Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 214: Thank You, Red Sox... World Series Champions!!

Dear Red Sox,

I'm not sure if you got a chance to read my letter to you back on July 16th... if not, here it is. Surprisingly and gleefully, not much has changed since that day. My feelings for this team never changed. And your drive to succeed never changed. You all went about the season like it was your passion, and not your job.

Now, to reward your fans with not just a worst to first turnaround, but a worst to World Series Champion turnaround, is something that, as a fan, I will never forget. There was a will, there was a desire and there was a camaraderie that fueled this team to overcome adversity and deficits that many Red Sox teams from years past would never have been able to accomplish.

For a team that rarely had problems producing hits and runs over the regular season to still triumph when many of the bats went quiet, was a feat beyond explanation. When bats were silenced, the pitching lifted the team. When pitching floundered, batters who may have been slumping, made timely hits.

And let's not forget about the MVP of the World Series... David Ortiz. The one bat in the lineup that never quieted. The one bat that instilled fear into each pitcher who dared to take the mound against him. In the end, Big Papi batted .688 in the Series and at one point, reached base in nine consecutive at bats. But it was not only his bat that had such a huge impact, but his enthusiasm and leadership. When Ortiz pulled the troops together for a game four pep talk, the Series took a turn in the Sox favor—a pivotal moment for sure.

Jon Lester deserves major kudos as well. The game one and game five starter was masterful in both World Series outings, and if Ortiz hadn't been so locked in, he may have collected that MVP award. Lester has had his problems over the past couple of seasons, but he dug down deep and pulled off one of his greatest accomplishments. He won both starts, allowing just one run, striking out 15 in 15.1 innings, finishing with an ERA of 1.73.

I wish I had the words to thank ever single amazing guy on this team who not only played such a huge role in this World Series run, but also succeeded in reigniting my faith in the team I've loved my whole life. You know who you are... and so does every member of Red Sox Nation. We'll never forget...

For the third time in 10 years, I sat in front of my television, celebrating a World Series Championship and crying tears of joy. So thank you, Red Sox, for making this season one full of fantastic fun and foolish facial hair.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 213: Red Sox Collect Two Gold Gloves

It's going to be a short post tonight... I'm too excited for the game to focus on anything for very long! I can make short jokes because I'm short. I know the feeling of being in a crowd and smelling only a sea of armpits. It's not fun. So I had to laugh when the Gold Glove Awards were handed out today and the Red Sox collected two—both going to a couple of the more vertically challenged members of the team. GO SHORTIES!

Dustin Pedroia (5'8") picked up his third fielding award for second base. To watch Pedroia patrol the right side of the infield is a thing of beauty...if you find a ridiculously dirty uniform beautiful...which I do. To me, a dirty uniform says I played hard and that's really what it's all about.

Pedey previously won in 2008 and 2011. This season, he played 1,398 innings (career high) with 688 chances and just five errors. His .993 fielding percentage was also the highest of his career. Before Pedroia won in 2008, the last Red Sox second baseman to win was Doug Griffin in 1972—you know it's a loooong time ago when I don't even remember the guy!

Shane Victorino (5'9") collected his fourth Gold Glove—this time for his stellar work in right field. His first three were won with the Philadelphia Phillies. Normally a center fielder, Victorino showed real versatility moving over to the tricky right field of Fenway Park and has played it almost flawlessly. He became the first right fielder to win since Dwight Evans in 1985—pretty big shoes to fill.

Victorino finished with 913.1 innings played and 276 chances. He made nine outfield assists and only three errors for a .989 fielding percentage. He also turned three double plays. Shane's quick hustle on hits to right field keeps most base runners at first base.

Congratulations to Pedroia and Victorino! Short people got all kinds of reasons to live!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 212: Some World Series Fun Facts

As my friend's almost seven-year-old daughter read her library book about the Red Sox the other morning, she made this astute observation: "Mum, I know why they call it the World Series... because the world watches, and it's really serious." That kid is wise beyond her years. The World Series is very serious business—especially for the die hard Sox fan.

Game five is in the books. The final of the three games on the road in St. Louis was another hard fought battle and another win for the Red Sox. This series is headed back to Fenway Park, giving the Sox a chance to win the World Series at home for the first time since 1918. Can you even imagine what a friggin' zoo Fenway will be?

Instead of trying to give you a recap of yet another nail-biter of a game—because who isn't watching this series—I figured I'd throw out some fun facts...

• Have you ever seen Jon Lester pitch so masterfully? In 15.1 innings pitched in the World Series, Lester is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.59 and 15 strikeouts. He looks cool and collected. He looks comfortable and confident. He looks almost like he could pitch ever night and never get winded. He's locked in, and according to John Farrell, could even possibly be available for some bullpen work, should this series go to a game seven.

• Speaking of locked in... how about David Oritz? What the hell, Big Papi!? I've never seen anything like it. Ortiz is a lean, mean hitting machine. His stats in the WS are mind-blowing. Through the first five games, he's gone 11-for-15 (.733 batting average) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. In addition to the .733 average, his on-base percentage is .750 and he's slugging 1.267. His OPS is a whopping 2.017. He's nipping at the heels of Billy Hatcher's 1990 record for batting average in a World Series of .750.

• And speaking of records... Koji Uehara is approaching one of his own. His save on Monday night was his seventh of the postseason, tying him for most ever by a closer for the playoffs. He also became just the fourth pitcher in playoff history to record four saves of four or more outs. It's not a record, but it puts him in some pretty damn good company. Koji has pitched 12 2/3 innings allowing just one run. All this and he still gets ridiculously excited about every single win.

• And speaking of being excited... THE RED SOX ARE ONE WIN AWAY FROM THEIR THIRD WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE LAST DECADE!!! I might be just a little bit excited about this. I also might be getting more and more superstitious with every passing day. I almost kicked my parents out of my house on Saturday night—citing their presence as the reason the Sox fell behind. Also, I'll be wearing the same exact clothes and sitting in the same exact spot on the exact same couch with the exact same blanket over me.

All I can say is holy shit... it's going to be a crazy ride on Wednesday night!! GO SOX!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 211: No One Could've Picked that Game Four Ending

See what I did there? Picked... Sorry, I couldn't resist. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, you must be currently residing under a very large rock. It was the pick-off heard round the world. Red Sox closer, Koji Uehara, snapped a throw to first base that found Cardinals rookie, Kolten Wong, leaning the wrong way for the final out of game four. Red Sox win 4-2, series tied 2-2.

It was a finish that the Red Sox needed. After falling victim to that horrible obstruction call the night before, they needed an equally dramatic finish to game four. One that found the boys of Boston on the winning end. And that's exactly what they got.

But let's just say the road to that final out in the ninth was nothing short of heart attack inducing. The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the third, the Sox came back and tied it up in the fifth. And then the magic happened in the sixth. With two outs in the inning, Dustin Pedroia singled to center. David Ortiz then followed with a walk—one that appeared to be unintentionally intentional. (Who wouldn't? The guy was batting .727 at that point in the series!)

Jonny Gomes, who found out he was playing only an hour and a half before game time, followed... desperate to break out of his 0-for-9 World Series slump. Cardinals relief pitcher Seth Maness threw a steady stream of sinkers to Gomes, but on a 2-2 count, he left that last sinker just a tad high and Gomes made him pay. Big time. He launched a line drive over the left/center fence for a three-run (and eventually game-winning) home run. Sox up 4-1.

Then came the stress. Like most of the close games throughout the post season, I felt nauseous every time a Cardinals' bat connected with a pitch. I felt barfy each time a Cardinals' runner reached base. And I felt the bile rise in the back of my throat when they scored a run to cut the Sox lead to 4-2. With each passing inning, my knees started shaking violently as I sat nervously on the couch.

The bottom of the ninth finally arrived and it was Koji Time. An out... a single... a pinch runner... another out and then it happened. The thing no one wants to see. Carlos Beltran at the plate representing the tying run. Oh shit. I almost couldn't watch. But then... well... see above. There's nothing better than a pick-off to end a game that leaves Beltran standing there at the plate... helpless and alone.

