Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hype it up!

Since the pitching matchup was, well pretty good (have you heard Matsuzaka is from Japan? Pretty cool!) I decided to keep a Sports Guy style running diary as I watched. Since I was about half an hour behind though, I won't be time stamping the entries, just inning and batter.


So the hype for this game has been tremendous, with Dice-K making his first start in Fenway and facing Ichiro to boot. And of course if you live in Seattle you’ve heard “don’t forget about Felix” hype from every sportswriter, talk show host and blogger in town. Usually I get very cranky about things being over-hyped, but I am really, really excited about this game! Whats ths chance it lives up to the billing?

Neihaus: The weather is a little on the cool side.
Uh Dave, its not snowing. Its positively balmy compared to Cleveland.

I’ve never seen the “Double Play Twins” commercial before. The look on Beltre’s face is awesome.

Top 1st
Sign in the stands: “The Dice-man cometh” with a picture of Andrew Dice Clay. That would be the downside of the Matsuzaka Era: references to Andrew Dice Clay.

Ichiro at bat. Dice-K gets Ichiro to tap out to the mound. 6 pitches, 5 on the inside part of the plate or even farther in, 5 breaking balls. I think I’ve got an idea how he wants to pitch to Ichiro.

Grounder from Beltre, single from Vidro (I Know!) and we finally hear from the crowd on the 2-2 pitch to Ibanez. Maybe it’s the FSN mikes but I’ve certainly heard louder crowds before. Lots louder.

Ibanez grounds to third, inning over.

Bottom 1st.
Lugo at bat. Where’s the radar gun? What the hell. We’re going to go all night without knowing what these guys are throwing? Are we in the 20th century or something? Why did I tape the FSN telecast instead of ESPN. I know its hip to throw stones at ESPN right now, but the production values on an ESPN telecast put Fox to shame.

Youkilis at bat. Shallow fly to center that Lopez runs down. It took him two batters to get as many fly balls as he had in his last start. Hope that doesn’t mean anything.

Ortiz at bat. Felix has started every hitter with ball one. Hasn’t seemed to hurt him as we go 1-2-3.

Top 2nd.
We’re already replaying Ichiro’s at-bat from a whole inning ago? We just saw it! Grrrr.

Guillen at bat. The boos for Jose were louder than the cheers for Dice-K earlier! I thought the Fenway crowd was supposed to be into this? The hell?

Blowers, on the bad blood between Guillen and Donnelly: I don’t know what the issue is, but… Neihaus then relates the pine tar incident from 2005. Way to do your homework there Blow.

Guillen spanks it off the wall. Man that was really crushed. In Fenway though, its just a long single.

Johjima up. Is that a small animal around his neck? Jesus how cold is it? In any event Zsa Zsa cranks a double of Dice-K, that’s two really hard hit balls in a row.

Yuni at bat. Shallow fly to left, Manny gets off a weak throw. Guillen beats it home and he also knocks the ball out of Varitek’s glove. Neihaus and Blowers both refer to it as a “decent” throw from Manny and because the play is close it does look okay. But we just scored on a shallow fly to left that the LF caught coming in with all of his momentum going towards the plate. Name another guy that you could score on like that. Okay, besides Randy Winn.

1-0 Mariners. That’s one more run than I thought we’d get.

Lopez at-bat. Fox’s little diamond graphic shows Johjima at third, while their cameras clearly show him standing at second. They have a director for these telecasts right?

Bottom 2.

ManRam up. Niehaus: The first pitch misses outside.
Only the pitch was actually low and in. To be clear, I love Niehaus and I am completely willing to put up with the occaisional inaccuracy from him. So when I point them out, its just because they are amusing. I’ve picked on Blowers a couple of times too, but in general I consider him an upgrade over Valle and Hendu. Sims is a little rough at this point, you can tell he hasn’t done a lot of baseball, but I also think he’s an upgrade over Captain Obvious, Ron Fairly. When I see stuff during the broadcast, I’m going to point it out, but I really like the broadcast crew this year. Fox Sports on the other hand….

Uh-oh. Manny lines the ball off of Felix. Hard. Again, uh-oh. Its not clear whether it got him on the calf or the ankle. And we are treated to a replay of…Manny running to first. No replay at all of the ball hitting Felix. Thankfully I have Tivo. I think it got him in the leg.

JD Drew up. 3 pitch Strikeout. Awesome. Still no replay of the ball hitting Felix.

Lowell up. Grounds to Yuni.
Still. No. Replay.

