Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wow! Now that was an instant classic!

I speak, of course, of tonight's one game playoff between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. The game was scoreless into the bottom of the 7th, when Twins rookie starter Nick Blackburn gave up a solo home run to Jim Thome. White Sox starter John Danks turned in the performance of a lifetime, going 8 scoreless innings and earning a "free beer" ticket in the city of Chicago for the rest of his life. ChiSox closer Bobby Jenks came in for the save, preserving the 1-0 win. The last out came on a spectacular diving catch by center fielder Brian Anderson.

This is why I love these "one-and-done" type playoff games. Both teams seasons are on the line and both are giving everything they have to advance. Tonight's game couldn't have been a tighter, better played contest between two good teams.

Oh, and check out these hats. This is one of the best championship hats I have ever seen:
I don't typically buy hats for anything other than a world championship, but if I were a White Sox fan I would get this one just because it looks cool.

Three of the four division series start tomorrow, including Red Sox -Angels at the ungodly hour of 10 PM. The big questions for the Sox going in revolve around health, with Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett both question marks. The biggest scare is Beckett, who suddenly developed an oblique strain throwing a side session over the weekend. Beckett's start has been moved back to game 3, while Jon Lester and Daisuke pitch games 1 and 2 on the west coast. Those two guys are more than capable, but it's a big drop off from the virtually invincible post-season Beckett to either Wake or Paul Byrd in game 3 if Beckett can't go.

Now that we have final matchups for the four series, here are my postseason predictions:

Division Series:
Angels over Red Sox in 5 - sorry, I think the health woes are going to dog the Red Sox, much like they ruined the Angels chances last year. Hope I'm wrong on this one.

Rays over White Sox in 4 - Chicago is so done in from the effort just to make the playoffs, they won't be able to get it done against a rested Tampa Bay team.

Cubs over Dodgers in 4: Despite Manny's Ruthian performance since the trade, the Cubs are quite simply a better team.

Phillies over Brewers in 5: This depends on Ben Sheets' health. Sheets didn't look great in his start on Saturday. C.C. Sabathia has been the pitching version of Manny since he came over to the Brewers, but he's not going to be enough to beat the Phillies by himself.

ALCS: Angels over Rays in 6
NLCS: Cubs over Phillies in 7

World Series: Angels over Cubs in 6. Sorry Cubs fans!

Wish I could stay home and watch tomorrow's playoff tripleheader on TBS. That pesky work thing gets in the way again!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This is one of my least favorite days of the year.

Baseball's regular season ended today (well, not quite. We'll get to that later.) While we still have a few weeks of playoffs to go, the day in, day out rhythm of the baseball season is over until April, 2009. It reminds me that winter is coming, that the days are getting shorter and that I'll be outside shoveling snow before I know it.

That doesn't mean the last day doesn't have it's upsides. Four teams were competing for the last two playoff spots today. Unbelievably, one is still up for grabs and may be until Tuesday.

The one race that got settled was the National League wild card. C.C. Sabathia came up big on three days rest again and led the Brewers to a 3-1 win over the Cubs. Meanwhile, the Mets lost to the Marlins 4-2 in the last game at Shea to complete a second straight collapse and miss the playoffs again. While not quite as epic as 2007's disaster, the Mets were up 3.5 games on the Phillies as recently as September 10, yet Philadelphia took the NL East crown for the second consecutive year.

With all the hype about the last season at that other New York ballpark in another borough, isn't it nice that someone actually remembered that the last game at Shea Stadium was today?

The two New York teams spent nearly $347 million on player salaries this year and don't have a playoff berth to show for it. By comparison, Tampa Bay's payroll was just under $44 million and the Twins were a hair under $57 million.

In the other league, the AL Central is still up for grabs. Both the Twins and White Sox won today, so Chicago has to play a makeup game against Detroit tomorrow afternoon. The Twins lead the White Sox by .5 game right now. For Chicago to win the division, they have to beat the Tigers tomorrow and then beat the Twins in a one game playoff on Tuesday night. If they lose either game, the Twins win the division.

The Tigers can't be too excited about having to go to U.S. Cellular Field tomorrow to play this game after their own incredibly disappointing season. We'll see if they can be giant spoilers tomorrow. Me, I'm hoping the White Sox win so we'll get the playoff game Tuesday night.