That win, my friends, means one very important thing. This World Series will be headed back to Boston!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 210: Obstruction is a Stupid Rule... if You're a Sox Fan.

You could hear the collective groans as outraged Red Sox fans across New England watched the play over and over again wondering what the hell went wrong. I'm not going to lie, I was pissed off too—so pissed I couldn't fall asleep. The obstruction call in the bottom of the ninth inning of game three gave the Cardinals a walk-off win and a 2-1 series lead. And it left Sox fans violently shaking their fists at their televisions.

I spent the next several minutes after the call trying to make myself believe that somewhere, somehow, it was Will Middlbrooks that had been obstructed. That Allen Craig held him to the ground so he couldn't go after the errant throw. Or maybe Craig took a dive and Middlebrooks was just an innocent bystander. But I knew I was grasping at straws—the rule is pretty clear.

MLB Rule 2.00 states:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered "in the act of fielding a ball." It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
When you really sit down and think about it, it wasn't an obstruction call that lost that game for the Red Sox. It was the Red Sox who lost that game for the Red Sox. In a scenario similar to what happened in game two, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (like Craig Breslow) maybe should've just held on to the ball. Although pitchers are notorious for not being able to throw to any other base but home plate. Remember Julio Tavarez? He would toss the ball to first under handed so as not to overthrow the bag.

But Salty really has no excuse. He's a catcher. He's paid to throw the ball accurately to all bases. He's trained to make crazy snap throws to first from his knees or gun out would-be base stealers at second—all this with a whole lot of equipment impeding him. So yeah, the obstruction call totally sucked, but should the Sox really have been in that situation in the first place? Third base isn't that far away—Salty has the tools to make throws that hit the required target. This throw was wildly errant. Not really the best time to get a case of the yips.

Or do you blame Will Middlebrooks? Granted, it was a tough throw to field as it tailed away from him towards shortstop, but he was also cold, having just come into the game to replace fielding phenom Xander Bogaerts. Maybe Xander handles that throw cleanly, maybe he doesn't. There will always be that question...

It was a play that started out so brilliant with Dustin Pedroia making a diving play to his right and throwing out the lead runner at home. And ended so horribly with an obstruction call allowing the winning run to score. Just add it to the list of crazy World Series plays for the Boston Red Sox. Also, maybe David Ross should catch tonight.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 209: Bad Announcers Can Really Ruin a Baseball Game

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy are really the only two announcers I really enjoy listening to when I watch the Red Sox play. It's really the one downfall of the postseason—we don't get our hometown guys. Instead, we're forced to listen to the inane rambling of some dude who could care less about our team. Some team of guys who has spent the last two hours doing research so they don't sound like a bunch of idiots.

But nothing and no one is more annoying and dimwitted as Tim McCarver. The former major league catcher is the king of the obvious when it comes to providing color for a baseball game. When the World Series is on Fox, like it is this year, we are tortured by his ridiculously vapid commentary that often times makes me want to hurl my shoe at the television. Thankfully, this is McCarver's final season and we will no longer have to tolerate such blather.

I often wish I could just mute the television and listen to Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien on the radio, but these days, with the new digital technology and shit, there's a delay that makes it far more painful than watching morons call a game. It makes me sad.

In comparison to the video below... would you rather have to listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver? Honestly, I think I'd choose the team below. Blimey!

PS: This game is killing me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 208: Errors are Contagious, Like the Bird Flu

Ahhhh... the World Series... it giveth and it taketh away.

Remember on Wednesday night when the Cardinals made all sorts of errors and blunders and you may or may not have laughed out loud at their mishaps? Well... karma didn't like that. I think karma is a Cardinals fan. Game two on Thursday night featured a reversal of fortune of sorts. And it did not favor Red Sox Nation. The Sox lost a tough game two 4-2 and the series is tied a game a piece as the teams head to St. Louis.

Just as I had imagined, game two started out with the makings of that pitchers' duel I love and hate so much. Both pitchers were on their game. John Lackey fooled Cardinals batters with that nasty curve that starts off looking like a big fat mistake right down the middle, but then drops out of sight leaving the batter wondering what the hell just happened. And Michael Wacha (Wacha wacha) with his sick change up that was the cause of nearly all of his six strikeouts.

When Yadier Molina drove in Matt Holliday in the fourth with the game's first run, I started to sweat. I could see how much Wacha was fooling the Sox batters. Mostly I was annoyed because it was the first time the Red Sox had trailed in a World Series game since 1986. What can I say, I got a little spoiled in 2004 and 2007.

My hopefulness dwindled with each passing out. Until the bottom of the sixth... Dustin Pedroia drew a one out walk, bringing up David Ortiz. He bashed a couple of foul balls that had announcer Tim McCarver certain Wacha was in trouble. And surprisingly McCarver was right (this pains me to no end to actually type since everything that comes out of his mouth makes me want to barf.) Ortiz launched a 3-2 change up over the wall in left center to put the Sox up 2-1.

Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived. And the events that took place in the top of the seventh will make you want to jab a sharp stick in your own eye. I've tried to block it from my memory so I'll do my best to recap. There was a double steal that never should've happened...a walk to load the bases... an errant throw home that allowed the tying run to score... and the play that almost compelled me type a string of curse words as my Facebook status—an airmailed throw back to third base that nearly found the crowd. Tack on an RBI single and just like that, the Sox were down 4-2. jdlk;fjfo;hglksjhgkjhkjfhg

Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal pulled a Koji and made the 6-7-8 spots in the lineup look like little leaguers. Blah. It sucks fighting to stay awake to watch that crap. If I'm going to lose a few prime snoozing hours, I at least want to be rewarded with a win, dammit.

Boston now needs to win at least one game on the road to get the World Series back to Beantown and I vow to keep my fool mouth shut about the Cardinals and their errors. Karma is a real bitch.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 207: One Down, Three to Go, Sox Fans!

Red Sox Nation breathed a collective relieved sigh early in game one of the World Series on Wednesday night when the Sox took an early 5-0 lead after two innings. After scratching and clawing for every run in the ALCS, it was nice to put some early distance between themselves and those tough Cardinals.

If you missed the first few innings, I'm not sure I could even describe what type of shenanigans took place. And I'm not sure you'd even believe me. It may have been a bad sign of things to come when the 6'7" Adam Wainwright doinked his head on the made-for-the-vertically-challenged Fenway dugout roof as he took the field for the first time. Who knows... but the regular season wins leader in the NL with 19 didn't look quite right.

Or maybe it wasn't that Wainwright looked any different... maybe it was that he hadn't faced a lineup as complete and relentless as the Red Sox. The normally solid defense of the Cardinals failed to make simple outs, setting the Sox up for a bases clearing, three-run double from Mike Napoli in the bottom of the first. It was all the scoring needed behind Jon Lester's masterful outing where he pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball and struck out eight. (And of course, because he was so unhittable, he must have cheated, right? That's what some Sox-haters are saying... but MLB says Lester didn't break any rules.)

The Cardinals, who had the fourth best fielding percentage (.988) in the majors during the regular season, committed three errors and a couple of other miscues luckily not scored as errors. My most favorite blunder came in the second inning when Stephen Drew led off the inning with a sky high pop-up just in front of the plate. Wainwright called for it, waving his arms as Yadier Molina came towards him. Wainwright looked at Molina... Molina looked at Wainwright... and neither one of them caught the ball. It was like a scene out of (insert cliched baseball movie here) The Bad News Bears as the ball dropped innocently between them. Drew was safe at first.

The Red Sox managed to load the bases again in the second on that miscue by Wainwright, a single and another error, setting up a situation no pitcher enjoys—Big Papi sauntering to the plate with the bases jammed. And he scared the living shit out of the pitcher when he launched a bomb into right field that surely looked destined for the bullpen. That's until Carlos Beltran ran it down and robbed Oritz of his second post-season slam while crashing into the wall. Even a Sox fan has to tip their cap to that play. So instead, it was a very long, very loud sac fly.