Top 3.
Ichiro gets two fastballs and pops up to center. Dice-K has looked good so far, not great. Except when he pitches to Ichiro. Then he's awesome.

Vidro at bat. 0-2 on him and apparently two people behind the plate decide to start clapping. You can hear them very distinctly. Matsuzaka strikes him out for his first K and his first 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 3
Varitek up. Its still hard to watch Varitek play without cursing Woody Woodward. Urban legend has it that the Red Sox asked Woody for EITHER Varitek or Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Woody misunderstood and thought they wanted them both and after looking around for another deal, pulled the trigger. Its probably not true, but I love the story anyway. Varitek strikes out on a wicked curve. Wow.

Crisp up. I know the Coco jokes are mostly played out, but really, he could end them by just going by Covelli.

Pedroia up. Neihaus refers to him as “Justin.” Its Dustin. The 2-1 pitch is a slider that starts in on his hands and then breaks over the plate as Pedroia spins out of the way. There isn’t a right hander batter in the league that can hit that pitch in that location. None.
“Justin” stays patient and works a walk. There goes the perfect game.

Top of 4.
Sims and Blowers talk about how electric the crowd is. If they are, FSN sure is doing a crappy job of capturing it. As they are talking we get crowd shots of people talking to their neighbors, getting up to go to the bathroom, staring silently at the field. Its electric!

Sexson,at bat. The 0-2 pitch is right in the middle of the plate, somehow called a ball. I can’t imagine what was wrong with that pitch. Sexson then swings at a weird breaking ball that’s up and in. I don’t know if that was the famed gyroball or not, but it did break in on the right handed batter.

Guillen up. And he’s drilled in the elbow. Dice-K sticking up for his teammates. Nice. Guillen goes to first pretty quietly. Surprising. Sims repeats the pine tar story and adds the story about Guillen getting on Donnelly for not retaliating when they were with the Angels. Blowers is officially the only guy who doesn’t know why Guillen and Donnelly don’t like each other.

Bottom 4.
Youkilis up. 4 pitch walk. Blowers says that Felix looks gimpy and Sims says “He took one off, I believe, the ankle earlier.” He has to say “I believe,” because he hasn’t seen a replay either!

Finally! A replay of the Ramirez grounder. Only it’s the same angle, shown in the same speed as the original shot. So we still don’t know where it hit Felix.

Ortiz. Groundball to second. Because of the shift, Yuni fields the ball on the right side of 2nd and flips to Beltre at the bag. AB has to jump over a sliding Youkilis to complete the double play. Awesome! If Betancourt gets hurt, I think we have our new shortstop!

Ramirez. He’s really disgusting isn’t he? The hair, the pine tarred helmet, yuk. Great hitter, but I’m not letting him within 100 feet of my daughter. Ever. Weak grounder to short.

Top 5.

Lopez up. Dice-K makes another fabulous 0-2 pitch, again no call. I guess it was inside, but it looked awfully good. Lopez eventually singles.

Ichiro. Inside, inside, fastball away for ball 1, back inside for ball 2, then strike 3 swinging, low and away. I know Ichiro struck out 3 times against Beckett, but I’ve never seen him look this lost at the plate.

Beltre with an RBI double, then Vidro singles home AB. That’s a professional hitter right there. That’s the 6th hit of Dice-K and the first cheap one. Everything else has been hit hard.

Bottom 5
Drew up, hits it hard to second, nice dive by Lopez to snag it. The throw makes Richie jump and he gets his foot down just as Drew gets there. It’s a bang-bang play, you wouldn’t really fault the umpire either way, but Sims and Blowers assure us that Sexson got him. Okayyy.

1-2-3 again for Felix. Nothing out of the infield (except maybe the shallow fly from Youk), 3 K’s and a no-hitter through 5. Typical Felix outing. Yawn.

Top 6.

Johjima doubles again. All the hype was over Dice-K and Ichiro, turns out Johjima’s got a little history with Matsuzaka as well. Okay .273 with 5 dingers in 100 some at-bats isn’t exactly owning a guy, but two doubles in three at-bats is pretty nice.

Yuni up. Sims is counting Betancourt’s sac fly as a two-out run. And I guess technically two outs were recorded before the run scored. But I think there has to be two outs before the at-bat for it to be a two out run.

Bottom 6.
Crisp up. 1-1 change to Coco, filthy. Best change-up of the night. Then a slider low and in for a swinging strike 3. First K since the third inning. Crisp had no chance.

