Saturday, August 28, 2004: I am setting myself up for an enormous, crashing fall by being as stoked about the Sox as I have been since the April evisceration of the Yankees. Last night they continued their hot streak (10 of 11 and counting) by beating the Tigers 5-3. Derek Lowe went eight innings, a season high, and gave up three runs on the way to the victory. He has now only lost once in his last six appearances, and many, including The Globe’s Bob Hohler, are speculating that Nomar’s trade helped him more than anyone by improving the infield defense and thus helping the sinkerballer’s cause. Obviously it is impossible to prove whether or not this is so. I believed that Lowe would right things in the second half of the season anyway, but if he is more confident in the defense, and that helps explain his recent performances, there will be no complaints from this corner.


It is hard to overstate how important it is for the starters to eat lots of innings in their appearances. This is not because our relief corps is unreliable. On the contrary – they are becoming a linchpin for this team again, but for any relief staff to do their job, they cannot suffer from overuse. This happened to he guys for much of that dreary middle part of the season, and we paid a steep price for it. It was all the worse because of injuries. But if the starters can go 6-7-8 innings every time out, we will have flexibility in the bullpen.
One scary moment occurred in last night’s game, which I only was able to follow after the fact (new faculty had dinner at the president’s swanky house, and then we went out for drinks). Manny fouled a ball off of his left knee, causing him to leave the game and making him day-to-day. The x-rays were negative, and our crack medical staff (I was being ironical, people!) has diagnosed him with a contusion. It could be worse, which of course is easy for me to say, as I did not take a foul ball off of my knee less than 24 hours ago.
Pedro goes tonight. In his last outing he was bested when Ted Lilly threw the game of his life. Pedro had a decent outing, but my guess is that he will want to come out throwing smoke tonight. Overthrowing is actually a particular bane to this incarnation of Pedro, but if he does not overdo it, and if the guys give him a lead, we could be in pretty good shape to accrue yet another sweep, this time in a four game series.
As is the case with every team at this time of year, injuries could be the determinant factor in our late-season success. Right now things are not ideal on that front, as they have not been all year. Besides Manny’s knee, Bill Mueller did not play yesterday because of soreness in his ankle and foot; Minky continues to sit because of the shoulder injury he sustained the other night; and Foulke’s back stiffened up on him and he was unavailable last night. This last development has caused the accursed words “closer by committee” to cross some lips, with the committee consisting of Embree, Timlin, and Leskanic, though one hopes that Mendoza’s name will start being uttered in more and more crucial situations with the way he has been throwing. Bill James, of course, has made the case that the closer is overrated and that you should bring the best guy in for a situation irrespective of whether or not it is the ninth or a save situation. And this may well be true, at least in the abstract. But the Red Sox do not play in the abstract. So I’ll gladly welcome Foulke back in a traditional closer’s role any time he is ready.
Pedro’s on the mound. College football kicks off tonight. The Pats are on national television (yes, it is only an exhibition game, but still . . .), I am having folks over to Casa de Catsam this evening. The Red Sox simply must win for perfection to reign, at least temporarily.

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