Results tagged ‘ Josh Beckett ’
Oooh boy…as if the Twins needed anything more to be positive about after two road series wins and the opening of Target Field, earlier today Francisco Liriano pitched up to his 2006 form, styming the Red Sox for seven innings (with eight whiffs) while the Twins’ bats exploded (or perhaps this is just their normal capacity?).
One of the weaknesses that I perceived in the Twins this year was the lack of a true ace that could kill them come playoff time as it has in past seasons. Baker, Blackburn, Pavano, and Slowey all give you a chance to win day in and day out, but none are a real stopper in the Johan Santana mold. If Frankie keeps locating his fastball and curving that filthy slider, he’s the guy that can match up against the Sabathia’s, Beckett’s, or Hernandez’s in the first game of a playoff series.
Preview (7-3, 1st, 0.5 GA DET): Zack Grienke (0-1, 3.55) vs. Scott Baker (1-1, 3.86). I smell a pitcher’s duel…
Though a bit lacking in the “big single round” performance that we have seen in recent years (Josh Hamilton last year being the best example), this iteration of the annual appetizer to the Midsummer Classic, the Home Run Derby, was still fun to watch. Of course, I was pulling for Joe Mauer, and (though not making it out of the first round), he gave a decent showing. Had he just been able to crank a few more out in that “bat-off” he could have really put the pressure on Albert Pujols. Oh well…Joe will continue his quest for the AL batting crown, while Pujols will go back to the NL and chase the Triple Crown.
My pick to win the thing, Carlos Pena, didn’t make it out of the first round. Yep, that turned out well.
All in all, though, Prince Fielder did put on the best show of the night, as he bombed countless baseballs into the St. Louis night, at least two of which I remember seeing traveled 500+ feet. He is the absolute antithesis of Joe Mauer. While Joe has that sweet swing that hitting coaches dream of, Fielder gets in the box and swings with all his might all the time. What makes it work, though, is that he has enough bat control (the guy must have wrists made of iron) to get away with that approach. Of course, having this guy as your dad can’t hurt…
(I doubt Big Cecil was a vegetarian!)
Preview (All-Star Game): Roy Halladay (10-3, 2.85) will take the hill for the AL to open the game, followed by Tim Lincecum (10-2, 2.33) in the Senior Circuit. I would expect to see Dan Haren and Johan Santana to follow Lincecum, while the AL has more options (Josh Beckett, Zack Grienke, Mark Buerhle, Felix Hernandez) after Doc.
Although I will be root root rooting for the AL to win the game, I just have a feeling that the NL is finally going to break through this year. I never like to underestimate Ichiro in an All-Star game, but I would be suprised if Albert Pujols DOESN’T do something spectacular at the plate or be involved in some form of late-inning heroics.
Yesterday afternoon, the Twins and Red Sox hooked up for a pretty intense duel, with the Sox coming out on top 3-1. Things really got interesting in the seventh inning, for both clubs:
Top: With the Sox batting, a close play at the plate from Kubel (a great throw) to Redmond was called “safe” for the Sox when replays seemed to show that he was actually out. Redmond popped up and did his best “Yogi Berra after Jackie Robinson steals home” impersonation. He was immediately run from the game (which hurt the Twins by losing the DH and thus not pinch hitting for Matt Tolbert in the game’s key moment an inning later) and closely followed by manager Ron Gardenhire.
Bottom: Up until the seventh inning, Josh Beckett had been absolutely mowing down the Twins’ batters (besides the one Joe Crede bomb). Yet, throughout the game I noticed that he was incredibly angry and often (even after a 1-2-3 inning) would stomp off the mound uttering terrible profanities. I never really got the feeling that he was being squeezed at the plate, but obviously he thought differently. Thus, in the seventh, a very close pitch was called a ball and Beckett immediately told the umpire that he could “go have carnal relations with himself” (to put it nicely). Boy, was Beckett ever hot, almost throwing a temper tantrum right on the mound! Within minutes, both Jason Varitek and Terry Francona were joining Gardy and Red Dog in the bowels of the Dome. Why Beckett didn’t get the old heave-ho as well is completely beyond me. Personally, I lost some respect for him for that little tirade. I have rarely seen a pitcher get so angry out on the mound (especially when dominating the opposing team) and it makes Beckett seem like just a hot-headed jerk who happens to have some nasty stuff.
All in all, though, a sweep with the Sox isn’t the end of the world by any means. The real test now will be going into Tampa Bay and trying to play just as tough. Much like last year, the Twins won’t become a legit contender unless they can even just play below-average (not God-awful) ball on the road.
-Joe Crede is coming around. His defense alone is darn near enough to keep him in the lineup every game, especially considering the struggles of Brian Buscher, while his bat is showing good pop.
-Glen Perkins may not have a job when he gets healthy. Anthony Swarzak has been VERY impressive in both his starts in the majors so far.
Preview (24-25, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (2-5, 6.32) vs. James Shields (3-4, 3.63).
How quickly have we forgotten 2004 and 2007? After watching the media coverage of the ALCS that begins on Friday night in Tampa Bay, there has been almost an overwhelming consensus that the upstart Rays will dethrone the defending-champion Red Sox and reach the first World Series in franchise history (of course, every Ray victory has some sort of historical significance these days!). Not so fast, people…
Let’s look at this series a game at a time. The series opens in Tropicana Field, where the Rays have been nearly a completely different than they are at home, but who really thinks the Rays will win both of those first two home games against the playoff-savvy Sox? Game 1 pits Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90) against James Shields (14-8, 3.56), while Game 2 is Josh Beckett (12-10, 4.03) vs. Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49). I’d actually favor the Sox in both games, but let’s say (for home-field advantage sake) that the series is even when it moves back into Fenway.
This is where things are sure to get interesting, as it is the classic case of “postseason aura” (which the Red Sox have finally wrestled away from the Yankees) vs. “young team that isn’t intimidated” (the Rays have never experienced this situation before, so how can they be too overwhelmed?). In that scenario, however, I will take the most experienced team any day of the week. Although the pitching matchups in Game Three, Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21) vs. Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70), and Game Four, Tim Wakefield (10-11, 4.13) vs. Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38), perhaps swing a little bit toward the Rays (at least compared to the first two games), I’ll still take the experienced hurlers over the green ones. Even if the series is 2-2 after four games, the pitching matchups will be who has the best bullpen, and what starters can come back effectively on short rest. All four Sox starters are battle-tested, while all the Rays are first-timers. As a Twins fan, I would not feel too confident on a guy like Matt Garza coming back in a game seven facing, say, Tim Wakefield.
Offensively both clubs can score runs. In fact, I think the only way Tampa Bay can win this series is if they completely outscore the BoSox, and by a large margin at that. However, the Boston lineup has developed a habit of producing in the clutch, with guys like David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and some guy you would never expect (Jedd Lowrie?!) providing the back-breaking hits to the opposition. I thought that the departure of Manny Ramirez would really hurt Boston come postseason time, but Manny’s replacement, Jason Bay, has performed admirably after escaping Pittsburgh.
My “official” prediction, then, is for Boston to defeat Tampa Bay in six games. The Rays have had a great ride, but I think that the playoff experience of nearly every Boston player will be too much for the scrappy Rays to overcome. However, I would expect to see many close, hard-fought games. Whereas the Yankees of old developed their “mystic and aura” in the playoffs by crushing opponents, the Red Sox have won in the playoffs by getting the late-inning clutch hits.