As the start of game two approaches, my butterflies start to come back. There's a strong change that this game could be the complete opposite of game one—a grinding pitchers' duel that has me watching through my fingers as if it were a scary movie. John Lackey takes the hill against the 22-year-old Michael Wacha who is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in the postseason. GO RED SOX!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 206: Do You Know Sam Berns?

Today is a special day... not only is it the first game of the World Series, it's the first time the Red Sox have been back to the Fall Classic since 2007. It's the first game of a rematch between Boston and the St. Louis Cardinals with the Cards desperate to avenge the 2004 loss in four straight to the Sox. It's also Sam Berns' 17th birthday.

If you've never heard the name Sam Berns, that's ok. Most people outside of the city of Foxboro, Massachusetts had never heard of Sam until recently. Sam has a rare condition called Progeria—a rare disease affecting approximately 250 children worldwide that causes an accelerated aging process. He was basically born old. Sam was diagnosed at the age of two—his parents were told there is no treatment, no cure. Most kids don't make it much past the age of 13, so the fact that Sam celebrates his 17th birthday today, is pretty freaking special.

Sam is amazing because he doesn't let the fact he's living with a deadly disease stop him from doing just about anything. He's currently a junior in high school—he has plenty of friends, he plays drums in the school band and he loves sports. While he can't play sports, he can certainly be a fan and not a day goes by where he doesn't wear some article of clothing that displays a Boston team logo.

Because this is such a rare disease that strikes so few babies, there is little funding and research done to find a cure. Lucky for Sam, his mom, Dr. Leslie Gordon, has dedicated her life to finding a cure for this cruel illness. And the foundation, The Progeria Research Foundation, might just be getting a pretty big donation from a pretty big name in the Foxboro area very soon. Like maybe today.

So there's a movie about Sam called "Life According to Sam" that premiered on HBO earlier this week. Click here for the heart wrenching story about a boy whose youth was snatched way too early, and the movie about his life, and one pretty high profile businessman by the name of Robert Kraft who saw Sam's story and made a deal with this special kid. The New England Patriots owner has pledged to Sam to donate to the Progeria Research Foundation—in fact, he will match every dollar donated up to $500,000 until today (Sam's birthday), possibly a full one million dollar check.
"I didn't put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me," Sam says at the start of the film. "I put myself in front of you to let you know you don't need to feel bad for me. I want you to know me. This is my life, and progeria is part of it. It's not a major part of it, but it is a part of it."
Happy Birthday, Sam! Let's see if those Sox can't get you a celebratory win!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 205: Red Sox Manager, John Farrell, Named Sporting News' Manager of the Year

First year Red Sox manager, John Farrell, was named Sporting News' Manager of the Year on Tuesday. Is this a precursor to the real Manager of the Year Award? It would seem he's headed that way.

As we all unfortunately know, the Red Sox won just 69 games under the leadership of one whack job, Bobby Valentine, in 2012. They were in desperate need of some serious changes. And while they managed to unload a few of the bad apples in a historic trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August, the work was still far from done. The Sox still needed a skipper that could pull the team together, to make them act and play like a team. With the disarray Valentine left behind, this would not be an easy task.

Boston's front office was finally able to make a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays and hire John Farrell as their new manager on October 21, 2012—exactly a year ago yesterday. The whole organization breathed a sigh of relief as they were able to complete a deal that seemed impossible just a year earlier when the Blue Jays made demands for players the Sox weren't willing to give up.
"We are thrilled to name John Farrell as our new manager," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement. "John has been a major league pitcher, front office executive, coach, and manager. His broad set of experiences, and exceptional leadership skills, make him the ideal person to lead our team. I have known him in various capacities throughout my career, and I hold him in the highest regard as a baseball man and as a person."
Who knew Farrell would complete not only one of the greatest turn arounds during the regular season, leading the Red Sox to the best record in the American League (97-65), but also make it to the World Series. Hell, I picked the Sox to finish with 82 wins so clearly my expectations were low. So congratulations to Mr. Farrell for his Sporting News' Manager of the Year award... and here's to finishing off this wickedly amazing season with a Championship ring.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 204: Well, Patriots... that completely stunk.

Another week of football in the books and the season is almost officially half over. WHAT? That can't be true—feels like it just started. After Sunday's performance by the New England Patriots against the New York Jets, I'm starting to think maybe this season is going to take a turn for the worse and I don't like it one bit. In a game that should've been a cinch, the Pats' depleted defense just couldn't hold Jets' rookie QB Geno Smith or the running game in check and lost in overtime, 30-27. It was a bad scene all around.

Like just about every other Patriots fan in the world, I was annoyed by that bullshit unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in overtime. I was even more annoyed with the caliber of play from not only the defense, which I assumed was going to suck after losing three top players, but also Tom Brady. The Pats didn't deserve to win that game and even if they had gotten the ball back at mid-field after the missed field goal attempt, who's to say Brady could have completed the passes needed to get them into their own field goal range.

So yes, I'm pissed that they got the raw end of the rule book deal when some eager referee decided to enforce a new, but really obscure rule. How many field goals have been kicked in the first seven weeks of the season? You're telling me that there have been NO instances where a defensive player pushed his own teammate into the pile? Really? I'm not buying it.

But here's where I think I might sway from the majority. Or maybe not. The Patriots just flat out stunk on Sunday. The highlight reel is virtually non-existent. Tom Brady was 22-for-46 for 228 yards and an interception. Honestly, I was surprised that he completed that many passes with how inaccurate he appeared. They rushed for just 90 yards total while New York rushed for 177 yards—almost double. Yeesh. 

The high point of the day was the return of Rob Gronkowski with his heavily braced left arm. Despite not playing the entire game, Gronk finished with eight catches for 117 yards. But he missed quite a few too. Some because Tom Brady's aim bordered on erratic, and others because he was trying to make catches one-handed, possibly to protect the previously injured appendage. Regardless... it's still nice to see him out there and nice to see him get hit hard with no lingering effects. 

Oh well... as much as it sucks losing to the Jets—anyone but the Jets—maybe this is a wake up call for the organization. I think they need some serious help... but I'm just not sure who! Tom Brady looks lost and unsure of himself. Something I don't think I've ever seen in him.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 203: It's a Great Day to Be a Red Sox Fan!

Last night was another late night for Boston fans as the Red Sox attempted to oust the Detroit Tigers from postseason play. But it was totally worth fighting to keep my eyes open because, in the end, the Sox were successful in their mission and now will be heading to the WORLD FREAKING SERIES for a rematch with the St. Louis Cardinals!! WORLD SERIES... WOO HOO!

For the first time since 1999, the two teams with the best regular season record in their respective league will be meeting in the Fall Classic. The Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East just a year ago, ran away with the division with a 97-65 record. And oddly enough, the Cardinals finished with the same record, winning the NL Central. Do I need to remind anyone of what happened the last time these two teams met in the postseason? Not sure any respectable Sox fan could ever forget that World Series. *cough* sweep *cough*

I'm, by no means, expecting another sweep... even though the Red Sox have won eight straight World Series games since 2004. But the feeling I get watching this team just makes me think this is a team of destiny. That's all I'm going to say because, well, you know... superstitious.

Each player on this Sox team gets his chance to shine, to make a game changing play, to help this team win. The bats were relatively quiet throughout the ALCS, but when the made noise, they made some big noise. David Ortiz batted just .091 with four RBIs in the series—but those four RBIs came on a game-tying grand slam in game two. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit just .188 with two RBIs, one of which won game two.

And then there's the story of Shane Victorino. He was such a strong force during the regular season but fell into a deep slump in the LCS and finished the series batting a paltry .125 and striking out nine times. John Farrell easily could've benched him in favor of Daniel Nava, but he opted to stick with the veteran for his defense and probably figuring he had snap out of his funk at some point. It may have taken him six games, but he finally broke out... and in the hugest way, with a grand slam to give the Sox a 5-2 win and a trip to the WORLD FREAKING SERIES!!

