Pat Burrell is pining for Phillies boo birds

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burrell_pat.jpgPat Burrell misses getting booed. Really.

The former Phillies slugger, who spent last season doing next to nothing for the Tampa Bay Rays, sounds in this interview as if he’s pining for the passionate hatred of Philadelphia fans.

“I don’t know if there is any way of saying this without getting myself in trouble,” Burrell said. “But there is definitely a different excitement level [in Philadelphia]. I think more than anything, there is a stronger tradition for baseball there. That goes without saying.”

Burrell took a lot of heat during his days in Philly. Heat for his poor defense. Heat for his sometimes streaky bat and penchant for strikeouts. And did I mention his defense? The Rays signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal before the 2009 season when it became clear the Phillies were no longer interested. They gave him a cushy DH job, which not only allowed him the chance to emphasize his bat skills, but also provided safety from his own spikes, which can be quite dangerous when playing the field.

He rewarded them by hitting .221 with 14 home runs and 64 RBIs, one of his worst seasons. Now he’s praising Phillies fans for not being anything like the mellow followers of his current team.

“You talk to a lot of players and certain players don’t like to play in Philly,” Burrell said. “Certain guys love it and I was one of the guys that really enjoyed it. I probably saw the full parameter of the good and the bad. But at all times you knew that people cared. They want you to win and they come out and support you. I’m not sure enough players appreciate that because there aren’t many places like it. You have Chicago, New York, and places like that, but I think it’s the minority.”

Maybe Burrell is just poking a stick into the ant hill, trying to rile the Rays faithful into a healthy lather of hatred, hoping a little passion at the Trop will spur him on to his previously great ways. Or maybe he really does miss Philly with its cheesesteaks, rich history and boisterous fans.

Either way I wouldn’t take this sitting down if I was a Rays fan. I suggest the boo birds come out and take it to Burrell for his horrendous lack of respect. Rip him for every strikeout, for every nagging injury, for the millions of dollars he is stealing from your poor, cash-strapped franchise. If Pat Burrell misses getting booed, give him what he wants! Come on Rays fans! Who’s with me?

Hello? Anyone?

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Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.