|One of my favorite pitchers! Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.
When I first started watching baseball I was fascinated with the outfielders (and not just because, even as a child, I found Rice, Lynn and Evans to be cuties! Hey, I was a little girl. Watching cute “boys” play ball was nothing but fun!). It seemed like the infielders got to do most of the work while the outfielders just hung around waiting for fly balls. I often wondered how they kept their intensity up when the game seemed to be so slow for them. Of course, seeing them knock themselves against the Green Monster and the right field all made me change my mind about the excitement level in the outfield.
As I got older, I started appreciating the infielders much more. I loved watching double plays get made and especially enjoyed watching the third baseman rifle the ball to first to get those close outs. (Keep in mind, my first MLB game was Wade Boggs’ first game at Fenway. I developed an interest in the infield rather quickly!)
But as I got even older my attention turned to the pitchers.
It’s almost at the point where I can’t understand how anyone focuses more attention on any of the other players. Sure JD Drew’s swing is sweet and back in the day there was nothing that brought joy more quickly than a David Ortiz walk-off. But nothing gets the adrenaline going for me like watching a pitcher. Whether it’s striking out a batter or working himself out of a bad inning, I’m constantly amazed at the focus and talent it takes to be a Major League pitcher.
Needless to say I was thrilled with Josh Beckett’s performance yesterday. I missed watching it live as I was at work but got to listen to Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien call it. I then went home and watched the 3-hour replay on NESN at 7pm and, currently, am watching the 1-hour replay on NESN. Heck, I might even watch the 2-hour replay at 2pm on NESN. This is a beautiful game to watch.
(A brief digression: In yesterday’s game there were only a few points of interest when you’re editing it into an hour: Beckett striking out the side in the first. Joe Crede’s home run. Both of Jason Varitek’s home runs. Bailey scoring the third run and Papelbon closing it out are some. There was something else of import yesterday, no? Maybe the two catchers and the two managers getting thrown out of the game in the same inning by the same umpire? NESN showed everything I listed EXCEPT Bailey scoring and all of the ejections. I know an hour isn’t a lot of time to edit a three-hour game but when it’s a 3-1 game with not much action it seems ridiculous to EDIT OUT THE ACTION. Tremendous FAIL, NESN. I’m done now.)
I want the “real” Josh Beckett to stay with us. I approve greatly of him. 111 pitches in 7 innings with 69 being thrown for strikes. 8 strikeouts, 3 hits and 1 earned run (on a home run ball). He had a couple of opportunities where he could have let things get out of control (worst of all in the 7th inning) and he didn’t. In the middle of my pitchers lovefest I need to stop and give credit to Jason Varitek. Not only did he hit the two home runs that gave the Red Sox the win but he took one for the team in getting in the face of the homeplate umpire so his pitcher didn’t get booted from the game (and, possibly, suspended depending on how that could have gone).
If I’m giving out props I should probably add some for Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Kid pitched a hell of a game. Thankfully, Beckett pitched a wee bit better. It was a bit of a bummer that Ellsbury and Pedroia had their hitting streaks halted but it also says something about Swarzak’s pitching that it happened with him on the mound.
Although, if there has to be a trade-off, I’m good with Ells and Pedie stopping their streaks as long as it equalled a win.
But back to pitchers for a moment. On Wednesday, Bronson Arroyo threw a 92-pitch complete game against the Houston Astros. He only struck out 3 but he also only walked 1 and gave up 1 run on 5 hits (that only run actually coming in the first inning on a walk, a steal, a ground out and a sacrifice fly). I need to track this game down today (mlb.com is good for SOMETHING). Bronson gets a fair amount of criticism across the board. He isn’t known as a true “Ace” for his team. But this year he has been the guy for the Reds. As much as I mourned that damn trade for Wily Mo there is certainly no denying that it was the best thing to happen to Bronson professionally (okay, second best to winning a World Series. Maybe third best to throwing a perfect game in Pawtucket. Still, the trade is right up there on the list of best things to happen to Bronson in baseball!). I’ve said this before: Bronson should send Theo a fruit basket every March to mark the occasion.
Tim Wakefield is on the mound tonight in Toronto. Toronto is on a major slide right now with their nine-game losing streak (started by the Red Sox, thank you very much!). I’m terribly excited at the prospect of another sweep. I’m not making predictions; I’m just hoping against hope. I’ll take the series win, though, fellas.