That was one awesome grand slam. One awesome ALCS. One awesome Red Sox team that never gave up even when they clearly couldn't hit the ball. I don't know what else to say... I think it was an emotional night for both the team and fans. I think I may have even shed a tear.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 202: There's a Chance We May See Gronk on Sunday

The New England Patriots' injury report for Sunday's matchup with the New York Jets came out and there was one big surprise... and for once, it was a nice surprise. Rob Gronkowski is listed as 'questionable' as he has been for most of the season but the difference is this week, Gronk has been officially cleared by all his doctors to play on Sunday.

The 'questionable' status means that while he's been medically cleared, he most likely won't be on the field for every down. But that's not a bad thing. He's been sidelined since the end of last season and even though he's been practicing and getting hit, he's still not ready to take an entire game-long beating. And you know those douchey Jets' defenders are going to be gunning for him.

This good news comes on the heels of an injury-riddled week six against the New Orleans Saints where the Pats lost defensive standouts Jerod Mayo for the season and Aqib Talib is out for at least his week, maybe more. Vince Wilfork suffered an season-ending injury in week four so honestly, the New England defense can't really handle too many more injuries. They'll need to start pulling guys off the street to play.

Gronkowski will be a welcome target for Tom Brady, especially with Danny Amendola out with a concussion and a banged up Julian Edelman. In his last full season in 2011, Gronk scored 17 touchdowns—setting a new mark for the most by a tight end. That same season he amassed over 1,300 total yards on 90 catches. THIS is the Rob Gronkowski we have come to know and love. THIS is the Rob Gronkowski that I desperately hope will make an appearance at some point this year.

I've been extremely pleased with the play of both rookies, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, and Gronk's return will only make them better, taking the pressure off and hopefully allowing them to get more open for Brady. At least that's what I'm hoping happens. I'll be happy if Gronk just gets out there and disrupts things, but never touches the ball.

But right now, I can't really think too much about the Patriots and Jets which is a whole day away... I need to GET MY BEARD ON for game six of the ALCS tonight! GO SOX!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 201: One More Win... And You Know What That Means!

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but damn, these ALCS games between the Red Sox and Tigers are going to give me an ulcer. While as a sports fan I love the competition when it's at its highest in the baseball postseason. As a human, I'm slightly tired of going to bed after midnight with a severe case of anxiety and some nasty heartburn. The things I do for love.

I thought after the Sox scored four early on Thursday night, I might be able to relax a bit through this one. Mike Napoli got the night started with a monstrous home run to dead center field that traveled some 460 feet. Some say the only other person to hit one that far and that was Tiger MVP Miguel Cabrera. That was a serious home run, a ball hit so perfectly they should use it as a teaching tool. Even the most ardent Napoli haters have to applaud and admire that round-tripper.

But when playing against the Tigers, you can never score too much. One run wasn't going to cut it. So they scored a couple more in the second inning on the heels of the Napoli dinger. Jonny Gomes reached on an error, Xander Bogaerts doubled, David Ross doubled to score Gomes, and Ellsbury rounded out the scoring with a single to drive in Bogaerts. The Sox scored a single run in the third but then the bats fell quiet.

Jon Lester, who wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in game one, left after 5.1 innings with a 4-2 lead. I'm not sure how he was feeling about being up by just two runs, but I can tell you that I was pretty friggin' nervous. I swear, it gets to a point, and in this game it was after the Tigers scored their third run in the sixth off of Junichi Tazawa, when I have to start watching the game through my fingers as if it's a scary movie. The final third of the game seems to take an eternity to play when the Sox hold such a slim lead.

And then comes Koji. For a guy whose stuff (or appearance) isn't that intimidating, he really sends opposing batters into fits. Maybe it's his flaily approach to pitching that confuses and mystifies the rival lineups. Whatever the reason, Koji kicks ass and never appears fazed by the situation, the count or the reputation of the batter he's facing. He throws strikes, he gets guys out, the end.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 200: Now THIS Game is Crucial, Red Sox Nation!

So the ALCS is knotted up at two games a piece. Right now, it's best out of three, people. One team has to win two of the next three games to make it to the World Series. Regardless of who wins tonight, the Tigers would be forced to win the series on the road, and the Sox can clinch it at home. In this case, I like the Sox... but home cooking doesn't necessarily win you games.

If you're looking at just hitting, on paper the advantage goes to the Tigers. The Red Sox couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag right now and are collectively batting just .186. Mr. Clutch, David Ortiz, is batting .067 for the League Championship Series. He has just one hit, albeit a big one—a game tying grand slam in game two that tied the series. But overall, the bats are eerily quiet. I don't like it. If it's this frustrating to me, I can only imagine what these guys are feeling.

Now if you're looking at pitching, well, Detroit has the advantage there too. They've struck out 53 Red Sox batters in just 35 innings pitched. Do the math—that's 1.5 strikeouts per inning or 13.5 times per game. That's some crazy shit. The Sox struck out the just over 1,300 times during the regular season, placing them eighth in the major leagues which averages out to eight times per game. And the Tigers have only allowed 24 hits in those same 35 innings. That math is depressing.

Normally, it's the game sevens that are considered crucial—d'uh, that whole do or die thing. But I'm going out on a limb and saying that game five is the pivotal one in this series. It could mean either momentum for the Tigers going back to Fenway Park, or confidence for Boston as they return home. I'm also sure that if this does go to seven games, I'm going to come back and say that game seven is pretty crucial too!

Game five won't be an easy task for either team. The Red Sox will have to face Anibal Sanchez who pitched six innings of no-hit ball back in game one—a painful 1-0 Detroit win. Jon Lester, who was on the losing end of that misfortune, will attempt to quiet the Tigers' bats that seem to burst into action in game four.

I keep telling myself that if Boston loses this ALCS, I'll be ok with it. I should, right? I mean who ever thought in a million years they'd even be in this spot right now. Who could even dream up the idea that the Red Sox would be able to field a competitive team after a disastrous 2012? A part of me is just happy to be here... but the other part of me... the rabid, lifelong fan in me... wants to WIN WIN WIN!! WIN IT ALL!! So no, I don't think I will be ok with losing this series.

PS: Holy CRAP, it's day 200!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 199: And the Patriots Lose More Guys...

More bad news on the New England Patriots' front. Bad, bad news. I'm tired of bad news. We're fast approaching the mid point of the football season and I think I've waited long enough—I need some good news, dammit. It's like every time something good happens to the Pats, like the last second amazing win on Sunday, they have to pay with something bad... or in this case, two bad things.

I'm beginning to wonder who is manipulating the army of voodoo dolls dressed as tiny little Flying-Elvis-helmeted men. Whoever it is, they're sick. My money's on either Rex Ryan or Wes Welker. Welker could be a likely candidate if he wasn't having an insanely awesome year, leading the NFL in touchdowns with eight. Probably Ryan.

So back to that bad news... The Patriots lost two key players in their magical win last Sunday. Because why not? What's one or two more guys out for a week or two or the rest of the season? Tom Brady and company have to be shaking their heads. And there's also the possibility that secondary standout, Aqib Talib, could also miss some time after suffering a hip injury against the Saints that knocked him out of the game. That would be the biggest hit of all.

Danny Amendola suffered a severe concussion in a brutal collision in the third quarter that left the wide receiver seemingly knocked out. He hit the turf like a sack of bricks, landing flat on his face, and was visibly wobbly as he was led back to the bench. This on the heels of a groin injury that kept Amendola out for several games. What the hell?

And then there's Jerod Mayo. Oh dear. Mayo, a team captain, leads the team in tackles and is instrumental in just about every defensive situation. He was seen leaving the stadium after the game with his arm in a sling... Next thing I know, I hear he underwent surgery on Tuesday for a torn pectoral muscle and is out for the remainder of the season. First Vince... now Jerod? Oh, the injustice!

