Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Obvious

"Hello, hello, I'm at a place called Vertigo.
It's everything I wish I didn't know."

Tell me about it, Bono. Tell me all about it.

For once, the key opportunity for the Sox was so obvious even Tim McCarver didn't miss it. Runners at second and third in the top of the eighth and nobody out. Plate them both--you don't even need a base hit to do it--and the ninth inning gets verrrrry interesting, Rivera or no Rivera. Instead, Cabrera pulls a pitch he could have shot the other way, and Varitek has to hang at second as Nixon scores. If it's a one-run game instead of a two-run game in the ninth, Manny's double means that Ortiz and Millar don't have to swing for the fences...they've got a better chance at least.

As long as we're stating the obvious, let's look at Jon Lieber's pitch count through four innings: 37. Let's look at his strikeouts after seven innings: 3. Admittedly, the figure's so low in part because a lot of Boston batters couldn't be bothered to look at more than two pitches, but Lieber's strikeout rate during the season was ordinary at best. The Sox should have known that he can't throw the ball past them, so why insist on hitting his pitch? Even behind in the count, they might have been able to foul off what they didn't like until they saw something they did. What Johnny Damon did in the top of the sixth could have--should have--happened more often.

No disrespect intended to Lieber, who came up big in a big spot. But the approach the Red Sox took tonight was not the approach they took while scoring over 900 runs during the regular season, and Plan B was utterly ineffective.


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