Matthew Pouliot

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

David Ortiz adds to postseason legend

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With a laser beam of a grand slam in the eighth inning on Sunday night, David Ortiz essentially saved the Red Sox’s World Series hopes and further his cause as the greatest clutch hitter of his generation. But no matter how you feel about “clutch,” there’s no denying the numbers.

The homer was Ortiz’s 15th in the postseason, tying him with Babe Ruth for ninth place on the all-time list. Two of those were walkoff shots. It gave him 54 RBI in 72 games, moving him past Albert Pujols for fifth place there:

Most postseason RBI
80 – Bernie Williams (.850 OPS in 121 games)
78 – Manny Ramirez (.937 OPS in 111 games)
63 – David Justice (.717 OPS in 112 games)
61 – Derek Jeter (.838 OPS in 158 games)
54 – David Ortiz (.933 OPS in 72 games)
52 – Albert Pujols (1.046 OPS in 74 games)
48 – Reggie Jackson (.885 OPS in 77 games)
47 – Chipper Jones (.864 OPS in 93 games)
42 – Jim Edmonds (.874 OPS in 64 games)
42 – Jorge Posada (.745 OPS in 123 games)

Ortiz’s rebirth as a force after it looked like he was done as a major asset in 2009 has added to what would have been a very tough sell as a Hall of Fame case. He had an exquisite run from 2003-07, finishing in the top five in the AL in the MVP balloting every year, but because he’s a DH, he did little before age 27 and he’s still lacking in black ink (one home run title, two RBI titles), it was going to take that clutch rep to put him over the top. Now, after three more seasons as one of the AL’s elite hitters, he has much more solid career numbers to add to his case and he’d seem to be a likely choice if not for the steroid allegations that will always hang over his head. Even with the leaked positive test — for what, we’ll apparently never know — he may garner enough support once the doors are eventually opened for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Tigers lose the momentum, but still have an edge

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two
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It’s not going to be the joyous plane ride home the Tigers were looking forward to, but achieving a split in Fenway, with Justin Verlander about to pitch in Game 3, is a great place for Jim Leyland’s team to be with up to five games remaining in the ALCS.

There’s something to be said for the way the Tigers lost on Sunday night. Up 5-1 in the eighth, victory seems all but assured. That was particularly true in light of the fact that the Red Sox had struck out 30 times and scored once in 16 innings up that point.

But, as the Red Sox showed tonight, momentum counts for so little in baseball it might as well not exist at all. They went from left for dead to Gatorade bathings in the blink of an eye. The Tigers are practiced at coming off tough defeats. They just came from 2-1 down to beat the A’s in the ALDS. Last month, they lost 20-4 to the Red Sox, then came out and drubbed the Royals 16-2 in their next game,  The last four times they were shut out in the regular season (not including that Henderson Alvarez no-hitter in game No. 162),  they won their next game).

Sure, the Red Sox are feeling much better about themselves after David Ortiz’s grand slam. They know the Tigers bullpen is vulnerable. But they knew that going in. They were the favorites two days ago, and they could still be considered the favorites now.

The Tigers’ starting pitching, though, is completely unblemished, and Verlander is coming off two dominant performances against the A’s. To win this series, the Red Sox still need at least two more wins in games started by Verlander, Sanchez and Scherzer, and it’s not like they’re any sort of cinch to win Game 4 with Doug Fister on the mound.

What the Tigers do need is some sort of threat from the top of their lineup. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter are both 1-for-10 after two games, and Hunter, in particular, has looked awful at the plate. Because of their struggles, neither Miguel Cabrera nor Prince Fielder ever got to hit with a man on base in Game 2. As much as the Red Sox’s offensive impotence was the story for most of Saturday and Sunday, both teams now have scored in exactly three of the 18 innings played.

Game 3 should be fascinating. John Lackey has been rock solid for the Red Sox, but he’s probably going to give up two or three runs, at least. If the Tigers are up 3-1 after seven, will Jim Leyland push Verlander in response to what happened tonight? Verlander is better equipped to go the distance than Sanchez or Scherzer, but he hasn’t completed a game this year and, if nothing else, the Red Sox will probably drive up his pitch count. How the Tigers handle a Game 3 save opportunity could well swing the rest of the series.

Red Sox make no adjustments in ugly loss

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Three
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How is the best way to deal with an inconsistent, pitcher-friendly strike zone?

Apparently, it’s to keep the bat on one’s shoulder or maybe just swing halfway and hope for the best.

The Red Sox succeeded in running up Anibal Sanchez’s pitch count in Saturday’s 1-0 loss, but that was their only victory of the night. Even though they were no-hit until there was one out in the ninth, the outcome wasn’t finally decided until Xander Bogaerts’ popup to short.

It was just the 10th ball put into play by the team all night.

Mostly, the Red Sox relied on umpire Joe West in the hopes of reach base via the walk. It worked six times, and with another ump, they might have been the beneficiary of one or two more free passes. But putting the game in the ump’s hands is never the best of plays.

It’s no surprise the Red Sox were a bit rusty after three days off, and while the Tigers may call Sanchez their third starter, the guy did lead the AL in ERA this year. It was no easy assignment with the way Sanchez’s slider was working. Still, the Red Sox took more half-swings than swings in the first six innings. It was a poor display from the team that led the AL in runs scored this year.

The Red Sox also took zero advantage of the terribly hobbled Miguel Cabrera at third base. Only two players showed bunt in the game. David Ross did it twice in an at-bat, pulling back both times before coaxing a walk. Shane Victorino finally dropped one down in the sixth, but incredibly, he pushed it down the first line and did it terribly, giving Sanchez an easy, one-pitch out. Cabrera, the likely AL MVP, looks like he can hardly move out there, but the Red Sox never tested him.

The Red Sox will probably come out better in Sunday’s Game 2, but with Max Scherzer on the mound, the runs won’t come much easier. It’d help to get on the board early, maybe by putting bat to ball once in a while.