All these boo-boos make me want to cry! If there was ever a time for some good new *cough* Gronkowski *cough*, it's now... It would be nice to see the big tight end on the field in New Joisey. *wink wink hint hint*

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 198: Red Sox Win Nail-Biter!

Well... game three is in the books and the Red Sox came out on the winning end of yet another amazing pitchers' duel. I'm not sure my heart can handle many more of these ridiculously close games. I mean, really? 1-0? Are they trying to kill me? It sure feels like it.

I really wanted to write something intelligent and thought provoking in response to this game, but all that keeps popping into my head is: RED SOX WIN, RED SOX WIN, RED SOX WIN!!!! aldkjl;akfjdl;kgjldkjgl;kjfkhg MIKE NAPOLI HOME RUN!! BEARDS RULE!!

The pitching so far in this ALCS has been nothing short of masterful. The Tigers' starting rotation is insane—striking out a league series record 33 batters in 21 innings. But the Red Sox have also been holding there own and John Lackey reinforced that Tuesday evening, getting the much needed win over Justin Verlander. Are you kidding me with the 1-0?

I would appreciate it more if maybe the Red Sox would (a) stop striking out, and (b) start hitting the shit out of the ball. Please and thank you. For a team that finished second overall in batting average and scored the most runs in the majors, the Red Sox have really had to scratch and claw for the few runs they've been able to get. It was nice to see Mike Napoli finally turn his luck around with the long pants and get himself a home run...

And now, I'm making absolutely no sense at all because my head is still spinning from this game, so I'm going to spare you any more nonsense and end this post right now.

But before I go.... RED SOX WIN, RED SOX WIN, RED SOX WIN!!

And the Sox and Tigers are right back at it again tomorrow night at 7:30, causing me more nail biting, nervous sweating and obsessive pacing. Jake Peavy will take on the very tall (6' 8") Doug Fister. I can't handle this series! I just can't!!

PS. I sort of wish Koji had a big ol' beard.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 197: Does It Get Any Better Than This, New England Sports Fans?

Am I the only one whose heart rate just returned to normal after those two finishes on Sunday? I think my heart was racing from about 4:30pm until the end of that amazing Red Sox game. Has there ever been a more exciting one-two punch with last second wins for both the Patriots and Sox in one day? If so, I don't think it has happened in my life time. Wow... just wow.

First, the football game between the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints had shitshow written all over it. While their records were very similar, the Patriots were still struggling with injuries and seemed to be losing more guys than they were getting back. And we know all about Drew Brees's high-flying offensive attacks. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous.

The Brady - Brees showdown was one of the most exciting games I've seen the Patriots play so far this season. The Pats scored early and headed into the locker rooms at the half with a 17-7 lead. But Brees came back in the second half scoring 20 points and with less than two minutes to go in the game, the Saints had a slim 27-23 lead.

Tom Brady is accustomed to these type of pressure situations and appeared cool as a cucumber as he marched his team 70 yards down the field with no time outs and the clock ticking down fast. And with just :05 left in the game, he connected with Kenbrell Thompkins in the corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. I'm pretty sure I scared the crap out of my dogs with my sudden outburst of screaming when the score occurred. 

Radio announcer for 98.5 the Sports Hub, color analyst Scott Zolak could possibly have had the best reaction EVER to the amazing play: UNICORNS! SHOW PONIES! WHERE'S THE BEEF? Listen here for the audio...

As if that ending wasn't enough excitement for my Sunday evening, the Red Sox had to get into the mix. It's no secret, game two was a must-win situation for the Sox. They could not go to Detroit down two games to none. But it was not going to be an easy feat as they would have to get by AL best Max Scherzer and his freaky eyeballs. Like the night before, the Sox were held hitless through over half of the game. But unlike the night before, when the bats came alive... the bats came alive.

Detroit had what seemed like an insurmountable lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning, especially given what both their starters and relievers have been able to do against this lineup. All it took was for Scherzer to be pulled from the game and the Sox took advantage of three different pitchers to load the bases on a double, a walk and a single.

Then the Tigers brought in the fourth pitcher of the inning, closer Joaquin Benoit, to face David Ortiz. Ortiz had never homered against Benoit... until Sunday night. Big Papi took the first pitch fastball into the Red Sox bullpen for the game tying grand slam that also took Tiger right fielder Torii Hunter ass over teakettle over the fence, landing on his head.

Red Sox radio announcer, Dave O'Brien's reaction was great... but not as awesome as Zolak's earlier Patriots' call... THIS GAME IS TIED! THIS GAME IS TIED! DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ!

But it didn't end here. The Sox still needed a run to win after Koji Uehara put down the Tigers in order in the top of the ninth. Jonny Gomes led off the inning by legging out an infield single and took second on an errant throw. He then moved to third on a wild pitch. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then punched a 3-1 fastball through the left side of the infield for the walk-off single and a spectacularly amazing win for the Red Sox.

So now we head to the Motor City for game three on Tuesday night. John Lackey matches up with Justin Verlander—the Tigers' rotation just never gets any easier, does it? Game time is 4pm. Oh how I love this game!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 196: Pitchers' Duel Goes Tigers' Way

Just as I thought it would, the ALCS kicked off with a nerve-wracking, nail-biter of a contest on Saturday night at Fenway Park. Game one had the potential to be a low scoring affair with Jon Lester matching up against Anibal Sanchez and that's exactly what happened. And unfortunately, the Red Sox found themselves on the short end of that 1-0 score.

Not only were the normally loud Sox bats quieted, but they barely escaped being no-hit by a collection of five Tigers pitchers. They also struck out... a lot. Seventeen times to be exact. Their lone hit came in the bottom of the ninth when Daniel Nava singled on a soft line drive to center. Despite their dismal night at the plate, it's not like the Sox didn't have their chances.

In the first inning, after a Jacoby Ellsbury strike out, Shane Victorino struck out swinging but reached on a wild pitch. Dustin Pedroia followed with a walk. But then David Oritz and Mike Napoli both struck out to end the threat. Sanchez became the 67th pitcher to strike out four batters in one inning, but only the second in major league history to do it in a postseason game. Kind of set the tone for the night...

The Red Sox had the bases loaded (all on walks) in the sixth inning, but also failed to score. Something else weird happened too... Anibal Sanchez was taken out after the sixth inning with a no-hitter going, but he also had thrown 116 pitches. So if there was going to be a no-hitter, it would be a no-no by committee. Thankfully that didn't happen because getting no-hit in the ALCS could be embarrassing.

As great as the Tigers' pitchers were, the Sox were almost as great. Jon Lester held the Tigers lineup, that had the best average in baseball during the regular season, to just one run over 6.1 innings. Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara all followed with scoreless outings. Just one of those games. Depressing really. I might need to drown my sorrows in brownies today.

The two teams are back at it tonight at Fenway... Clay Buchholz and Max Scherzer square off... and it starts at 8pm which means I will be in a constant battle with my eyelids, willing them not to slam shut. But I don't have to work on Monday and I plan on napping often today to make sure I win that battle.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 195: Those Tigers Make Me Nervous

Tonight is one of those nights I can't believe I committed myself to writing a blog post a day. I just got home from dinner out and I'm recording game one of the ALCS so it's not like I can even do a preview of the series now because the game is already in progress. So while everyone else is several innings into this Red Sox - Tigers matchup, I'm just two batters in. I'll have to stay away from Twitter and Facebook if I don't want to ruin it for myself.

Jon Lester struck out the first batter. That's a good sign, right. The second batter too. Good start.

But really, I'm not sure I can concentrate enough to write something somewhat intelligent anyway. I've been a ball of nerves about this game all day. Not only is the Detroit pitching staff scary, but they've got some batters in that lineup that will really hurt you. If you look at the batting averages against Jon Lester, they've got a couple guys like Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez that are batting over .450 against him. Yeesh.

Miguel Cabrera just smacked a single. Crap. Uh oh. Prince Fielder just singled too...

