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Monday, May 28, 2007
Top of the 1st
HAVE NO FEAR, COME OCTOBER IT WILL BE BOSTON & NEW YORK
There are three things you can count on: death, taxes, and Boston versus New York, and come October, this year it will be no different. Okay, before you accuse your intrepid columnist of being totally insane, let me amend my previous statement. It will be slightly different. It will be like 1986.
Come October (and perhaps November, thanks to the scheduling mavens of MLB), there will be a rematch of one baseball’s most memorable World Series, the 1986 Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. If the Series doesn’t immediately come to mind allow me to ask the question, “Do the name Bill Buckner strike a familiar note?”
Twenty-one years later, the Red Sox have a chance to expunge “The Curse of Buckner.” For those of you too young to remember, on October 25, 1986, the Sox led the Mets, three games to two, and were leading Game Six, 5-3, with two outs and none on in the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea Stadium. One out, one strike separated the Sox from celebrating with the champagne that was already chilling in their locker room. But hits, wild pitches and a slow roller down the first base line by Mookie Wilson and the Mets won, 6-5. And, when Jesse Orosco nailed down the championship in Game 7, the next day, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy coined the term “Curse of the Bambino” to describe the Red Sox plight. It took until 2004, 86 years, for the Sox to repeat as champs and now this year they have the chance to erase the scar of ’86 as they can start setting up their post-season rotation even in early June.
The Mets and the Red Sox are the beasts of the East. They are each an overwhelming, advancing force that seems to crush everything in its path. That is indeed the definition of a “juggernaut.” In the flaccid AL East, the Red Sox hold a double digit lead over every team. The fact that the division is filled with failures and no team would be graded at “C” level is not an adequate indicator of how dominating this team is. With the best record in baseball, the Red Sox would lead every division in baseball by at least four games with one exception, the NL East, where the New York Mets would be nipping at their heels.
The Mets have the best record in the National League and the second best record in baseball. They lead a strong NL East, where every team but one has post-season aspirations (Washington still may chase the ghosts of the ’62 Mets). And like their Boston counterparts, the Mets are succeeding with a combination of strong starting pitching, a strong bullpen, timely hitting, and a player’s manager.
How similar are these two teams? The Mets, as a team, are hitting .278; the Red Sox, .277. The Red Sox have hit 55 homers; the Mets, 50. The Red Sox have an On Base Percentage of .360; the Mets, .352. The biggest difference between the two teams offensively, and one that gives the Mets the overall edge, is speed. The Mets have 60 stolen bases and the Red Sox are having one of their better years stealing bases and have 31. But the Mets team speed is a huge offensive weapon for them.
Pitching wise, the Mets team ERA is 3.38; the Red Sox, 3.62. The Mets OBA is .309, the Red Sox .310. The Mets WHIP is 1.23, the Red Sox, 1.27. Mets pitchers have struck out 344 batters, the Red Sox, 360. The Red Sox pitchers have exhibited brilliant control walking just 154, while the Mets have walked 186. Pretty even overall, but you have to give a slight edge to the Sox because their pitchers throw to designated hitters, while the Mets pitchers just face their counterparts.
Digging a little deeper, we find the Mets starters have a 3.54 ERA and the Sox starters a 3.89. The batting average against speaks to the strength of the Mets starters who hold batters to a .227 batting average, while the Sox opponents hit .246 against the starters. But the WHIP is almost identical, 1.22 for the Mets, 1.25 for the Sox. The Sox bullpen is 7-1, with a 3.01 ERA and 19 saves in 21 opportunities, while the Mets’ pen is 10-2, with a 3.09 ERA and 12 saves in 15 opportunities. Slight edge to Boston.
The Mets have been fielding better than the Sox this season making only 21 errors compared with Boston’s 33. But the Mets errors have been more costly as they have permitted 21 unearned runs versus the mere 11 allowed by Boston.
When you look at these numbers you realize two things; first you can see why these two teams are dominant, and, second, you can see how evenly matched they are as teams. Then there are the individuals Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, Manny Ramirez, Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, David Wright, Dice-K, Pedro (who will be back for the post-season), Paul LoDuca, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett, John Maine, Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Kevin Youkilis, Carlo Beltran, Jonathan Paplebon, Billy Wagner, and Tito Francona and Willie Randolph. And, honestly, that is just a sampling of the cumulative talent on these two clubs.
