Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Just how important was CC beating BoSox?
By David Schoenfield
Back in the day, before the time of knowledge, it would have made for a classic column from a fedora-wearing sportswriter turning baseball into a symbolic struggle of character: CC Sabathia swipes away his Red Sox demons, guts his way through six innings and wins a big game to draw the Yankees closer to the Red Sox in a fierce battle for the AL East title.
Sometimes the old days may have been better.
AROUND THE SWEETSPOT NETWORK
Blake Street Bulletin
[The Diamondbacks] are seventeen games over .500 and hold a five game lead over the second place Giants -- 12 over the Rockies. You show me someone who claims that they expected this before the season and I'll show you a liar. After all, this same squad finished dead last in the West just last season. They were 32 games under .500 and their run differential was a woeful -123. The turnaround has been truly remarkable. Coming into the season, the Rockies were expecting the franchise's first ever division crown, but, instead, the Diamondbacks are about to win their fifth.
Nick's Twins Blog
It was bound to happen. Joe Mauer's decision to ask out of the lineup with a sore neck last week on the same day that Michael Cuddyer asked in with a sore wrist unleashed a torrent of fury from the media, with Mauer being labeled "soft" -- either explicitly or implicitly -- by no less than three local scribes. The crux of all three pieces linked above is that Mauer ought to set a tone for his teammates by forcing himself into the lineup and playing through pain.
On Tuesday, the Pirates confirmed a rumor that has been widely reported for a few weeks -- they are raising ticket prices for the 2012 season. The timing could hardly be worse, as the Pirates are in the middle of losing two straight games to the hopeless Astros. Since July 25, when the Pirates were 53-47, they have a record of 9-26. When your winning percentage resembles your loyal fans' blood alcohol level (.257), your team probably isn't too marketable, but this has been in the works for a while and the information was given to season ticket holders, so the Pirates had to announce it. With the Pirates sitting at 11 games below .500 and time running out, the team seems likely to suffer their 19th consecutive losing season this year. I can already see Jay Leno and David Letterman asking how the Pirates can charge more money to watch the worst team in history.
Because, while Sabathia had indeed struggled against the Red Sox this season, going 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in four previous starts, we now just write that off to small sample size and the randomness of baseball. Or with a couple clicks of the mouse, we can discover that he was 1-0 with a 3.96 ERA against the Red Sox in 2010 and 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 2009, suggesting that it seems quite improbable that a pitcher of Sabathia’s stature would suddenly get infected with the jitters when pitching against his big rival.
Not to mention that in the era of the wild card, the fierce battle for the AL East is more like a little joust for home-field advantage.
For the moment, however, I’m going to slip on a fedora and sit in front of my old Olympia typewriter and fashion an old-school angle out of the Yankees’ 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday night.
You see, the fact is that Sabathia had struggled against the Red Sox this year. That 0-4 record was real. He was 17-4 against the rest of baseball. He’d held opponents to a .260 batting average, but Red Sox hitters were batting .324 off him. He’d only walked 36 batters all season, but 10 of those were Red Sox batters. I’d say the mighty CC had a little something to prove; a test of his mental toughness, so to speak.
Truth is, he wasn’t very pretty on this perfect Fenway night. He struggled a bit with the somewhat random strike zone of home-plate ump Ed Rapuano, running up his pitch count -- a season-high 128 pitches -- and allowing 10 hits in his six innings. But the good pitchers know how to get the outs when they need them, and Sabathia got them on this night. In the second, he got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to second with the bases loaded. In the fourth, with runners at second and third, he struck out Adrian Gonzalez on a nasty slider. In the sixth with a runner on, he fell behind Gonzalez 3-1, but got him to ground out to shortstop.
Clutch outs. Demons exorcised. Yankees fans, breathe a bit easier. Your ace can still shoulder the burden of facing the Red Sox without succumbing to the pressure of the rivalry.
Of course, he’d need help on this night. Cory Wade replaced Sabathia in the seventh and allowed two hits. Boone Logan came one with one out to face Carl Crawford, who lined on 0-1 fastball into the left-center gap, a hit that should have easily scored David Ortiz, but Big Papi got a terrible read and stopped at third. Logan struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then got Darnell McDonald swinging on a 95-mph heater on the outside corner. That gave Boston 13 runners left on through just the first seven innings.
Now there was another side to this game. John Lackey entered with a 5.98 ERA. He went seven innings, allowed seven hits and five runs, walked four.
What can we take away from his performance? Just another outing that has Red Sox fans sweating about Lackey being in the postseason rotation? Or maybe a positive sign that Terry Francona left him in there for seven innings, when he could have pulled him earlier.
I guess it all depends on what kind of story you want to tell.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
OK, it's probably pretty easy for Skip Schumaker to see, but we'll help: He's safe!