At some point this season, I stopped being surprised at how well the Sox were doing. I just expected them to win. There was something about this team.... something special that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside... and confident. But when October rolls around, for me, some of that confidence starts to wane. I start to wonder if this is the series where the Sox bats will go quiet. I start to wonder if the pitching will blow up. I need to just stop wondering because apparently, it's going to give me an ulcer.

Victor Martines grounds out to end the inning. Tigers leave two on. 

So maybe I'm feeling a little better now. The Sox were able to get out of the first inning unscathed — hopefully a sign of what's to come this evening. But my stomach is still churning. I guess I need to believe in the beard.

PS. Did I hear Tim McCarver is retiring after this year? Please tell me I didn't dream that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 194: What's Up, Gronk?

Here we are. It's week six of the football season and still no sign of Rob Gronkowski rumbling down the field, providing Tom Brady with the biggest of targets. Nope. He's been practicing. He's been getting tackled. It was thought that he had even been cleared for action by doctors. But now reports are that that's not the case.

According to a Mike Petraglia report on, the Patriots had expected Gronkowski back on the field in week three. There has been some concern regarding the stability of his left forearm after multiple surgeries over the off-season. Because there was an infection at the surgical site, some doctors feel that the sturdiness of the bone has been jeopardized. 

Representatives for Gronkowski (and his parents) have suggested that he continue to sit out until it can be determined that the bone is strong enough to withstand the pounding and punishment of a live football game. What the Patriots don't need is for Gronk's arm to make him a target on the field if opponents think he's trying to protect it.

So we wait yet another week. A week where the Pats will be hosting the always tough, undefeated New Orleans Saints and the Drew Brees led high scoring offense. In a season where every able body is critical to the team, it's been tough to watch the floundering Patriots who are really lucky to be sitting atop the AFC East at 4-1. Injuries have plagued the young team making it difficult for Tom Brady to settle into a rhythm with his new receiving core and this week is going to be another tough one.

Despite winning their first four games, the Patriots offense has been dismal. They rank 17th in the NFL in third-down conversions and 31st in red-zone offense. There are only 32 teams... Last season they led the league in both categories. The four teams they have beaten are a combined 6-13—not impressive.

This week will be the real test of how this offense deals with a really good team — especially coming out of a week where they scored a measly six points. Personally, I'm not feeling good about their chances. (But I'll still pick them in the pool...) I don't like being a "glass half empty" fan. It's like before... in the dark days of the Pats fandom. Someone please make it stop.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 193: This Might Be Why I Stopped Skiing

Unlike most kids these days, I didn't start skiing the moment I could stand upright. It was probably more like 5th or 6th grade. But once I started, I really fell in love with it. And like with any other sport I attempt, I was just ok at it... never really wanting to progress much past the blue square intermediate trails. You could call me a lazy skier because I definitely was never interested in actually challenging myself on the mountain. I'll take a long, windy cruising trail any day.

As I got older, things happened that made me start to really hate skiing. I had equipment problems that made trips to the slopes painful. Then there was the thought of someone hurtling uncontrollably down the mountain that set me on edge constantly. After witnessing the degradation of skiing etiquette, I lost my faith in the people around me and their ability to not run me over. And skiing while wrapped in layers of bubble wrap probably wouldn't be a good idea.

So a few years ago I decided to just give it up all together and maybe find a new winter sport to get me out in the fresh air. What I really miss about skiing is not lugging gear to a mountain, putting on eighteen layers of clothing, hiking up to the chairlift and then having all your sweaty under layers freeze solid the minute the chair embarks on its trip to the top. I don't miss that at all. I miss the apres ski. I miss going in for lunch and never going back out. I miss big fat Bag burgers and ice cold beers all afternoon.

I know we live in the east where the mountains are tiny compared to other parts of the world and we don't often have to worry about avalanches. But it could happen, right? I recently came across the story of freeskier Aymar Navarro who triggered an avalanche during a film shoot in the Spanish Pyrenees. The sliding sheet of snow was so massive that the skier was actually floating on top of it for a while before he fell and was swept under the rapidly moving sheet.

But guess what? He survived. Navarro was wearing an avalanche ABS airbag which is designed to inflate when activated and keep victims from being buried too deeply. The airbags don't guarantee survival but they give a crazy skier a fighting chance. Take a look at the video...

Or maybe this is the reason I quit skiing. Just the thought of getting caught in that shit makes me instantly claustrophobic. Yikes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 192: Red Sox Win! Next Stop, ALCS!

Last night was a night full of nerves, sweats and nail biting. It was a night full of early groans and then late night quiet yeses, accompanied by silent fist pumps. It was a night where I forced myself to stay awake to the wee hours of the morning to bear witness to another clinching win by the Boston Red Sox. This time, beating the Tampa Bay Rays in four for a trip to the ALCS.

The Red Sox haven't seen the inside of an American League Championship Series since 2008 when they played the Rays, but came out on the losing end of a close seven game series. That ALCS saw the Rays almost blow a 3-1 series lead... and it also saw the two teams combine for a league championship record 26 home runs. Tampa went on the the World Series where they lost in five to the Philadelphia Phillies. Awww... too bad, so sad.

After the tough loss on Monday night, the Red Sox looked like a team determined to not let this series get to a deciding, winner-take-all game five. This game was a seesaw battle of scoreless innings through the first five—and it almost looked like the first team to score was going to win. So it was bad news for the Sox when the Rays struck first with a run in the bottom of the sixth off of Jake Peavy. It happened fast with a lead-off double, a ground out and a single to right. Bam, 1-0 Rays.

I'm not going to lie... I was sort of shitting my pjs at this point. I figured one run was going win this game so I was scared. Not to be outdone, the Red Sox battled back in the top of the seventh inning. Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a fly out to center. But then, in a move uncharacteristic of John Farrell, he lifted his golden boy Stephen Drew for a pinch hitter. It was a surprising yet respected move due to Drew's inability to hit the Rays' fifth pitcher of the night, Jake McGee.

Rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts came in to hit for Drew and showed veteran-like patience at the plate drawing a one out walk. Will Middlebrooks struck out for the second out. Jacoby Ellsbury then singled to right and Bogaerts, who was moving on contact, raced to third base.

The Rays then brought in yet another new pitcher, Joel Peralta, whose first pitch to Shane Victorino skipped away for a wild pitch bringing in Bogaerts for the tying run. Ellsbury, who had been in the process of stealing second, scooted to third on the wild pitch. Victorino then dribbled a grounder to the shortstop who failed to get the Flyin' Hawaiian at first and Ellsbury scored the go ahead run. BAM, 2-1 Sox.

And then the real nail biting started. At one point I really thought I was going to gnaw my fingers right down to the first knuckle. I was a mess. The Red Sox needed nine outs for the win... NINE OUTS to oust that smug group of Florida douche nuggets. Craig Breslow, who had entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, struck out four straight Rays. Junichi Tazawa struck out the two batters he faced.

The Sox added an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Fernando Rodney and his stupid, STUPID crooked hat had a complete implosion and walked two batters, then hit Victorino to load the bases. Another pitching change because Joe Maddon must've decided earlier in the day he was going to use every pitcher in the bullpen. It didn't work... Dustin Pedroia lifted the second pitch he saw to right field and Bogaerts scored on the sac fly. BAM, BAM... Sox up 3-1 with just three outs to go!

Then there was Koji... would he still be affected by his losing effort on Monday? The answer to that question was a resounding no. He set down the Rays in order, awesomely striking out Even Longoria to end the game and send the Red Sox back to the ALCS to continue their quest for the ultimate redemption.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 191: I'm the Worst Baseball Fan Ever!

Over the course of an average baseball season, it's nearly impossible to watch all 162 games. At least it is for me. But when it comes time for the Red Sox in the postseason, I make every possible effort to not miss a game. There are so few... it makes me crazy when I don't get to see one. And that's exactly what happened on Monday. I didn't see one stupid pitch. I feel shame.

As you may have guessed from my previous posts, I was out of town for the weekend at a wedding. I saw bits and pieces of Saturday's game... listened to all of Friday's game on the radio... but Monday night was just not in the cards. I went to stay at a friend's house in New Jersey who doesn't have cable television.

