Monday, April 27, 2009

Red Sox vs. Yankees 2009 Pt. 1

Well, the Red Sox and Yankees had their first three game series of the 2009 season over the weekend at Fenway Park. This is always a huge series and it proved to be quite an interesting one. The Red Sox did come away with the sweep, which they always seem to do well in the first series against the Yankees but have trouble later.

On Friday night, the Red Sox were down by two in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and a runner on. The Yankees pitcher was Mariano Rivera, a surefire Hall of Famer. Jason Bay was at the plate and he drilled a Rivera cutter into the center field bleachers, the deepest part of the ballpark to tie the game. Welcome to the rivalry, Bay. I find myself more and more impressed with Jason Bay all the time. He is a quiet player, but he does pretty much everything well. He can hit for average, power, make the occasional stolen base, play good defense, and he has a decent arm. Later in the 11th inning, Kevin Youkilis hit a home run off Damaso Marte out of the ballpark to win it. Youkilis has quickly become one of my favorite players. He is a true gritty player and plays hard day in and day out. He has also become one of the best hitters in the league. Jon Lester did not have his best stuff on Friday but he kept the game close and the bullpen stepped up at the end with Ramon Ramirez, acquired in the Coco Crisp trade, getting the win and Jonathan Papelbon getting the save.

Saturday was a messy game. Josh Beckett did not have very good command and the Red Sox fell behind early 6-0. A.J. Burnett, one of the Yankees huge free agent signings in the offseason, looked unstoppable, but somehow the Red Sox came back. This game became a seesaw battle. The lead shifted back and forth several times. Jason Varitek, who has a horrible batting average with the bases loaded, launched a grand slam from the left side of the plate to get the Red Sox close. Varitek's power looks to be back this year, hopefully he can get to be a little more consistent at the plate and raise his average. Later, Jacoby Ellsbury tied it with his first home run of the year. That leaves David Ortiz as the only Red Sox regular without a home run this year. Hard to believe since Ortiz is a good bet to end up as the team leader. Later on, after a crucial Dustin Pedroia error, the Red Sox were behind again 10-9. The Mike Lowell launched a three run home run to put the Red Sox ahead for good. He would later blast a three-run double to put the game out of reach for the Yankees. The pitching in this game was worrisome, Beckett was awful and the bullpen, tired from the previous night, couldn't keep the Yankees off the bases.

Sunday night was amazing. Justin Masterson pitched very well. He will make it difficult for Terry Francona to put back in the bullpen when Daisuke Matsuzaka comes back from his injury. Masterson was just one of the vaunted, young Red Sox players on display. Hunter Jones and Michael Bowden both came out to pitch great in relief. Hunter Jones looks like a very talented young bullpen arm, further adding to the depth. Bowden will be a starter someday. Of course, the biggest story of the day was Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury came into the game with eight stolen bases and added two more. His steal of second early in the game led to the tying run after the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and Andy Pettitte apparently not paying attention, Ellsbury took off from third and stole home on a straight steal, sliding in ahead of the pitch. I have seen highlights of this happening, but had never seen it happen live on TV. I was shocked. My jaw dropped open and I stood there in awe. Ellsbury has game-changing speed. I have seen him beat out routine ground balls and saw him score from second base on a wild pitch. He stole 50 bases last year and looks like he is aiming for 70 this year. I just hope he can be a more consistent hitter so he can be on base. Last summer he slumped for a long time. He probably would have stolen a lot more but he became flustered with his inability to hit and didn't steal for a long period of time. Hopefully he will not go through that again. I love having a bona fide base stealer on this team.

It was an exhausting weekend, but it ended well. I have seen Yankees fans on forums trying to shrug it off by saying any of those games could have gone the other way. Of course they could have, any game COULD go the other way. That's the nature of the sport, anything can happen at any time. The fact of the matter is, they didn't and the Yankees were humiliated in Boston. Their Hall of Fame closer blew what should have been an easy win, they couldn't hold a 6-0 lead, and Ellsbury stole home, something that should NEVER happen. That about sums up the three game series.

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