Sounds about right.
Last night was another long mess of a game, starting with an hour-long weather delay. When they finally got underway, CC went 7 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run, while Beckett was chased before completing the fifth inning. As of CC's departure, the Yanks held a 5-1 lead. But anybody familiar with the rivalry should have known that the ending wouldn't be cut and dry.
Instead, Little Lord Porkface, aka Joba Chamberlain, proved his uselessness under pressure yet again by giving up 4 runs in the top of the 8th to blow the lead. Then Marcus Thames, yesterday's hero, cemented his reputation as one of the worst fielders in baseball by dropping a 1-out Scutaro fly in the 9th. That led to Mariano's second blown save in three days, and a 7-5 deficit going into the last-licks stanza.
Still, no Red Sox lead over the Yanks is safe when Papelbon has three outs to earn, and he added yet another nervy performance to the drama. To start things off, Scutaro returned Thames' favor by booting a ground ball, and Robbie Cano's RBI double made it 7-6. Cervelli sacrificed him to third, and a sacrifice of any kind would have tied the game again. But Papelbon had the good fortune of facing Juan Miranda and Randy Winn with the game at stake. Miranda grounded out to the pitcher, and Winn stranded Robbie with a very predictable strikeout.
This morning, the girlfriend asked if we'd held on to the lead. When I told her about Winn's latest fail, she issued the ultimate dis: "they should call him Randy Lose."
Another Winnsult, from the Yankee message board: "his batting stance looks like he has scoliosis and he swings like a scarecrow on crack."
The loss is a total bummer. Let me count the reasons.
1) A two-game sweep would have put the Sox in a huge early hole.
2) The last two games have shown that our middle relief stinks.
3) We missed the chance to give CC another win and Beckett another loss.
4) It's a harsh reminder of all the sweet Joba trades we could've made two years ago.
5) It puts us three games back of Tampa on the night they come to town.
However, it's not necessarily a loss. After Cano's 2 RBI double in the 5th, Beckett was toast and knew it. But Boston had nobody warming up in the pen. When Farrell, their pitching coach, sauntered to the mound, he had a brief conversation with Sullen Josh before oddly signalling to the pen. I say oddly because MLB rules state that a new pitcher can only throw 8 warm-up pitches once he enters the game (to state the obvious, this is why they throw in the bullpen beforehand). HOWEVER:
If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.
An emergency like...an injury. Proving his class once again, Beckett made up for the lack of an actual injury by faking one. The bush league move allowed Delcarmen to take as many warm-up throws as he needed, and Boston got out of the inning. Beckett's malingering is the nature of Girardi's protest. Sadly, it's difficult to prove that he didn't sustain an injury, even if it was crystal clear to any unbiased observer. MLB relies on an honor system to keep teams from abusing this exception, but now and again you'll run across a player with no honor.
So the protest will probably not be upheld, and the loss will go in the books. In any case, Joba is the real culprit. We're in a ship load of trouble if we can't hold a lead against good lineups between the starter and Mariano. As nice as it would be, Hughes and AJ and CC and Andy won't always go 8 innings. Crystal ball time: if and when the Yanks make the playoffs, Hughes will go back to the bullpen to fill the late relief role, and Girardi will use a 3-man rotation like last year.
Anyway, that was a tough one to stomach. Luckily, we have the good fortune of missing Price and Garza over the next two days, so we'll have a fighting chance to claw our way back to within one game in the East. But their staff is pretty great top to bottom, so it won't come easy. Tonight, AJ pitches with a chance to join Andy and Hughes at 5 wins. I hope to be at tomorrow's game.
In other news, it looks like we'll have to put with Boston in another NBA Finals. Somehow, Kevin Garnett screaming is worth like 15 points per game. Either that, or Rajon Rondo is awesome and Orlando has a bunch of mental sissies who will probably lose in the late rounds of the playoffs for the next 4 years or so. Lakers-Celts now seems inevitable, and insufferable. At least Kobe is interesting, I guess. Hopefully this one turns out differently than two years ago.
Enjoy that paragraph; it might be the last thing I write about the NBA this year. Other than brief sparks from Los Suns, these playoffs have been roughly as shitty as your average NBA season. I've watched a couple games, and it's basically become a series of timeouts that blend together, interspersed with horrible calls and giant muscular humans screaming at cameras. I hate the NBA. The only solution is a 16-team neutral site single elimination tournament for the playoffs, and a regular season that lasts 40 games instead of 82. And maybe a 4-pointer somewhere on the court.
Seriously, how is it possible that college (and shit, even high school) basketball is so awesome, and the NBA completely sucks? Any other professional league is at least as awesome as its college equivalent (I consider college and pro football a tie; both are awesome in different ways), and most are superior. In the history of the world, watching professional athletes has never been less enjoyable than the modern NBA.
And basketball is such a great sport! It might be the best one!* I went upstate this past weekend and watched my brother and sister play in their summer AAU leagues, and it was great. I could have watched 10 games in a day. And yet I can barely make it through two and a half horus of the best fucking basketball players in the world playing against each other. It's a puzzle.
My only guess is that the players have reached a point where they are too big and too strong. Basketball is fun when teams are running and shooting, and the prevalent style is free-flowing. It's not fun when Lebron James stands at the top of the key, puts his head down, and bulls into the lane in an attempt to get fouled. It's not fun when Dwight Howard backs into the lane and runs people over. It's not even that fun when the best guards take turnaround jumpers possession after possession. And it's especially not fun when unconstrained offenses like the Suns or the Thunder can't succeed against the thuggery of punishing, muscle-first defense. The court isn't big enough for them. It's like trying to run an option against NFL linebackers; it won't fly.
To me, the Celtics are the closest thing we have to an epitome of boring basketball. The perfect representative would be the mid-90s Knicks, but the Celts will do. They have a point guard who can't shoot, thuggish inside players who clog everything up and are really effective at slowing down a game, and a primary scorer who looks tired for 90% of the game and mostly shoots jumpers. Ray Allen is the only fun part of that team.
In this year's NBA, Los Suns are the only hope. And because the NBA sucks, they'll lose.