So with all due respect, Milwaukee, Cleveland, L.A, L.A. of A, Detroit, Atlanta, Minnesota, Arizona, San Diego, and the South Side of Chicago, there is only one question that remains, and it’s not who will win the Mets/Sox showdown, it’s who will the Yankees root for?
Top of the 2nd
SHEFF WAS COOKING
The Detroit Tigers needed a big game from someone to break their mini-slide and Gary Sheffield stepped to the plate. Sheff hit two homers and drove home five runs as the Tigers slammed out 22 hits in defeating Tampa Bay, 14-2. Sheffield passed Dave Winfield and moved into sole possession of 29th place on the all-time home run list with 467. It was the 34th time that Sheffield hit two homers in a game, he has never hit three.
Top of the 3rd
SMOLTZ OKAY IN BRAVES LOSS
The NL Central-leading Brewers snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating Atlanta, 5-4. Braves starter John Smoltz left the game in the 4th inning after hurting his shoulder while warming up for the inning when he slipped on the mound and re-injured his ailing right pinkie in his previous at-bat. “Had they given me 10 minutes I would have been OK,” he said. “But you don’t get 10 minutes on the mound to work yourself back into shape. I really don’t anticipate a problem.”
Ben Sheets picked up the win for Milwaukee, Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 17th homer and Francisco Cordero converted his 18th consecutive save chance.
Top of the 4th
WEAVER THROWS SIMULATED GAME
The Mariner’s Jeff Weaver, who has been on the DL since May 11 because of tendinitis in his shoulder, threw close to 70 pitches over four innings in a simulated game yesterday. According to the AP. “I felt better as it went on, which is a key point,” Weaver said. “I wasn’t fatiguing by any means as the pitch count escalated. Everything was good throughout, from the windup and the stretch.”
On the other hand, in the 5th simulated inning, the simulated hitters knocked Weaver out.
Top of the 5th
NUPTIALS WHEN YOUR UNCLE IS LARRY LUCCHINO
The New York Times wrote this past Sunday of the wedding of Kimberly Elizabeth Kissam, a daughter of Nancy L. Kissam and the late James B. Kissam of Wellesley Hills, Mass., who was married this past Saturday to David Lawrence Lucchino, a son of Roberta F. Lucchino and Judge Frank J. Lucchino of Pittsburgh at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Ms. Kissam and Mr. Lucchino met in June 2004 at a birthday party for Mr. Lucchino’s college roommate. At the time, Mr. Lucchino lived in Manhattan, and he had traveled to Boston for the celebration.
Mr. Lucchino recalled, “We were curious about one another. I probably spent the night quizzing her more than she was quizzing me.”
Ms. Kissam remembers it a bit differently. “He was just staring and staring at me,” she said. “And while he was still staring, he would just start asking me questions.”
But, Mr. Lucchino explained, “I wasn’t staring at her because I was psychotic or anything, I was just captured by her beauty.”
During the course of the conversation, Ms. Kissam learned about Mr. Lucchino’s Uncle Larry — Larry Lucchino, the president and chief executive of the Boston Red Sox.
“Even when I knew who his uncle was, I didn’t know who his uncle was,” she said.
The next day, Mr. Lucchino invited Ms. Kissam to a game between the Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
“I called Uncle Larry for good seats,” Mr. Lucchino said. “I told him that I had met someone very special.”
Larry Lucchino responded by giving his nephew what are perhaps the two best seats in the house: his own, located in the first row next to the visiting dugout.
“We had a fabulous time,” Ms. Kissam said.
They were back at Fenway last September for a game against the Kansas City Royals.
That night, Ms. Kissam had a strong suspicion that Mr. Lucchino would propose marriage. But he didn’t.
The following morning, she noticed something peculiar about the shoulder bag she had taken to the game the night before. She reached in and pulled out a baseball on which Mr. Lucchino had written, “Kimmie: meet me at second base at Fenway Park at 2 p.m.”