The Sox start the playoffs Wednesday night in Anaheim. We'll discuss that more as the week progresses.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's looking to be a fun last weekend in baseball. Five teams are battling for the last three playoff spots with only four days left in the season. In the AL, a mere 1/2 game separates the White Sox and Twins in the battle for the AL Central title. In the Senior Circuit (you never hear that one anymore), the Phillies and Mets go at it for the AL East title while the Mets and Brewers are tied for the wild card spot.

With all that going on, it seems a little premature to think about the World Series. Prior to 2004, the dream matchup would have been Red Sox-Cubs. I think some of the steam has gone out of that since the Sox won the World Series (twice!). Having seven games split between Fenway and Wrigley would be a big plus, but I don't think the matchup is hugely compelling beyond that, other than the normal interest in two of baseball's best teams playing each other for the championship.

So, what would be my dream World Series matchups? Of course, any true dream matchup for me would include the Red Sox, but in the interest of fairness, I'll limit the Red Sox to one matchup. Here they are:

Red Sox vs Dodgers: Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe, three ex-Sox who left Boston under less than ideal terms, play for the Dodgers. Joe Torre, ex-Yankee manager and respected Red Sox nemesis, is their manager. Dodger owner Frank McCourt is a Boston guy. The story possibilities are endless. The sheer drama of Manny's first at-bat at Fenway alone would be must viewing.

White Sox vs Cubs: The North Side vs. the South Side of Chicago would make for some compelling TV. The Cubs, with their 100 year championship drought taking on the ChiSox, who ended their own 88 year winless streak in 2005. Plus, Ozzie Guillen and Lou Pinella are two of the most volatile managers in baseball who are liable to say just about anything.

Rays vs. Brewers: A battle of small market, Cinderella teams. The Brewers haven't been in the playoffs since the early '80s. The Rays had never won more than 70 games before this year. Who's clock strikes midnight first?

Those are my three. Anyone have more?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's a great day to be a Red Sox fan.

Two reasons for that. First, of course, the Sox clinched their 5th
playoff berth in six years last night. The 5-4 win over Cleveland had
the side benefit of eliminating the Yankees from the
playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

The other great thing that happened is that the Sox announced that
Johnny Pesky's number will be retired prior to Friday night's game
against the Yankees. If you ask me, this is a long time coming. Pesky
has spent most of his nearly seven decades in baseball with the Sox in
just about every role imaginable, from player to manager to broadcaster.

I'm glad the Sox made an exception to their rules to retire number 6.
The rules, Hall of Famer, at least 10 years with the Sox and finished
their career in Boston are too restrictive. There are a number of guys
who will never be elected to Cooperstown but stand a level above the
players in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Guys like Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant and Jim Rice and others deserve to be up there (hopefully Rice will make it to
Cooperstown next year).

In any event, congratulations to the 2008 Red Sox and to Johnny Pesky.
Hopefully, we'll have a few more celebrations left this season!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A few thoughts on a Monday...
  • The less said about yesterday's Patriots debacle the better. In fact, I'm not talking about it anymore.
  • If I were a Mets fan, I would be stressed out every time someone came in from the bullpen. The absence of Billy Wagner has but a major dent in the Mets division championship plans. Yesterday, Scott Schoeneweis gave up a three run lead in the 8th to the Braves, which enabled the Phillies to pick up a game in the division and the Brewers to get a game closer in the wild card chase. The NL wild card may come down to whether the Mets or Braves are less inept over the last week.
  • Assuming the Sox can win tonight, it will be the fifth time in six years that Boston has made the post-season. Consider that from 1919 to the coming of the wild card in 1995, the Red Sox only played in the postseason six times (1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 1988, 1990) and you can appreciate what an amazing feat that is.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Looks like we might have to settle for the wild card.

Losing 2 of 3 at the Trop was a big blow. Going into tonight's play, the Sox are 2 games in the AILC (all-important loss column) behind the Rays. Because Tampa Bay won the season series against Boston 10-8, the Sox would have to finish ahead of the Rays to win the division. It's similar to 2005, when the Sox and Yankees finished tied, but the Yankees won more head-to-head games and were crowned the AL East champs, while the Sox took the wild card.

The Rays have 11 games left and the Sox have 10. If Tampa goes 5-6 the rest of the way, the Red Sox would have to go 7-3 to finish a game ahead of the Rays. It's not impossible, but a lot of things have to go Boston's way to win the division.