WHO DOESN'T HAVE CABLE??? (I guess the answer would be people who aren't sports fans!)

Ok, I know there are people who don't have cable... those people who use things like Roku and AppleTV and stuff like that. But it never affected me until yesterday. I know I could've probably hunted down a local bar somewhere, but holy crap, I'm in like Yankee fan territory so knowing my luck, I'd probably get beaten up for showing my true Sox fan colors. The best I could do was ScoreMobile updates on my phone, but it's just not the same. 

So... alas, I missed game three of the ALDS. I missed what I'm guessing was a nutty one from what I've gathered from the reports. I heard there were some spectacular defensive plays, as well as some real dumb ones. I heard there were some controversial calls and some questionable moves by managers. And I heard that Clay Buchholz wasn't as awesome as he has been when he has actually played this season.

Although I will say I think I'm kind of glad I wasn't there to see Koji Uehara give up his first home run since June 30th. In fact, he's been so lights out, he gave up just one run in this last 38 appearances. I was starting to think this guy was invincible. Guess not. Total bummer.

Luckily, there's another chance. Game four of the ALDS starts in less than a half hour and we'll be seeing Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) take on Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 5.17) in a game where the Sox will once again attempt to put an end to the Rays' postseason hopes and dreams. I might have to force myself to stay up for this one to make up for Monday's absence!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 190: Patriots Lost So Watch this Funny Video

Imagine my surprise when I turned on the television while sitting at an Inn in Pennsylvania and found the Patriots-Bengals game was actually ON!! I knew I wouldn't be able to watch the entire game because the wedding started at 4pm and after watching the first three quarters, I'm pretty glad that I missed the end. That 13-6 loss to the Bengals was nothing short of painful.

So now I can't even bring myself to write about the game because it basically stunk. The Bengals' defense pressured the Patriots' offense to the point of Tom Brady having a pretty crappy performance. Brady completed just 18 of 38 pass attempts for 197 yards, no touchdown passes and an interception. The Pats scored just six points.

More importantly, Tom Brady's consecutive touchdown streak is over. For 52 straight weeks, Brady completed at least one touchdown pass in each regular season game played. The Patriots also had more punts (eight) than they did points (six) and didn't score a touchdown for the first time since September of 2009.

Could it have been the driving rain and wind that forced such a horrific performance from Brady? You might think so, but on the other side of the ball, Bengals QB Andy Dalton went 20-for-27 for 212 yards. The huge difference was that the Bengals were able to mount a strong rushing attack led by former Pats standout, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard who combined for 129 yards and the game's lone touchdown.

If you're as depressed as I am that the Pats suffered their first loss of the season, then watch the video below of a three-year-old kid who could give Tiger Woods a run for his money... way more interesting than any recap of that football game.

Patriots take on the 5-0 New Orleans Saints this Sunday at Gillette Stadium so they better get their shit together fast! The big question is... will this be the week that Rob Gronkowski returns to the field?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 189: ALDS: Red Sox Up 2-0!

This weekend I'm in the Poconos for a wedding. I'm wickedly happy to be here, catching up with friends I haven't seen in a year or more. There's been lots of hugging... lots of laughs... lots of drinks and the wedding hasn't even happened yet! I think tonight's going to be crazy and I can't wait. Thankfully, the Sox and Rays don't play today.

So because of my reminiscing, I sadly missed the game yesterday. That's not to say I wasn't checking my phone every five seconds for a scoring update, possibly earning a glare or two from the bride-to-be... good thing she knows I'm a crazy sports fan!

If you were off and gallivanting on Saturday like me, you missed another great performance by the Sox offense. Not as great as the first game, but equally as entertaining and with the same positive outcome.

And here's what I missed:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury got the offense started with a bloop single in the first, a stolen base advancing to third on an errant throw, and then scoring on a sac fly. 
  • Ellsbury also went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.
  • David Ortiz bashed two home runs. Ortiz will turn 38 next month and he claims he feels like he's 20!
  • Koji Uehara threw 11 pitches in the top of the ninth and all 11 were strikes. He struck out two for his first postseason save with the Sox. Ok, that gives me chills.
  • John Lackey wasn't as awesome as he has been, but held the Rays to just four runs over 5.1 innings and struck out six. I'll take that.
  • David Ross, Dustin Pedroia and Ellsbury all had doubles, and Pedey drove in three runs. Stephen Drew legged out a triple.

Saturday's game didn't have the same craziness that Friday's did. The Rays were more defensively sound than the day before, but the Sox took advantage of scoring situations with timely hits to take game two 7-4.

Game three of the ALDS is Monday at 6pm down in Tampa. Clay Buchholz, who might have been a Cy Young candidate had it not been for the three missed months with a neck injury, takes on Alex Cobb who is 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA in seven career starts against the Red Sox.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 188: It's Been 77 Years Since This Has Happened

The Boston Red Sox accomplished a feat Friday afternoon in the first game of the American League Divisional Series that hasn't been done since 1936. And it was quite impressive—especially coming against such a strong pitcher in Matt Moore that the Sox lineup clearly had problems with in their previous two meetings.

In their first game back in May, only three batters managed to get hits: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Stephen Drew. Of course, Ortiz's hit was a three-run home run, but they still lost to the Rays that day. Their second meeting in July was a different story. Just Ortiz and Mike Napoli managed to squeak out a hit on a day where Moore stymied the normally lively bats and pitched an impressive complete game, two-hit shut out.

Friday was different. Sure, Moore may have started off looking like the same ol' tough lefty from earlier in the season. But when your defense doesn't get the memo that they're playing in a postseason game, it makes things tough for a pitcher who is only as good as the fielding behind him.

So... a Boston Red Sox line up that had just five hits in two games before Friday, did something no team has done in 77 years. Every starter notched a hit and a run in a postseason game. It's a fun box score to look at—12 runs on 14 hits:
  • Jacoby Ellsbury:  2-for-5, one run scored, one RBI
  • Shane Victorino:  3-for-4, two runs scored, two RBIs
  • Dustin Pedroia:  2-for-5, two runs scored
  • David Ortiz:  1-for-4, a walk, two runs scored
  • Mike Napoli:  1-for-4, a walk, one run scored, one RBI
  • Jonny Gomes:  1-for-4, a walk, two runs scored, two RBIs
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia:  2-for-4, a walk, one run scored, three RBIs
  • Stephen Drew:  1-for-5, one run scored, one RBI 
Saturday's game features another great matchup with John Lackey toeing the rubber against David Price. Last year's Cy Young winner went 2-3 against the Red Sox this season, but those two wins were unforgettable when he beat Boston twice within a five day window at the end of July. But I don't want to think about those two games... I'd rather dwell on the three that the Sox won. And I'm sure that's just what John Farrell and the Boston lineup are doing today!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 187: ALDS Game One... I Like What I'm Seeing, Red Sox!

The Red Sox haven't had much luck this season against the Tampa Bay Rays' pitcher, Matt Moore. They lost both games he started during the regular season, including a two-hit, 3-0 shutout in July. And through the first three innings of game one of the ALDS on Friday, I figured we were in for more of the same. The first trip through the Red Sox lineup was dismal with not a single hit.

Jon Lester struck out the first four batters he faced, with some pitches hitting 97 mph—by far some of his best of the season. He gave up just two hits in the first four innings, but unfortunately, those two hits were both home runs, giving Moore and the Rays an early 2-0 lead. With Moore's strong pitching, two runs might be all the support he would need.

