foulkie, and I'd love to see him succeed here, but I mean, we have to look at reality here, he's going to be 33 on October 19. How many years does he have left? Hansen appears ready to take the load on, and it would be nice to have a guy coming in with a 97 mph fastball, and a filthy cutter/slider. It's been fun Foulkie, but I think your time here in Boston as the closer is over.

That's all for today. Again, Sox-O's tonight at 7:35 on NESN, Arroyo vs. Cabrera. The Yanks host the Jays, 7:05, Chacon vs. Lilly. Hopefully I can post something positive tomorrow. Until then, GO SOX!