I changed the channel in the top of the seventh...I can't lie to you guys and say that I watched all of Game 4 in its entirety. Now the question is this: "Am I a true Red Sox fan if I switched channels in what could have been the last game of the 2008 season?" Well, let me just stop you and tell you about what Red Sox fans have been doing their entire lives. See when a game is bad, you know, like 7-0 with three innings left bad, you change the station on your TV or radio, wait about 20-30 minutes, then turn back, hoping something good has happened while you were trying to ward off all of the negative thoughts that had filled your mind...and hey, guess what? It worked again! See, just because we've won championships, it never hurts to revert back to old tactics, especially when seemingly every time I have done this, good things happen. So, here we go again. Are you ready for this? Seriously, are you ready to take this ride again? I have broken this down in my mind, and to me, this feels like '04 all over again. Facing impending doom, and after getting the crap kicked out of us the game before, the Sox, in both instances, were down to a division rival who was on the brink of making the World Series if they could hang on to the lead (by the way, just tossing this out there...given all that's happened this year, the division race, the brawl involving Coco, and this series, Tampa is getting increasingly Yankee-like in terms of straight up bitterness...of course, not payroll-wise...but their confidence has almost become cokiness, and I really, really want to stick it to this team...just saying). Back to '04 vs. '08, the series came down to two pitchers who figured to not be a huge factor to either team (Lowe wasn't even in the rotation; the Sox had to go with Dice in Game 1 due to how the rotation played out), both games turned on a dime after one play by two outfielders who weren't even starters (Dave Roberts' SB which he parlayed into the tying run, and Coco's never-ending at-bat to tie the game), and two relievers making improbable stops to win the game (Curtis Leskanic pitched one and a third scoreless to earn the win, and Justin Masterson getting a huge DP from Carlos Pena to send it to the bottom of the ninth). And because of who went in the first elimination game, the table is set for the two best pitchers to go the next two games (Lowe set up Pedro in 5 and Schill in 6, Dice sets up Beckett in 6 and Lester in 7, which will hopefully be extremely necessary), and those two pitchers in both instances started off the series in horrid fashion. In '04, Pedro and Schill rebounded magnificently to win back-to-back games. So hopefully, the comparisons will continue to that effect. Whatever happens though, you have to say this: The Red Sox are champions, and like Rudy Tomjanovich said, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion." So, Game 6...tomorrow...now I'm feeling it. Thank you Red Sox...again.
(Another thing I just realized...I'm typing this on the four-year anniversary of Game 4...how can you not love this? Well, if your a Tampa fan I guess you wouldn't...definitely a Yankees fan, they really wouldn't like this...I love those poor Yankee fans...so helpless...it's adorable)
So how did the Sox win? Two things: A.) The Sox' pitchers finally decided to pitch inside to the Rays instead of insisting on throwing every pitch over the plate, and B.) The Rays decided that everyone's fastball, even Dan Wheeler, was so powerful that they would simply blow every hitter out. Hmmm...not such a good idea...again, especially Wheeler, who can barely get it up to 90 on the gun (I think the fastest I can throw is about 55 by the way). Let's start with Part A. So I think this is the first time I've heard Ron Darling (former pitcher and MA native) do color for a game. Anyway, he could not have been more spot-on than when he pointed this out in the middle of Game 5, when Pena and Longoria went back-to-back to make the score 5-0. He basically said that the Tampa hitters were way too comfortable at the plate, and that the only real way to remedy that would be to at least brush some hitters back. Not hit them, but at least keep them on their toes. No one exemplified this last night more than Masterson, who repeatedly was tossing cut fastballs around the inside corner and, at some points, really getting in on the hands and making the Rays duck back. It's not about trying to hit them, it's about trying to exude some intimidation on a team that has beaten the cover off the ball for three straight games. It's a strategy. Not anything personal, but sometimes, you need to be a little wild just to mix it up and not to let the hitters be able to clock your pitches and where they're most likely ending up, which is a perfect segway to Part B. So apparently, after Kazmir was taken out of the game, so too went the off-speed pitches. Grant Balfour and Wheeler continually tried to throw by the Sox hitters, a clear indication that Dioner Navarro stopped calling the game and put it into cruise control. Not a good idea. Sure, the Sox did not look too hot up until they got to the bullpen, but look at that lineup...even without Lowell, this team is very dangerous, especially when they have their backs against the wall (see two-out hitting). I will give J.P. Howell credit for at least attempting to throw some off-speed stuff, but by then, the flood gates were open, and there was nothing that Howell could do to stop it. When the Sox get going, they are an out-of-control freight train, and again, I really hope this translates to the pitching for the rest of the series.
