The last time I posted (August 11) the Sox weren’t hitting and the bullpen was hemorrhaging walks and runs. In the interim, the Sox caught fire and those issues were dismissed with authority. They punished the ball, Koji Uhehara came back, and Kimbrel found the strike zone.
The last weekend of the season looked more like August. Kimbrel was a disaster and Pedroia started to yank the ball again( which means ground out), and Papi looked tired. The Blue Jays took two of three and could easily have swept. O.K. so the Jays were more motivated.
Mercifully the Sox have four days to re-group, and they get to lead with Porcello against the Indians on Thursday. And yet the stumbling August team still haunts me. Which team will show up on Thursday?
The teams with momentum are the wild card teams and the Indians. The Giants and the Mets have proven how much momentum means in past playoffs, so it is far from inevitable that the team with the best season-long stats will emerge victorious.
For the Red Sox it depends on situational hitting and a bullpen that throws strikes. They are masters of loading the bases, and experts at leaving them loaded. Hitters need to take what the pitcher gives them and go to the opposite field. Those that can bunt need to execute at the right time. More aggressiveness on the base paths. You can’t wait for the fat pitch to send over the wall. Playoff pitchers are too good to make many mistakes.
And the bullpen needs to get ahead of the hitters. Careful on the first pitch, but pound the strike zone. Kimbrel’s re-discovery of the strike zone may be a deciding factor. His performance over the weekend was sad in the deepest sense. Great talent, poor consistency.
These fragilities show how vulnerable the Red Sox are despite their epic September. Will they sustain that pace or will the Red Sox of October continue the debacle? For Papi’s sake and for mine, I hope the September Sox will come for a curtain call.
Live at Fenway Park! Mookie, Panda, Xander, Hanley, Rusney, Pedey and Papi. It’s bad enough John Farrell and his mentor Tito Francona had to add a “y” to every Red Sox player’s name, but these guys come with their own monikers from Sesame Street. Fine, they have a first baseman named “Mike” and a catcher named “Christian,” but they’re just foils for a zany group in this edition of the Red Sox.
How about a double-play combination of Panda to Pedey to Papi? Can you say that one fast? How about Bogaerts to Pedroia to Napoli? Could they be a pirate crew? It tickles the whimsey to think of such combinations.
It’s hard to hate a team that leads off with Mookie, Pedey, Papi and Panda. If they drill your pitcher, you have to grin and say, “Oh you guys are just full of mischief! Don’t score too many runs now.” Along comes a bearded pirate named Napoli, his first mate Rusney, his second mate Xander, and his bo’sun Velasquez, and you’ve got pitchers walking the plank. What a fabulous crew!
I can’t wait for the first time Don Orsillo has to say, “And Mookie and Pedey score on a single by Papi and a double by the Panda.” Say what? Who’s on deck–Bert or Ernie?
Fortunately these guys play Kenmore Square, not Sesame Street, and they bang the Monster, instead of passing him cookies. Hopefully we can trust them to strike fear. not amusement, in the hearts of pitchers. We ‘d rather not say, “This inning is brought to you by the letter ‘K’.”
Now that the big guy is signed, we should acknowledge that he played through relentless distraction and discord, as well as injuries. He stood with management to quell clubhouse chaos and never pointed the finger at Valentine or anybody else during this forgettable baseball season.
In all this, he never wavered from his desire to retire as a Red Sox player, which is quite a mission, given the unraveling of the team over the last twelve months. Papi may be all that is left of the heroic team that wiped out the competition in 2004 and 2007, but he is quite a pillar. Better yet, he is foundation for the next two years.
David Ortiz has proven he has everything it takes to lead: calmness, concentration, loyalty, and determination in the clutch. He is worth more than his contract, but it is a reasonable contract, like the man himself.