It wasn't all bad news coming out of the Trop, though. There were two things that gave me some confidence going into the playoffs. First, Josh Beckett looked like, well, Josh Beckett in the second game. He gave up only one run in eight innings and gave off that October Beckett vibe we all remember from 2003 and 2007. A healthy, dominant Beckett is probably the single most important ingredient for a successful World Series run by the Red Sox, so his performance in Tampa was a good sign.

The second thing that made me feel good about the Sox chances was David Ortiz's performance in game 3. Papi hit two home runs in the losing effort and swung as aggressively as I have seen since he came back from the wrist injury. Having Ortiz's big bat in the number three hole in the Sox lineup is nearly as critical to their chances as Beckett's arm.

So, despite the losses, I feel pretty good about the Sox going into the playoffs. There are still some questions to be answered (Lowell's and Drew's health, Paul Byrd or Wake in the 4th spot in the rotation), but things are looking pretty promising.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two non-Red Sox related baseball items:
  • The Brewers firing of Ned Yost with only 12 games left in the season was a bit of a shock. After all, the Brewers were tied with Philadelphia for the wild card lead. However, the Brew Crew had faltered in September after going 20-7 in August and had just been swept in a four game series with the Phillies. So, owner Mark Attanasio and GM Bob Melvin acted decisively, axing Yost and replacing him with third base coach (and former Sox coach) Dale Sveum. Can Sveum restart the Brewers and get them into the post-season for the first time since Ronald Reagan's first term? That remains to be seen. The Brewers window for getting into the playoffs could slam shut when Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia become free agents after the season, so I'm sure the front office felt a lot of pressure to pull the team out of a second consecutive late season nose dive. I certainly don't know much about what the atmosphere is like in the Milwaukee clubhouse, but obviously the Brewers front office felt that fixing it couldn't wait. It's an extremely bold move. Let's see if it works out.
  • I caught the last couple of outs of Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter on Sunday night. Zambrano has been struggling with shoulder problems this season. His return to dominant form bodes well for a good run by the Cubbies in the playoffs. Can the Cubs bring the World Series back to Wrigley Field for the first time since World War II? A healthy Zambrano certainly increases the odds in their favor.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's been quite a 36 hours or so in Boston sports.

Things started early Sunday afternoon, with the matchup between Jon Lester and Roy Halladay. The game lived up to it's billing, as both pitchers did well. Lester came out on top by a score of 4-3. It was 4-1 coming into the 9th, but Papelbon had a bit of trouble, giving up two runs before finally ending the Blue Jays threat. The Sox win combined with the Yankees beating Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium brought Boston to within one game of first place.

At 4:15 came the game everyone in town had been talking about all week: the matchup between the Bret Favre-led New York Jets and the New England Patriots. All eyes were on Matt Cassel, Tom Brady's understudy who hadn't started a game since high school.

And darn it if the kid didn't come up big. He did a fine job of directing the offense, made no serious mistakes, and threw a touchdown pass. The defense and special teams played very well, too. The Jets only managed 10 points in the game, losing 19-10. And Stephen Gostkowski hit four field goals for the Pats. Now the Patriots are 2-0 after beating their arch-rivals and have a weak Miami team coming into Gillette next weekend.

Tonight, the Sox took it to the Rays at the Trop. Scott Kazmir just didn't have it tonight, as he walked the first two batters, then Big Papi took him deep. Mike Lowell added a solo homer and the Sox were up 4-0 before the Rays even had a chance to bat. The assault continued, as the Sox hit six homers (Bay, Varitek, Youkilis and Ellsbury, in addition to the two in the first).

If there is any cause for concern coming out of this game, it's that Daisuke had another one of those maddening appearances he has, throwing 101 pitches in five innings, giving up just one run. He can drive you crazy watching him sometimes.

The bottom line is, though, that the Sox got a 13-5 win and are tied for first place. Two more at the Trop - it would be nice to leave in first.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

J., R. and I went to Fenway last night for our last game of the year (unless I get tickets in the postseason lottery or some kind person makes a donation). We got lucky enough to end our 2008 live baseball season with one of the great Red Sox wins of the year.

We drove in to the ballpark, parked and headed over to the great UBurger in Kenmore Square for some dinner. We headed back to the Yawkey Way entrance, spent a few minutes with Big League Brian (the stilt guy) and went into the Twins Shop (does anyone else still call it that?) to get the kids some new Sox hats. J. got a basic blue cap, and R. got this pink and purple camo hat that was completely right for her.