The Pats are playing Denver on Monday...I think they had an off-week last week because I don't recall them playing at all...that's my story and I'm sticking to it (prescription drugs and Yuengling...if you don't want to remember something...try that out...responsibly of course...actually that is completely irresponsible...sorry). I see Brandon Marshall having a big game, but the fact that the Broncos have not shown a consistent running attack, and Jay Cutler is prone to mistakes, makes me think the D will have a much bigger impact than they did last week in that game that never happened. If you want to take any positives from last week, it was that they were able to give Sammy Morris some PT in place of a banged-up Laurence Maroney, and he came through with some nice gains running and catching out of the backfield and added a touchdown. So what happened to the deep ball? I thought we proved a point against the Niners that the deep ball is how this offense starts. So let's stick with the plan shall we? Sure, Champ Bailey and Dre Bly are definitely competent and are a potent duo, but the Pats have enough weapons to neutralize them. Again though, the deep ball is key, and Cassel needs to execute that early to get the message across. The defense is really struggling, but there's only so long you can go with a make-shift backfield and an aging LB core before they start to show some wear. I do like the Pats in this matchup, even though they have been horrendous against Denver historically.
Ok, some random thoughts before I go:
USC has a mammouth game against LSU at the WB on Saturday night. In terms of talent, there is no comparison. LSU is bigger, stronger, and faster, but the one thing that the Cocks have shown this year is that they can match up with teams that are more talented than they are (UGA especially), so do not write them off entirely. Keep in mind that USC sports the third best defense in the country...you heard me...third. Also, if Ricky Jean-Francois cannot go again, it could be devastating to the Tiger morale (as it did against Florida...51-21...ouch). There's definitely a shot, but what I really want to see is the Cocks at least hanging with the Tigers much like they did last year until Jasper Brinkley got hurt and the Tigers pulled one of the more memorable fake field goals in recent history (why are we always on the opposing end of historic plays? The push off, the Pollack interception, then this...what gives?). So don't give this one to LSU just yet.
Colt McCoy is now your Heisman favorite after out-battling fellow candidate Sam Bradford in the Red River Shootout last Saturday. McCoy is the Big 12's Tim Tebow, basically carrying the entire offense on his back not only through the air but also on the ground, something that gives him a decided advantage over every other QB in the running except for the incumbent Tebow. McCoy also leads the nation in passing accuracy. If McCoy is again able to outduel another Heisman candidate this week (Mizzou's Chase Daniel, who saw both his Heisman chances and national title hopes perhaps dashed last week against Okie St.), then he could propel his stock to an unreachable status.
Thank you Cleveland for finally coming through for me. Week after week, I kept saying that Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards were going to break out, and they did against the G-Men on Sunday. If Anderson can get a healthy Kellen Winslow back, this team could again rise to the offensive heights that they reached last year.
I just had my fantasy NBA and NHL drafts. Okay, even I admit that in my hockey draft I had no idea what I was doing. My top priority was drafting Phil Kessel, then after that, who knows? I got a bunch of Bruins (Kessel, Marc Savard, Michael Ryder) and then getting players that I've heard of and don't hate, so I think I did a very good job at that. In my NBA, which I actually had strategy in, I was able to get KG and Shawn Marion...how the hell did that happen? They are both in the top 8! Totally fantastic. Plus I got Rondo...double bonus. In any event, the team is stacked with scorers, and hopefully Gilbert Arenas made a full recovery (kind of took a gamble there). So overall...happy times. Fantasy leagues for no money and no prizes...terrific.
What to watch for:
- #16 Kansas vs. #4 Oklahoma (3:30, ABC)
- #12 Ohio St. vs. #20 Michigan St. (3:30, ABC...is it just me, or shouldn't GameDay be in East Lansing this week? Texas again? Isn't that a little played?)
- #11 Missouri vs. #1 Texas (8:00, ABC)
- #13 LSU vs. South Carolina (8:00, ESPN)
- #17 Virginia Tech vs. Boston College (8:00, ESPN2)
- New Orleans vs. Carolina (1:00, FOX)
- Indianapolis vs. Green Bay (4:15, CBS)
- Denver vs. New England (8:30, ESPN)