1-2-3 again! 8 in a row, no hitter through 6! Hoo-boy!

Top 7
Lopez gets the 8th hit of off Dice-K. He’s made some nice pitches tonight, but the M’s aren’t exactly the 29 Yankees and they've got 8 hits and 3 runs.

Matsuzaka knocks down Ichiro. Sweet! I love a good rivalry! 95 pitches so far for Dice-K. Grounder to second, no chance to double up Ichiro. He’s fast.

Beltre up. Matsuzaka looks tired, but he’s also definitely pitching around Beltre. I think that might happen a lot with Vidro in the 3 hole. Blowers thinks he may have quickened his delivery with Ichiro at first. That’s one of those things that is hard to quantify, but I’m sure it does happen.

Vidro up. 105 pitches for Dice-K. Beautiful 3-6-1 double play. Dice-K hustles over so well he actually stretches for the throw from first. One little problem though, Vidro beat the throw. FSN goes to commercial so I’m sure we’ll never see the replay, but I just watched it 4 times and he is absolutely safe. I think they are giving Dice-K bonus points for his hustle there.

Bottom 7
Youkilis up. 75 pitches for Felix. Raul misplays a liner moving first left, then in, then finally diving to his right to make the catch. Blowers calls it a tricky play, but its Raul. It would have really sucked to lose a no-no on that play.

Oritz. 1-2 fastball popped up to left.

ManRam. 2-2 fastball, strike 3 called. 5 pitches, no swings. Ramirez just turns and heads for the dugout.

NO. HITTER. THROUGH. 7!!!!!!!!

Top 8
Romero in for Dice-K. 7 IP, 3 runs, 4 K’s, 1 walk. He was solid, but unspectacular. He made some nice pitches at times, but there were a lot of hard hit balls.

Romero and Jo-el Piniero in the pen? What do they call those two guys? Fire and Gasoline?

At two outs, here comes Jo-el! Sims butchers both his first and last names. I know Sims wasn’t here last year, but couldn’t someone have helped him out with the names?

Guillen hammers Piniero’s second pitch for a single. That’s our Jo-el!

4 pitch walk to Johjima, two of them in the dirt. This might get ugly here.

Pitching coach out to talk to Piniero. What can you say to Jo-el at this point? “Well, at least if you throw strikes, they might miss!”

Whatever he said worked! Flyball to center, inning over.

Bottom 8
Six outs away, I am officially biting my fingernails now, in homage to my mother. Also pacing a little bit.

Drew hits the first pitch sharply for a single. Dammit! That was a clean hit, but Felix had a shot at it, as did Lopez. An inch or two here or there.

Lowell up. Again an 0-2 pitch that looks pretty good, not called. You certainly can’t look at the two pitching performances and say the umps were helping them out. There is no Eric Gregg thing happening here. In fact, I think they both are getting it done despite getting squeezed a little bit.

Varitek up. 0-2 to Tek, he backed away from both pitches. I think he may actually have hurt himself getting out of the way of strike two. Weeeee!

Crisp checks his swing and the ball hits his bat about eye high, right to Yuni to end the inning!

Top 9
Jo-el gets thru the 9th mostly unscathed. Putz has been throwing all inning so I assume he’s coming in. Normally I am all about keeping Felix’s pitch count down, but he’s on 9 days rest, they have an off day before his next start, and Putz was a little shaky on Opening Day, I’d let the kid finish it out.

He’s coming out for the 9th! Woot!

Bottom 9
“Justin” Pedroia up. Fastball, strike one. Curveball high. Fastball swinging, strike two. Breaking ball, 2-2. Slider hit foul, fastball tapped back to Felix. Nice sequence.

Lugo. 3 fastballs, wish I knew the speed! Ground ball to second.

Youkilis. Another great sequence here. Fast ball for called strike. Curve, high. Fastball called strike, fastball out of the zone for a swinging strike three.

Felix’s final line: 9 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 6 strikeouts 17 groundballs. He was absolutely dominant. Hope he Tivo’d Sportscenter cause I’m thinking we just found our lead story. Unless TO did something of course, then all bets are off.

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At 7:06 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Wow, what a difference a network makes. Out here on the East Coast, I got the ESPN2 broadcast, with perfectly acceptable announcers (Dan Schulman and Orel Hershiser), and great replays and camera work (Felix hit on the shin in the 2nd; Vidro definitely out in the 7th on the DP; crowd really was electric; both announcers talked appropriately about Guillen/Donnelly, and both treated M's with respect even before the game started.)

What a great game!


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