After that we headed for the bleachers and took our seats. We were hoping that the Sox had gotten all the bad news out of their systems after the 8-1 loss to Toronto in the first game of the doubleheader at Fenway. The Sox started off well, with Ellsbury and Pedroia scoring two runs in the top of the first on a wild pitch and an error by catcher Greg Zaun. Bartolo Colon, making his return to the Red Sox had a tough top of the second. Aided by a Jed Lowrie error, the Blue Jays scored five runs in the inning (2 earned).

It stayed that way until the 6th, when Lowrie atoned for his earlier error by driving in a run with a sac fly to make it 5-3. They grabbed another run in the last of the 7th on a Youk fielders choice as Big Papi took out Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro on a double play ball. It took Scutaro a couple of minutes to recover, since he's giving away a few (dozen) pounds to Ortiz.

The 8th was the big inning, as the Sox got three runs to take the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury drove in the go-ahead run on a swinging bunt. Jays pitcher Scott Downs slipped and fell (some of you will get the significance of that), allowing Lowrie to score from third. Papelbon came in to finish off Toronto for a 1-2-3 9th and Dirty Water started playing on the Fenway P.A. system.

Two other funny events happened that I wanted to note. Around the 7th inning, the center field scoreboard showed events from the Rays-Yankees game and the Yankees had just come back to take a lead. The crowd cheered the Yanks, a rather strange event at Fenway Park.

The second came during the singing of Sweet Caroline during the 8th. Downs, the Jays pitcher completed his warm-ups just before the second chorus came up and the music stopped as Jason Bay (who would double and get driven in by Lowrie for the tying run) stepped to the plate. Not to be deterred, the entire crowd sung through the chorus (including the "Oh-oh-oh's" and the "so-good's"), and then cheered itself. Very fun.

So it was a great night and we ended up with the right result. Only a couple of weeks left in the season, so we'll see if the Sox can catch the Rays.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tim Wakefield bounced back from his disasterous 1.2 inning start against the Rangers last weekend by coming up huge tonight. Wake went 8 shutout innings to lead the Sox to a 7-0 win over the white-hot Blue Jays. Wake's start was doubly important, as it saved the bullpen with a doubleheader coming up tomorrow. The Sox pick up 1/2 game on the rained out Rays, who will be playing a twin bill of their own at Yankee Stadium tomorrow.

The rest of the series should prove interesting. Cito Gaston is taking a last minute run at the wild card and is putting his three best pitchers, Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Jesse Litsch out on the mound on short rest this weekend. Burnett and Litsch will both go on three days rest in Saturday's doubleheader and Halladay will go with three days on Sunday.

Now, Halladay is a throwback who would be right at home with a starting rotation that included Bob Gibson or Whitey Ford as far as throwing complete games goes (his 8 so far this year are more than all but two other teams), so pitching on short rest shouldn't be a huge problem. However, Litsch and Burnett aren't used to pitching this way, and history has shown that in many instances the results aren't good. We'll see if Cito's gamble pays off this weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If you had no rooting interest (or are a Rays fan), the last two nights at Fenway are about as good as baseball gets. Exciting games, both won in the Rays last at bat, great pitching and defense made these games a fan's delight.

Unless you are a Red Sox fan. Then it wasn't quite so good.

Both losses the last two nights were lost opportunities. The Sox took a lead in the 8th on Jason Bay's homer, then Papelbon uncharacteristically blew the save. In last night's extra innings thriller, the Sox had multiple opportunities to score and walk off with the win before Carlos Pena won the game with a 3 run bomb in the 14th.

(An aside on my fellow Northeastern alum, Pena. Was the Latino family they showed in the stands a couple of times his? Because if it was, his mom was wearing a Red Sox jersey! What's up with that?)

