For the second straight night the Red Sox’ hitters had no answer for the Angels’ pitchers, and for the second straight night the Angels won convincingly. Speed and timely hitting did it this time, with a Howie Kendrick steal followed up by Maicer Izturis’ poking one through the right side, followed by an Izturis steal, followed by a HBP and a triple and that was all she wrote. The Angels are up 2-0 heading back to Boston, and while the 2004 ALCS was nice and everything, miracles like that don’t grow on trees. Boston is on the brink of oblivion, and they know it.
Evidence: Francona plans to bring Jon Lester back for Game 4 — if there is a Game 4 — on short rest. Beckett would get the same short rest in the unlikely event of a Game 5. Lester has pitched on short rest only once in his career, allowing four runs (including two homers) over five innings on April 23, 2008. Oh, and that was against the Angels. Beckett last pitched on short rest in September of 2004 against the Expos. He had better results: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER 8K and the win. You probably don’t remember that one as much as his only other time starting on short rest.
Generally speaking, though, it’s a sucker’s bet to throw a starter on three days’ rest in the playoffs. Teams have done it 72 times since the three-tier playoff system kicked off in 1995. Those teams have lost 45 of those games and have won only 27. Indeed, teams have lost eight of the last ten times a manager was desperate enough to start a guy on three days rest in the postseason.
But maybe it works if a team is really, really desperate: you’ll recall that the Red Sox started Derek Lowe on two days rest in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against Yankees. That worked out pretty well.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”