And then the fourth inning happened. If you missed it, I'm sorry. Some crazy shit transpired...and it was awesome!
  • Dustin Pedroia singles to center for the first hit of the day.
  • Big Papi hits a ground-rule double to right field, Pedroia moves to third. But the best part about this play was that Will Myers had a chance to catch this ball but he stopped, the ball went over his head and bounced into stands.
  • Crowd begins "MY-ers... MY-ers... MY-ers" chant that lasts most of the inning.
  • Mike Napoli pops out to second. (Booo-hiss)
  • Jonny Gomes, Mr. Clutch, doubles to center. Desmond Jennings misplays the ball off the wall and both Pedroia and Ortiz score. 
  • Ball game is tied!
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikes out. (D'oh!)
  • Stephen Drew singles on a ground ball to first base. James Loney fields the ball but Matt Moore lollydgags his way over to cover first and Gomes scores from second on an infield single.  Drew is safe at first.
  • Will Middlebrooks doubles to left. Drew scores from first.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury strikes out but Jose Lobaton misses the damn thing and Ellsbury makes it to first. Middlebrooks to third.
  • Shane Victorino singles to right. Middlebrooks scores. Ellsbury to second.
  • Pedroia grounds out.
Inning over... a very long, MY-ers-chant-filled inning. This was one of the craziest innings I've ever witnessed. The Rays' defense was horrible, but they were never charged with an error... just a lot of misplays. And the Red Sox took advantage of all of them! Sox go up 5-2.

I could go play-by-play through each inning, but we'd be here all night. Let's just say the fourth inning set the tone for the rest of the game. The Red Sox scored three more runs in the fifth inning, and then four more in the eighth. Jon Lester settled down and allowed just two runs on three hits over 7.2 innings.

The Red Sox win game one of the ALDS 12-2.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 186: ALDS: Red Sox - Rays Preview

It's not the matchup I had hoped for, but I guess it'll do. I hoped it would be Terry Francona and the Indians visiting Fenway Park, but alas... we're stuck with the dreaded Tampa Bay Rays. Those pesky Rays. Don't we see these guys enough over the course of a season? Well... here we go again. Game one is Friday at 3pm.

The Sox and Rays faced off 19 times (as is usual with a division rival) and walked away with 12 hard fought wins. Of those 12 wins, half were decided in the ninth inning or later and the Red Sox only outscored the Rays by 14 runs over those 19 games. This series is going to be tight. And nerve wracking, I'm sure. What makes this ALDS even more frightening is what the Rays have done to get here. They won 10 of their last 12 including three straight must-win games.

These teams are pretty evenly matched, but the Rays have a superior pitching staff who collectively had a 3.54 ERA against the Red Sox this season. Last year's Cy Young winner, David Price, didn't have a stellar year, going 10-8, but he certainly had Boston's number. He beat them twice in a span of five days back in July. Matt Moore went 17-4 and he's scheduled to pitch game one. At least they won't see Price twice.

If you're looking at offensive numbers, the Red Sox have a pretty lopsided advantage here. Actually, they have a pretty big advantage over everyone—the Sox led the majors in runs scored with 853—an average of over five runs per game. They were second in hits, first in RBIs, second in team average and first in OBP, slugging and OPS. And their bench guys are amazing. Let's just hope the bats don't fail us now!

The first three games will look a little something like this:

Game 1: Fenway Park, Friday, October 4th @ 3:00pm
Jon Lester (15-8) vs. Matt Moore (17-4)

Game 2: Fenway Park, Saturday, October 5th @ 5:30pm
John Lackey (10-13) vs. TBD

Game 3: Tropicana Field, Monday, October 7th @ TBD
Clay Buchholz (12-1) vs. TBD

I'm going to be scratching and clawing for TV time this weekend since I'll be in the Poconos for a wedding. Maybe it's better that I don't watch... I'm nervous. It's been a while since I've experienced the post season jitters. I can't concentrate.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 185: Pirates' Fans Rattle Reds Pitcher

I don't know about you, but I love Major League Baseball's new Wild Card format. There just isn't much that's more exciting than a one-game playoff. At least in baseball. And this year, the AL wild card needed two one-game playoffs to decide who would move on. On the NL side, the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday and things got quite intense.

The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't seen post season play in a long time—21 years to be exact. The last time they made any type of respectable showing was the early 90's when they had a young MVP named Barry Bonds leading the charge. The Pirates won the NL East three years in a row (1990-1992) but lost in the NLCS each year. And then they spent a very long time, when Bonds left after the '92 season, being not very good.

So imagine being a Pirates fan. Imagine the disappointment year in and year out. I mean Sox fans had to wait 86 years for a World Series victory, but at least they won some pennants along the way. But for the Pirates... just nothing. I can imagine that those fans had some serious pent up team spirit that needed to be released.

Those fans unleashed their years of frustration on the poor, unsuspecting Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto. In the second inning, with the Pirates up 1-0, the fans started chanting Cueto... KWAY-toe... KWAY-toe... KWAY-toe... who knows if it was a coincidence or not but Johnny Cueto just dropped the ball. Not a huge deal, but then he left the next pitch, a 95 mph fastball, down the middle of the plate and Russell Martin lost it over the fence.

Cueto didn't last much longer after the name chanting began. He hung on for just 3.1 innings, giving up eight hits and four runs. The Pirates ended up winning the game 6-2, ending Cincinnati's season.

Once something like this has happened, the fans can't help but continue with the jeering. If you ask them, they'll say it worked. And since the Bucs are moving on to St. Louis for the Divisional Series, maybe it really did.

Too bad they won't get the opportunity to test that theory with chants of WAIN-wright... WAIN-wright on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 184: Patriots Suffer Huge Loss in Win over Atlanta

I'm not going to lie, I was scared for the Patriots going into the game this past Sunday night in Atlanta. The Falcons might have only been 1-2, but they lost close games to New Orleans (4-0) and Miami (3-1) and with the Patriots still missing some key players, it could've gotten ugly. The Pats teased us all week with the possibility that Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola might be back on the field, but then whipped the rug out from under us just moments before game time.

But mostly I was scared for my chances in the football pool. You see, after two ugly weeks where I finished near the bottom of the pack, I really needed a good showing. And heading into the Pats-Falcons game, I was tied with three other players for the lead... three other players who all picked the Falcons. All I needed was a Pats win and I was most surely in the money!

I managed to make it through the first half and just into the third quarter of the game before my heavy eyelids forced me to bed. I'm almost glad I didn't last until the end—from what I heard, it was quite a stressful final few minutes. The Falcons made a surge late in the fourth and nearly tied it up with time expiring. Thank you, Aqib Talib for your quick hands. I really don't need that kind of anxiety as the clock nears midnight.

Tom Brady had his best game of the season so far, finally starting to connect with all those new receivers. He went 20-for-31 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Kenbrell Thompkins also had a breakout game with six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. One of those catches was an acrobatic number where he came back over the defensive back to grab the ball.

All great news, right? Well...something not so great happened too.

In the win, the Patriots suffered a pretty huge loss. Big Vince Wilfork went down in the first quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury. He limped off the field and looked as if he might just need to sit out a play or two, but then the next thing I know, he's being driven off the field on that damn cart. Not a good sign.

The report was very bad for the Patriots' defense. Big Vince has torn his right achilles tendon and will most likely miss the rest of the season. It's going to be difficult for the Pats to find someone of his caliber (and size) to fill that gaping hole. Bill Belichick, on WEEI with Salk and Holley on Monday, was more forthcoming that usual with the status of Vince.
"It doesn't look too good for Vince," Belichick said during his weekly interview. "I think he's got a pretty serious injury, and it's probably unlikely that he'll be able to play again this year."
You know things are bleak when Belichick gives up information like that. He's the type of guy that will tell you a player in a full body cast is questionable for the following week. But Vince's injury is obviously a concern for everyone. Just when things are starting to look up with a couple of major players set to make their return in the next week or two, the Pats get hit with this sucky blow.
"Clearly, there are no Vince Wilforks just standing around out there on the corner waiting to sign with the Patriots or some other NFL team," Belichick said on WEEI. "He is a special player, one of the very best at his position. There's no way that you would replace him with one guy -- that's totally unrealistic. But we'll try to do what we can to make our team as competitive as possible with the 46 guys we put out there against Cincinnati this Sunday."
Ugh... Well, in case you didn't hear, the Patriots won 30-23. Oh, and I did win the football pool this week. *moonwalks*