I really don't see these losses as devestating. The Sox are up 5.5 in the wild card chase and, as Bill Parcells used to say, all that really matters is getting in the tournament. It would be great to win the division, with likely home field in at least the first round, but it's more important that the Sox clinch a post-season spot and get the team set for the playoffs. First things first, however. We have four against a hot Toronto team this weekend and it would be nice to get at least three wins at home.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday night musings...
  • The news on Tom Brady was the worst possible and he is lost for the season. This changes everything, obviously. Instead of being a leading contender to go back to the Super Bowl, most folks are figuring the Matt Cassel-led Pats will be doing well to make the playoffs. I'd have to agree. Cassel never even started in college. Sunday against the Jets will be the first meaningful game he has started since high school.
  • The Sox had their 456th straight sellout tonight, setting the major league record. The last time they didn't sell out a game was in May of 2003. I love the fact that a packed Fenway has such an electric atmosphere every single night, and I especially appreciate the fact that selling out the ballpark gives the team the resources to do things like send Manny to Los Angeles and pick up the rest of his salary. That said, I somewhat selfishly miss the days when you could walk up to the box office 10 minutes before game time and get a decent grandstand seat. Of course, I miss that they cost $10, too!
  • Back on the field, the Sox just beat the Rays 3-0 on a brilliant performance by Lester (7.2 innings) and Papelbon (1.1 innings). The Rays lead is down to 1/2 game. Daisuke vs. Kazmir tomorrow night. Should be a good one!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A few thoughts as we wrap up the weekend:
  • Is there a worse baseball name than Taylor Teagarden of the Rangers? He sounds like he should be hosting a show on the Food Network or something.
  • Scary, scary day for the Patriots. Yeah, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs, but nobody really cares about that. Tom Brady went down with a left knee injury in the first quarter and never returned. I'm not trying to restate what is already overwhelmingly obvious, but the Pats aren't going anywhere without Gisele's main squeeze directing the offense. No reports as to Brady's status online yet, as the entire region waits with bated breath.
  • Everyone lost who we needed to lose today - the Rays, Twins,White Sox and Yankees. Sox are 1.5 games behind the Rays going into this week's three game series at Fenway. They are also 6.5 games up in the wild card race. It should be an exciting three days against the Rays this week (I'm still amazed that the Sox have a critical series against Tampa Bay in September).
  • The Yankees lost two out of three to Seattle this weekend? Have they just quit trying?
  • My family has taken up hiking recently. We did two hikes in Vermont (one up Mt. Tom in Woodstock). Today we went over to Walden Pond and hiked around the pond. Everyone had a fun time. I don't think we're going to get big into overnight hikes or anything like that, but 2-3 mile walks into the woods seem to be about our speed.
That's it! Think happy thoughts for Brady's knee.

Friday, September 05, 2008

As most of you who are regular readers here know, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY is one of my five favorite places in the world to visit (the other four? Fenway Park, McCoy Stadium, Disney World and pretty much any other ballpark). So when the Hall of Fame's Baseball as America exhibit finally made it's way to Boston's Museum of Science, I made plans to catch it during it's 2 and 1/2 month run here. And since we have a museum membership, we would even get in free!

Well, a few days before we were to leave for Vermont I got a mailing from the museum reminding me that the exhibit was only running until September 1. So I made plans to go with the kids on August 31.

We arrived at the museum around 10:30 and headed directly to the exhibit. The first surprise was a bit of a disappointment - no pictures! I didn't quite understand this, since I (and millions of others) have taken many pictures at the Hall of Fame.

I kept my camera in it's pouch and we went off to enjoy the exhibit. It was broken out into various sections linking baseball to the American experience: "Our National Spirit", "Rooting for the Team", "Invention and Ingenuity" and so on. Each section had different baseball artifacts that related to the theme. For example, the "Enterprise and Opportunity" section had items like products endorsed by ballplayers, hot dog carriers from different eras and the rare Honus Wagner baseball card representing the memorabilia industry.

One other funny note - the panel explaining the "Invention and Ingenuity" section talked about Yankee ingenuity. For Boston, however, "Yankee" was crossed out and replaced with "Red Sox". It was fun to see that they were paying attention to the little things like that.

There were quite a few cool Red Sox artifacts displayed as well. Yaz's Silver Bat from 1967, Curt Schilling's bloody sock and Mike Lowell's hat from the 2007 World Series were among them. Other highlights included one of Jackie Robinson's uniform shirts and the #1/8 St. Louis Browns uniform belonging to midget Eddie Gaedel among many other items.

One personal highlight for us was a poster designed by A.'s cousin! A number of years ago, when the Dodgers were up for sale, there was a movement in Brooklyn to bring the Dodgers back to town. A.'s cousin designed a poster to support this (I have a copy around the house somewhere) and there was a copy in one of the display cases. It was pretty cool to see something we had a personal connection to like that.

