There really is nothing like taking the rubber game of a series. It's such a feeling of relief--and when it happens, as last night's rubber victory did, late on a Sunday night, it can brighten my mood for the whole first half of the week. Or, at least, it can avoid darkening it by adding losing to late-night sleep-deprivation injury.
Seriously, why do they put the ESPN games on at like midnight on Sunday night?
In any event, we got to see another solid outing from Daisuke last night, although like most of our starting pitchers, he's still using up pitches at an alarming rate, and just barely lasted through the fifth inning. This was, in general, another one of those classic painstaking Sox-Yankees matchup, in which every hitter is seeing so many pitches that the game drags...and drags...and drags...I thought it might be Monday morning before that fifth inning finally ended and Daisuke could leave with a decent start--but with four long, long, LONG innings for the beleagured Sox bullpen to cover.
I'm not sure if this 120-pitches-by-the-fifth thing is just a typical early-season habit for starters; a sign we should be worried; or just a sign we were playing the Yankees, who seem to adopt almost the exact same strategy of patience at the plate and a pitch-by-pitch approach to creating runs in tense games as the Sox, which makes them last approximately an ice age.
And then we got into the first full-on Yankees game stress for me this season. I don't know about you, but for our bullpen--without Hideki Okajima or Jonathan Papelbon available--to have to soak up that many outs against even a relatively depleted Yankees lineup (Captain Intangibles was sidelined and Posada seemed to be in a somewhat limited role this series) had me reaching for the extra-strength antacids.
The one contributing the most of any Red Sox to my gastritis was Mike Timlin. My father started calling him "Whiplash" (for how frequently he had to turn around to watch hits sail over his head) as early as 2005 and was heard to doubt Iron Mike as far back as 2004. I've always defended Mike--even to the point of exasperated gesticulating--but this year, I can't.
The reasons for this are not hard to grasp--the man has an 81.00 ERA. Small sample size, etc. But Timlin's matchup (or lack thereof) against Jason Giambi this series is what really bothered me. According to MLB.com, Timlin's record against Giambi in the past was limited, but good. In five total matchups between the two since 2005, Timlin has given up exactly one run to Giambi and no home runs (MLB.com unfortunately didn't return 2007 stats; it could be the two didn't face each other, I suppose). Even according to Baseball Prospectus's sp00ky PECOTA page, which repeatedly acknowledges his advanced age, Timlin is only projected to give up 4 home runs in 41.7 innings pitched this entire season. But in this series, he gave up a homer to the Juice Guy each time he saw him.
I know Timlin's still probably getting his act together after having to get his finger stitched up, and I know he hasn't had a chance to even things out over the long run, but I also think age has quite a lot to do with what we're seeing from him at this point--especially given his lack of success against a hitter like Giambi, with whom he's previously matched up well (I know a lot of people don't give Tito this much credit, but I like to think that's why Mike was even out there facing Giambi in the first place these past couple of nights).
Timlin's been an iron man for a very long time, and I love his crazed personality as much as the next person (BP calls him 'straight out of central casting') but it's starting to look (even more than it already has) like the Red Sox should've let Mad Mike ride off into the sunset this past off-season, and just let us enjoy his memory.
UPDATE: Mike Timlin just recorded three crisp outs in Cleveland, making me look like a complete ass for posting this. Oh, well. This is clearly why I am not the one sitting in the dugout every night, rocking and chewing tobacco with bubble gum.
P.S. David Ortiz shows bunt. We are living in the end times.