A beautiful game.
Brilliant defense on both sides for the lion's share of innings. This was most refreshing to see, and absolutely crucial, though, for the Sox. Whether it was Manny ricocheting between the left-field wall and the ground, or Jason Varitek throwing out two runners, or Tony Graffanino putting on a juggling act in the ninth (a very similar play in Baltimore made NESN's Plays of the Week just before the game), a Red Sox team that had committed four errors to Anaheim's goose egg before today was suddenly sterling in the field. I would submit this made the difference.
It warmed hearts, at least in my household (my dad LOVES Renteria), to see Edgar Renteria hit his first home run in 200 at-bats to break open the game for the Sox. What satisfied me about the home run was that it came not as part of a piling-on during a blowout, but that it was the difference-maker in a game.
Mike Timlin also put in a stellar performance. While I've supported Schilling (and at times defended him), I feel the closing role is in good hands for now. As with Schilling, it's a temporary situation--it's still a time where we have to wait out the transitions. When Foulke and Schilling return to their normal positions, then we'll be able to really evaluate what we have in this team.
In general, for me, it was a feel-good game. I like playing the Angels; I have a lot of respect for their playing style as a team. They are disciplined at the plate and breathtakingly audacious on the bases. At times there's a bit of a culture shock when Boston goes out there--not just because it's the dreaded West Coast Swing, but because Anaheim's aggressive play knocks the Sox back on their heels. And of all the superstars in the league not on my team, I have to say Vladdy Guerrerro is probably my favorite.
I don't know what's come over me; maybe taking a vacation has mellowed me to more of an extent than I had anticipated, or maybe my review of last year's howling / gnashing of teeth posts has really brought about a sea change in my mentality. Right now, it seems as though I might be on my way to taking the "Polyanna" view, I guess, of the Sox -- an attitude for which they may revoke my RSN Membership Card (meant figuratively, not literally). The way I look at it, though, is that I'm trying to maintain an even keel until things are really settled--that is, I'm waiting to react, at this point, and revise my predictions and start calling for heads, until everyone's in the rotation who's supposed to be in the rotation, everyone's in the bullpen who's supposed to be in the bullpen, and we begin a stretch run in earnest.
But if I'm to be perfectly honest, if the team were to fall apart in said stretch run, would I be calling for heads? Probably not. For one, I ascribe to Bill Simmons' Five Year Rule, and for another, I'd hate to go straight from doom and gloom to an appalling and Yankees-like sense of entitlement. Winning the World Series is hard. It may, in fact, be the hardest championship to win in all of sports. Winning it once won't change that.
And as SF points out, the phrase "wait till next year" has perhaps more weight this year than it has in our lifetimes:
While the Sox throw out a guy like Jonathan Papelbon today, Craig Hansen later this week (if all goes well) and on September 1st bring in the likes of Manny Delcarmen, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, we think not just about the stretch run, but about what look to be dynamic seasons ahead, fueled by young power arms and athletic position players with potential. Whatever happens this year, we can already begin to see the makings of a formidable young pitching staff...
I, for one, have nothing but respect, admiration, and gratitude for current management in terms of their careful cultivation of the farm system--even as our rivals to the south pay the piper for years of gutting prospects for aged free agents. If anything, the juxtaposition of these two facts may not be setting up just a one-time championship but a new era of Red Sox dominance.
All it'll take is a little more patience.
Anyway, in case you're still feeling less than sanguine about this series, here are some fun facts I picked up at the ESPN Red Sox Clubhouse:
- The Red Sox have won eight of their last 11 games and are batting .330 (135-for-408) during that stretch.
- Boston has more home runs from catchers (23) and designated hitters (28) than any team in the major leagues.
- Johnny Damon leads the majors with 17 games with at least three hits.
- Friday's victory over the Angels prevented Boston's first three-game losing streak since July 16-18.
- Boston is 18-6 in games started by Matt Clement and 52-44 in all other games.
- Including last year's playoff series, Boston has won 10 of 12 against the Angels.
P.S. I am a total dumbass--that's only explanation for why I didn't mention Papi's bunt, perhaps the most miraculous baseball moment of the year so far, in writing this post. So, yes. Big Papi bunted--and got on base in the process. Ridiculous, considering he has the speed of a wounded elephant and the mighty cudgel of the Cyclops, better suited to jacking one out than laying one down. Ridiculous, I say, ridiculous.