The exhibit ended with a couple of interactive items. One was a pretty standard speed pitch (J. humped it up to about 42 MPH) and another was a pitching machine that would shoot a ball at you at 95 MPH. You could either stand behind a net and a piece of plexiglass to see what it was like to have a major league fastball come at you, or push a button to see if your reflexes were quick enough to "hit" the ball. It was pretty cool. It's kind of inconceivable that ballplayers are able to react quickly enough to hit a ball thrown that fast.

We spent almost two hours making our way through the exhibit. After that we grabbed some lunch and went home. It was way too nice a day to explore the rest of the museum - there will be plenty of weekends this winter when the weather is bad to do that. The exhibit was a lot of fun to see though - I'm just sorry I don't have pictures!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can we talk about the unstoppable force that is Dustin Pedroia?

I have been watching the Red Sox for a long time. I have seen lots of great hitters play for this team: Yaz, Rice, Evans, Boggs, Nomar, Manny, Big Papi. I can't recall ever seeing anyone as white hot as Pedroia is right now.

He has an eight game hitting streak going, during which he is hitting .618. He has 22 three hit games this season, the most of any Red Sox player since 1956 except Wade Boggs. He had two consecutive four hit games last Friday and Saturday against Chicago. No Red Sox has done that in the 107 year history of the franchise. He is 12 for 18 in his recent starts as the cleanup hitter. He leads the AL in batting average at .333, runs at 110 and hits at 191.

It's gotten to the point with Pedroia lately that you are almost surprised when he doesn't get a hit.

Add his defense into the mix and you have as complete a player as there is in baseball. Fenway fans have been chanting "MVP" lately when Pedroia comes to the plate. I'm not sure that he'll win it, but he is certainly a legitimate candidate to get some votes.

Keep watching this guy, folks. You are seeing something historic.

On another topic, I realized today that Monday was the 5th anniversary of my starting this blog. Thanks to those of you who stop by here occasionally to see what I have to say. Let's see what the next five years bring!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I was lucky enough to come into four tickets to the State Street Pavilion Club at Fenway Park for Saturday night's game against the White Sox. That they were a bit of an upgrade over the bleacher seats we have been sitting in most of the year is an understatement!

We decided to have dinner at the club. There is an indoor area with table service dining and a full bar. We arrived at around 5:30 and were seated immediately. There was a very pricey buffet which we decided not to go for. The most interesting entrees were seafood and none of us (except A.) are big seafood eaters, so we decided to order off the menu. A. and I both had an excellent burger (with some of the best french fries I have had recently) and the kids both had enough chicken fingers and fries for about three meals. None of this was cheap either ($17 for the burgers and $8.25 for a Sam Adams), but not way off what I expected for ballpark fare and it was fun to eat in the club.

We then went outside to check out our seats. From a comfort perspective, these are among the best seats I have ever had at Fenway (admittedly, that's not saying much). The seats were big, wide and had plenty of legroom. They were even padded! We also had waitress service, so someone went off and got our drinks and snacks for us, which was very cool. The view from the deck was great. We were to the first base side of home plate. Here's a cell phone picture of what we could see.

The game itself was great as well. Despite some earlier threats of rain, it was just about a perfect night for baseball at Fenway. We had the luck to catch Michael Bowden's first major league start. Bowden, of course, is another young (21) pitching phenom in the Sox system, spending most of the year at Portland before making some appearances with the Pawsox.

He pitched quite well, going five innings and only giving up two runs. In fact, he outpitched Chicago veteran Mark Buehrle, who only went 4.2 innings and gave up seven runs to the Red Sox. The Sox offense was a doubles machine, hitting six in total (Ellsbury, Bay, Pedroia, Lowrie and two by new addition Mark Kotsay). Kotsay had three RBI and Bay and Lowrie had two each. Jeff Bailey, subbing for Youkilis who was sick with "flu-like symptoms" hit a home run. Ellsbury hit a triple in which he just turned on the jets after rounding second. He is so fast it's amazing to watch.

The bullpen was also very impressive, with single scoreless innings from Javy Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Justin Masterson and Hideki Okajima. The bullpen, an apparent weakness earlier in the year, appears to be peaking at the right time.

In the end the Sox took and 8-2 decision from the White Sox. I could certainly get used to sitting in those seats more often!

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