“I thought, `Oh, boy,’ ” Ms. Kissam said.
Later that day, Mr. Lucchino was waiting at second base. He motioned for her to sit down; he had placed the ball girl’s stool there. Ms. Kissam sat. It was then that he proposed, on bended knee.
She received another surprise when her mother and sister leaped out of the Red Sox dugout to offer their congratulations. And when Ms. Kissam slipped on the ring and kissed Mr. Lucchino, a passing tour group began cheering.
“I still have the ball that David left in my bag that night,” Ms. Kissam said. “It’s a piece of memorabilia I’ll treasure my entire life.”
If the marriage goes sour, I’ll be looking for the ball on eBay.
Top of the 6th
FANTASY PLAYER’S DREAM
Last week, Houston’s Mark Loretta started at shortstop on Sunday, third base on Monday, second base on Tuesday and first base on Wednesday, making him eligible at all four positions in fantasy leagues.
Top of the 7th
Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Braves Brewers 1:05 p.m. Hudson (5-3)
White Sox Twins 1:10 p.m. Garland (3-3)
Rangers Athletics 3:35 p.m. Koronka (0-1)
D-Backs Phillies 7:05 p.m. Johnson (2-2)
Indians Red Sox 7:05 p.m. Byrd (5-1)
Dodgers Nationals 7:05 p.m. Lowe (4-5)
Padres Pirates 7:05 p.m. Young (5-3)
Yankees Blue Jays 7:07 p.m. Clippard (1-1)
Tigers Devil Rays 7:10 p.m. Robertson (4-4)
Giants Mets 7:10 p.m. Zito (4-5)
Reds Astros 8:05 p.m. Harang (5-2)
Marlins Cubs 8:05 p.m. Mitre (2-2)
Orioles Royals 8:10 p.m. Bedard (3-3)
Cardinals Rockies 9:05 p.m. Wellemeyer (0-1)
Mariners Angels 10:05 p.m. Hernandez (3-2)
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Rick Ankiel, the former tortured pitcher for the Cardinals who has been trying to re-create himself as an outfielder is putting together a very sweet year for the Memphis Redbirds. Ankiel is hitting .275 with 11 homers and 39 RBI in 42 games. With the Cardinals circling the drain, this might be a good time to give Ankiel a shot in the bigs.
Top of the 9th
DEVIL RAYS’ APPEARANCES ON DAVID LETTERMAN
No. 10: (Top 10 Ways Paris Hilton is Preparing For Jail): Attending Tampa Bay Devil Rays games to get used to solitary. (May 7, 2007)
No. 9 (Top 10 Signs You Have Too Many Kids): Family Wiffle Ball game has larger attendance than Devil Rays games. (Oct. 13, 2005)
No. 8 (Top 10 Signs You’re Dumb): You’re a Tampa Bay Devil Rays season-ticket holder. (May 16, 2002)
No. 7 (Top 10 Good Things About A Baseball Strike): Have you seen the Devil Rays? (July 31, 2002)
No. 6 (Top 10 Questions Most Often Asked At A 99-Cent Store): Do these Tampa Bay Devil Rays sweatshirts come in medium? (Oct. 10, 2001)
No. 5 (Top 10 Signs Your Baseball Team Is On Drugs): Your first baseman demanded a trade to the Devil Rays. (Sept. 27, 2002)
No. 4 (Top 10 Signs Your Baseball Team Isn’t Ready For The Regular Season): Team name contains words “Devil” and “Rays.” (March 27, 2002)
No. 3 (Top 10 Signs You’re Talking To A Bad Phone Psychic): Insists you put all of your money on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (Sept. 28, 2001)
No. 2 (Top 10 Things Baseball Has Taught Me, presented by Roger Clemens): The best practical joke? Tell a teammate they’re traded to the Devil Rays. (June 16, 2003)
No. 1 (Top 10 Good Things About Being The Mother Of Someone Famous): Derek Jeter’s mom, Dot: Sometimes when they’re playing the Devil Rays, Derek lets me come in for a few innings. (May 12, 2000)
| From The St. Petersburg Times
Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.