Monday, August 14, 2006

A nice few days, and quite a week ahead

Well today was as beautiful a day as I have ever spent at a ballpark - 77 degrees at game time, though it felt warmer than that sitting in the top deck at Yankee Stadium.

Despite my Red Sox affiliation, Yankee Stadium is just too close by not to go to as often as possible, to the extent that I have a 1/6th share in a Yankees season ticket - I am on the Red Sox waiting list for a full season ticket, but after the "lovely" letter that I got from the Sox last week, I have decided to stop holding my breath...

When I go to the Stadium, I am never there to root for the Yankees, just to enjoy the game - and if the away team happen to win while I am there... well it makes the journey home all the better. So today's victory for the Angels under stunning blue skies was pretty much perfect - from my buddies call of the 5-4-3 A-Rod DP two batters ahead of A-Rod getting to the plate, to my call of his stat-padding HR to left in the bottom of the 9th the moment... all good!

But I got home in time to switch on the Red Sox and see Francona head out to the mound to call in Papelbon with an 11-7 lead, the day after Papelbon pitched 2 innings for the win... it seemed like an early call to me, the hits that Hansen had given up in the 9th to reach that situation weren't exactly hard hits, but I didn't realize that Papelbon had only thrown 24 pitches on Saturday (thanks to the Fox national blackout) - so ok, and things would have been ok if Cora had turned the relatively straightforward DP chance that was presented to him, but he didn't, a run scored, and more anxiety for a nervous Nation still fidgety from the 1-5 road trip. When the game eventually finished, following another nice play by our 3rd baseman (and genuinely, how did #13 not get awarded another E for his first inning play) the Sox stand just 1 game back.

This time last week I blogged that a lot of Sox fans were particularly nervous after a poor week, and despite an even poorer start to this week, our 3-3 run actually enabled us to pick up a game on the Yankees - although we should be (very) careful not to ignore strength of schedule in making that call.

The week ahead, finishing with a long 5 game set against the New York 9, has the ability to be momentum setting for the rest of the season - the Sox have 3 against the suddenly reeling Tigers (0-5 over the last 5 days), while the Yankees have 1 more against the Angels, and a 3 game set against the Orioles before the wrap-around weekend series. I really am interested to see how the Tigers play the next 3 days - we are either playing them at the best, or worst, of times.

The Sox took 2 of 3 in Detroit, the Yankees should have swept them in Comerica, and truthfully, my baseball brain struggles to comprehend how a team that finished 20 games under .500 just last year, and looked to improve themselves by adding Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones, can be on pace to win 105 games this year, despite that 0-5 run. Needless to say, that baseball brain of mine struggles to believe that the 34 game improvement we are facing can be explained by the two words that most people turn to... Jim Leyland... Clearly Leyland has a part to play, as do Rogers and Jones, but I guess the largest part of the improvement is attributable to the continued improvement of the young arms in the Tiger rotation and pen. I hope to blog about the changes in this team over the course of the next 3 days to see if this is another case of false perception v reality.

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